Mind Mess: What is common/general knowledge?

I found myself lacking in a few areas this month, which prompted me to try and confirm what material comes under the vast umbrella of the common knowledge category.

For example; I recently passed my driving test, at no point during any of my lessons did I learn how to fill my petrol tank. It isn’t a requirement for an instructor to teach you this neccessity, and to be honest I didn’t even think to ask.

Fast-forward two weeks. I’ve purchased a car, I’m at the petrol station and I realise- I’ve never done this before. I have a basic understanding, I’ve seen people use petrol pumps enough times. But, I’ve also seen and heard many people joking about watching others struggle to ‘get their own petrol cap off’ or having to ‘help this daft woman fill her own car’. (I did spend a summer working in a petrol station. You might be suprised by the amount of times we had to help push a diesel car out of the forecourt because it’s owner had filled the tank with petrol mistakenly.)

You are just sort of expected to know how to perform this task, but why?

Heres another; My boiler has broken. The plumber is asking me if I have a combi boiler, as if it’s a simple question. I have no idea? Now I feel silly. I own my house, surely I should know what type of boiler I have? When he arrives the plumber is surprised to find I have a combi-boiler and I have my immersion heater switched on. Unbeknownst to me I have been using gas to heat water at the moment it is required using the combi, as well as using gas to maintain an entire separate tank of hot water throughout set periods of the day. Thats an expensive mistake. I only need to switch the immersion on if my combi-boiler isn’t working. How else would I know that? It’s not like buying a house came with a welcome pack of ‘how things work’!

I’ve known people who weren’t aware that goosebumps can occur because your body is cold, or whether you can safely defrost bacon in a microwave, even how to write a letter.

So I ask, what is common knowledge? Who decides what fits under the proverbial umbrella? And why does anyone find it acceptable to poke fun at something another person has not yet learned.

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