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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reprise: Rough Day at the Office, Dear?

Although this one included no dead bodies, it was a fairly stressful day at the desk for awhile.

We are grand communicators and have been so for many, many years. We engage in light banter and deadly serious discussions in which we solve all the problems of the universe. There are dashes of laughter, tears, encouragement and barking at one another when called for. We use the telephone, blogs (our own and those of others), face to face, and the BlackBerry. We each read the other's face with almost 100% accuracy. Our messages to one another can range from "I came across this online ~ follow the link." to "Dammit, find my Tupperware and baking dishes and return them all!" Most days start with some contact sandwiched between my pre-dawn miles walking and his early cycling. "Hey, it's cold." "Yeah, but dry!"

Following the most wonderful and astutely planned 24-hour camping trip, we'd dished back and forth for some 36 hours. The last e-mail exchange had been warm, friendly, close . . . normal. He is strategizing for a cycling race of great importance to him. I cheer loudly and offer advice, though I am not a cyclist. "How's your lab imaging project going?" "Are the phones ringing? Are you booking jobs?"

I heard the e-mail hit and saw it was from him, but I was busy. Some 40 minutes later, I opened it. It was short and succinct. Three words, precisely. "F*#k you bitch" No period at the end of the sentence. Now, I must say I know these words and many other hard, plain arrows of assault and insult. That phrase (in one form or another, a little lighter or a little heavier) has even been tossed at me from time to time. But not by him. He doesn't speak to me that way. When that cowboy and I wrangle, it is done with civil language. We attempt to be productive in our anger.

To say I was shocked does not begin to tell the story. I (literally) physically recoiled, placing my hands on the edge of the desk and pushing my chair backward. I felt gut-kicked. My brain tried to take the wheel, suggesting "Look again. This can't be happening." I leaned forward and peered at the open e-mail on my monitor. Yes, it definitely was from him. There was our full string of e-mails throughout the morning, one after another, culminating in "F*#k you bitch". I'm pretty quick on my feet, even when shocked, so I popped back a short "Why in the world would you send me an e-mail to say "F*#k you bitch"? Why?" I pushed back the chair and churned. I only had to wait three minutes.

My BlackBerry announced incoming and I felt a light wave of relief even before opening the e-mail. Now I'd find out what on earth was going on and try to address it. I opened the e-mail expecting some words of explanation. It said, "Because it is true". WTF? [You see, I can use that word, too!] I fired off another e-mail saying, "What on earth is happening? Please tell me what is going on." And I heard back n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

David walked by my desk, got a look at my face and did a double-take. "What's happened?" I choked out a request for him to hold down the fort for awhile and went out onto the deck. I called the number programmed into my BlackBerry and it immediately rolled to voicemail. That's OK, I've got another number or two I can try. He answered his cell phone and sounded pretty pleased to hear from me. Normal voice, "Hi, what's up?" I lit into that man in a way I'd be embarrassed to describe. "Why would you send me an e-mail like that?" He was baffled. "Like what? What has upset you so?" I proceeded to explain that most women would not enjoy receiving a message of "F*#k you bitch". "What?! I didn't do that and I wouldn't do that!"

I am not in the habit of yelling "Liar!" at this man. He's never behaved in a way that would require that of me. Instead, I said, "Well, then your BlackBerry has elected to send me nasty-grams on its own." He asked me to wait a moment while he looked at his e-mail account. I could hear his fingers clacking on the keyboard. "My god. What in the hell?" All right, reader, I know this man. He is unsuccessful when he attempts to fool me. But he wasn't even trying in this instance. I could tell he was utterly confounded. I could sense he was scrolling through the offensive e-mail and then it struck him. "Hey, where's my BlackBerry?" Uh-oh. Yes. Missing on a high school campus.

We both sprang into action. He called his service provider and arranged to halt service. I sent an e-mail to his account saying, "You're pretty funny. We also have good humor. We'll pay a reward for the BlackBerry." There was no reply to that e-mail and the BlackBerry is likely in the trash now that it no longer works. The rest of the story is anticlimactic except that the loud, objectionable girls who found and used the device called Mother Badger in Arizona and gave her some snarky talk. Mother Badger was a school teacher whose gaze could melt the sneakers off an 8-year-old boy's feet. I'm sure she handled her encounter with these girls better than I handled mine.

The reader may think, "Hmmm, OK, man loses BlackBerry. Why is that news?" Well, that's not the gist of my post, favored reader. Those who have joined me on the bus from time to time may realize I am a flawed person with all the disorders one might expect from someone who walked my exact path in life. I've got "stuff" going on. But I work at my "stuff". Pretty much daily. Diligently. And the payoff for that is good. You see, I like learning new things. When something isn't working for me, I try something new. Many times I learn some new good thing I can apply to other situations, thereby proving that old dogs can learn new tricks. Still finding my way along at age 57.

So what did I do differently this time? I didn't let the fear rule me. I took the wheel away from Fear. Of course, I was upset. Anyone would be. And of course, I immediately did all I could to reach him, because it was reasonable to ask, "Hey, what gives?" But instead of deciding that really was his horrible intended message to me and jumping off the deck, I investigated. When I spoke to him on the phone, I listened to him carefully. As I listened, I knew right away that he was baffled because I relied upon what I know about him. It's called trust. There was no plot afoot to fling me into the fiery depths of hell. He wasn't finally showing his evil hand after fooling me for 42 years that he is a good man. It was simply that his property was lost, found and used to make mischief. I think I handled this the way pretty much any healthy person would have. I think I can do it again in other situations. It puts me in mind of something he once said to me: "Fear is not having enough information."

In my ears right now: I liked it then, I like it now.

Something that charmed me: I had a few hours to kill as I drove east toward Nevada and the cyclist rode my precise route, miles behind. The plan was for me to park at the agreed upon mile marker and put some miles on my carcass in the desert where I could be seen from the highway at all times. I did that, but hey! I had a camera and I was going to pass through the burg of Tecopa, CA, population 99 in the 2000 census, and I know how to have fun. Tecopa has no gas station, no convenience store, few residences. It has a school and a hot springs and here, in out-of-the-way Tecopa, can be found the Promise Land. I didn't go in. I was desert sweaty and I had hat-hair. I thought I may be a little too "big city" for the sensibilities of those 99 citizens of Tecopa. But I surely enjoyed walking around and taking in the ambience.


  1. How do you know it was loud, objectionable girls that took the Blackberry? "FYB" sounds more like something teenage boys would say, at least back in the '70s when I was in school.

  2. @ Kirk ~ VERY good, my friend! I, too, thought "young home dudes". But they actually phoned Mother Badger. She got to hear their voices and snarky talk.

  3. It must be the week for snarks! I had a "lady" wait for me to return to my car yesterday morning (with my baby in my arms) - she let me struggle to put my grocery bag and handbag into my car and then my baby in his seat, she let me get into my driver seat and wind my window down. She then stuck her head level with me to "BLEEP" at me because -apparently - I am an inconsiderate parker! I had, in my unwisdom, parked inconsoderately and occasioned for her to park half in a bay reserved for disabeld drivers. What she failed to notice was that the bay she had parked in - between me and the disabled bay - was actually intended for motorcycles and not people carriers! Yhen she marched into the salon right in front of her car. The whole rest of the car park was empty, it was so early, she was only narked with me because I had the spot she wanted and she was too idle to walk more than five yards!

    I told her not to waste her money - said I had a bag I'd give her! I, too, can be mean!

    How rude. It's not just kids!

    I went home and had a good boohoo after that!

    Well done you for having the trust and patience to investigate. I am not so mature, yet.

  4. @ Rachel ~ I'm sorry that happened to you. It is upsetting to have someone go off on you unexpectedly. And so often, YOU aren't the one who did anything out of line.

    I've written a couple of posts specifically about the rotten way some human beings treat others, but I grouse pretty consistently about being beaten up on the phones, talking to the general public from my office.

    I'm just learning the "trust, investigate, listen" thing. I've spent a lifetime making kneejerk reactions and usually regretting it. This was an interesting exercise to me because I was able to find that "stop, wait a minute" place. And I got through something tough without making it worse. New business for me. I like learning new things. I hope I never stop having the capacity to try something new and examine the results.

  5. Snarky little bastards! I wore a wrist watch for maybe 40 years. I never put it in the laundry or flushed it down the toilet or left it on a park bench. I diligently shelled out another 20 dollars every three or four years when my Timex stopped ticking. I've done each of those things to my GD cell phone in the last year. Challenge to Blackberry: make one you can wear on your arm that looks nice and doesn't take up half the length between your wrist and elbow. No bungie cords either. It would be nice if it incorporated a music player. And sell for it for 20 bucks. Snarky Bastards!

  6. I need to learn to wait before I act! Look at all the typos I left in that last comment!

    With me, reacting out loud is kind of a recent development - before I used to experience everything in silence and keep my thoughts to myself. I need to strike a balance now.

    Going to read your posts anon.

  7. @ Tag ~ Ahem. The man I speak of is also fairly notorious for losing cell phones and similar small items, not that I included that in my post. One time he had a brand new cell phone. It was almost immediately misplaced. We were walking along a bike path putting a few miles on ourselves and something caught my eye. Some kind soul (there are still a few left) had hung that new cell phone up on the chain link fence for its owner to find. True story!

  8. @ Rachel ~ I make more typos in comments than I do when writing a post. I attribute it to being excited, interacting with someone else. Sometimes I'm so mortified, I'll delete it and start again. Mostly, I find myself sturdy enough to shoulder the shame.

    I've had several phases of reacting. For most of my life I stuffed everything. Wouldn't say you-know-what if I had a mouthful. I was wonderfully silent and a good secret-keeper. (I'm speaking of personal life, not professional. Professionally, I've had to be assertive and I have been.) The trouble with that model is that one fills to maximum capacity and threatens to explode. With a little age, I've become assertive. The balance I seek now is to use logic before I let emotion crash my bus into the wall.

  9. @ All the readers ~ Mother Badger rang in on e-mail only half a day after I posted this. She said she got a kick out of my description of her Mother Badger scowl and said she sometimes gives it to adults, too. I've seen this happen, although I have never personally drawn such attention! She shared some anecdotes from when she was still teaching school and then claimed she is really just a pussy cat. Uh-huh. A tigress.

    Mother Badger says she'd have sent the snarky girls a different e-mail message than my offer of a reward: "You are messing with the FCC and this is a federal offense. Return the phone immediately to ____ (pick a spot)." She's 83 years old and she's still got it, folks.