1. Shipping. If you’re selling a book as a “rare first edition” in “like new” shape, don’t be surprised if I call raising three kinds of hell when it arrives at my house with a shredded dust jacket and mangled pages. especially when the only shipping method you offer is “dumped in an unpadded plastic envelope, slap a shipping label on it, and hope for the best.” There are entirely too many options available to justify dealing with a company that clearly has no regard for their own product. 0/10. Would not recommend.
2. Disagreement. There’s a trend that has always been built into the internet – stretching back into the dim mists of newgroups and chat rooms – that is constructed around the idea that if you don’t agree with every single point of my 12-point statement, you are a communist Nazi heathen enemy of humanity whose father smelt of elderberries and we can’t be friends. I suppose it’s fine if you feel that way, but I generally like my discussion and opinion to have a bit more nuance that’s more fitting in a world where virtually nothing is ever 100% one way or the other. Whether you agree with me or not, I’ll continue to state my opinions in what I hope are reasonable and constructive (and often sarcastic) ways. What I won’t do is feel any compulsion to defend my opinion from someone having a “come at me bro” moment. If I do engage in that discussion, I promise, it’s purely because of the entertainment value I’ll find in it.
3. The rules. In this place there are many rules. I did not write them. I am not making them up on the spot. The rules were here before I arrived and will be here long after I am gone. The fact that there is a rule (or rules) preventing you from doing that which you want to do is one of those facts that is interesting, but not particularly relevant. While I may share in your frustration, you’re really going to need to find someone with the authority to change the offending policy, regulation, or law before there’s a damned thing I can do about it.
“We make choices. I’m well aware there are forces beyond our control but even in the face of those forces we make choices, and then we live with them. And then we die with them.”
Gold star if you can pinpoint the source of that little pearl of wisdom without racing over to the Google. Here’s a hint: It’s from deep inside a television series that could have been great but met its end before being fully realized or appreciated. I came across it a few days ago and it’s stuck with me for whatever reason. It’s one of those rare quotes that’s really gotten inside my head and left me to ponder. Not that I mind pondering. As far as I’m concerned the ability to ponder and think deeply on a topic is one of the very few things that really separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Choices. Making them, giving their power up to others, changing our minds, and then choosing all over again. Knowing that we’re always making them without having all the facts and with an imperfect sense of how they will play out, still we make choices every day and live with their consequences – or die with them.
Is all that too dark for a Tuesday night?
Today was one of those days when all you can do when it’s over is sit back, shake your head, and wonder if it all really happened or if you’re mind finally slipped of the tracks and made it all up. I have a nervous feeling that the alarm is going to go off at 5:00 tomorrow morning and prove that it was the former. If you’ve never spent three days putting together a three inch binder literally jammed to overflowing with facts, figures, and the administrative minutia of an expedition that apparently rivals the exploits of Marco Polo, well, let’s just say that it’s not something I recommend… If for no other reason than because no matter how many times you tell people you’re not adding anything after a specific time, someone is going to hand you a shit ton of things to add well after what was supposed to be last call. It’s even better when you’ve already proclaimed the product “finished” and still have bits of it dibbling in in drips and drabs.
Facts being the obnoxious things that they are, at some point you’re going to have to accept that when you’re working against the clock, eventually the clock is going to win. Sometimes that means you get a 50% solution, other times it’s 90%. If you’re some combination of both lucky and good, you might hit 100% from time to time. More often, you should be happy to land somewhere in the sweet spot between 75-85%. Hit that and you’re doing twice as good as the best power hitters in professional baseball. As soon as you realize that sometimes good enough really is good enough you’re life gets a whole lot easier. The real kicker is trying to convince everyone around you to buy into the idea at the same time. Good luck with that.
The problem with dealing with numbers is that generally there is a single correct answer. If I were to ask how many jelly beans are in a jar or how many cars are in the parking lot, someone could use their fingers and toes and physically calculate the answer. Counting other things, like people or laptops can be done in exactly the same way. All it takes is someone to physically conduct the count rather than give an answer that includes the words “about,” “no more than,” or “somewhere between.” The only thing answers that include those words tells me is whoever was responsible for the counting is pretty much a dipshit who can’t be bothered by pesky things like facts.
We live in resource constrained times, I get it. We’re all coming to grips with what it means to do less with less. Still, though, when the correct answer is somewhere between 1 and 75, I don’t think it’s too much trouble to lock in on the single factual number of widgets in the box. Then again, maybe I just have unrealistic expectations of people not being complete douchenozels. Since my perception is the only thing in this situation that I control, I have no choice but to adjust my expectations accordingly.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.