Asking…

People have a certain way of asking things that isn’t so much about getting permission as it is about telegraphing what they plan on doing. The thoughts of the person being asked are entirely secondary, because even when the answer is no, they assume that the answer is really yes, because that’s the answer they want to hear.

Most people are polite. They’ll let themselves be bullied into doing something that they don’t want or aren’t able to do just to avoid offending the person asking the question. I’m as guilty of going along to get along as anyone else. Sometimes putting up a fight just isn’t worth it.

On the other hand, sometimes the fight is that important. In those cases, I believe in standing my ground. I won’t be bullied, guilted, or otherwise manipulated into giving the wrong answer just because that’s the one someone wants or thinks that they somehow are entitled to hear.

There’s a long and wide stubborn streak running through my family and I’m willing to put up my share of that streak against all comers.

It could have been me too…

A couple of months ago, during a contentious Senate hearing over a nominee to the Supreme Court, I not particularly subtly voiced my concern about relying on imperfect memories of events that happened 30 or 40 years ago. Now that tempers have cooled slightly, I’d like to expand a little on why I came down where I did… and for the record it’s not because I think then nominee Kavanaugh was going to be the best Supreme Court Justice ever. It has everything to do with memory and how perception of distant experiences and events could wildly differ over time.

To start let me take you back to the long ago years of the middle 1990s. Every fall from 1992 through 1996 I and my nearest and dearest friends spent every Saturday crammed onto school buses often traveling for hours to the nearest marching band competition. Marching band has a sometimes well earned reputation as a shelter for geeks, nerds, and misfits. It also has a more concealed seedier side. Tell any former band geek a story prefaced with “this one time at band camp” and most of us will give you a knowing smirk.

You see the dirty little secret of marching band, at least back then, was that it could be an absolute den of depravity and what some segments of the population might be tempted to describe as “immoral conduct.” Now I’m not in any way admitting that I myself participated in any of this questionable conduct, but in close quarters, on a dark bus full of hormone-fueled teenagers crossing a hundred miles late into the night, things sometimes happen beneath the protective cover of a large blanket. There were a lot of first experiences on those long, late bus rides.

Then there were the parties. Compared to today, they feel like something incredibly tame. As far as I know there wasn’t even booze or drugs at any of  these parties – though there were a few sub sets of the group where that, too, could be had if you wanted it. Mainly our parties were a grand excuse to shove two giggling teenagers into a closet together for 7 minutes and then wrench the door open hoping to catch them “having a moment.” There was old school spin the bottle, regular semi-clothed cuddle puddles, and many, many “long walks in the woods on a moonlit evening” to pass the time.

It was the kind of rampant teenage b movie sexuality that Gilbert Gottfried use to host on USA’s Up All Night on weekend late nights. To the best of my knowledge everything that ever happened during our parties was completely consensual between all combinations of willing participants. The catch, of course, is that all this happened 20+ years ago. Maybe that’s not how everyone remembers those days. Memory is an imperfect instrument and with every year its rough edges get worn down even smoother. If someone from that long ago past rose up today and said it wasn’t, I don’t have any idea how one might defend himself from the accusation, particularly if the accusation itself is enough to establish a presumption of guilt.

So, you ask me why I was vocal in defending someone from 30+ year old accusations? It’s because it very easily could have been me or any number of people I know being pilloried in the press for activities that no one so much as looked at askance way back in the prehistoric days when they happened.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Perception. Working for our Uncle lo these many years has given me an odd relationship with money, particularly with my perception of what constitutes a “large amount” of it. Sure, in my personal life $100,000 is a big number. It’s almost twice what I paid for my first place. In my professional capacity, though, throwing out round numbers in the tens and hundreds of millions is the rule rather than the exception. That’s why having long drawn out conversations about spending $100k makes perfect sense to my tax paying soul, but drives my professional self to madness. In the overall scope of the budget it’s barely a rounding error and I’d just like to get on with other stuff.

2. Facebook. I secretly suspect that we all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It turns out due to a recent policy change, my blog, hosted on WordPress, is no longer allowed to communicate directly with my Facebook profile. What I use to be able to do with one click can now conveniently be done with about twelve. I do love it when technology is used to make simple tasks even harder to do. I also enjoy it when the solution to having a handful of bad actors exploit a feature is to terminate that feature for all users. Look, I know Facebook is a “free” platform and they can do what they want, but honest to God at some points their tweaks and “features” are going to drive one to ask if it isn’t just easier to interact with the other platform instead.

3. The Privilege Police. I have a bad habit of browsing the comments when I read news articles or opinion pieces. I’d probably be far less agitated by the news if I’d stop doing that. On one recent article, every 3rd comment was some variation on “this was so written from a place of privilege,” as if that were somehow sufficient reason to invalidate someone’s opinion or personal experience as detailed in an article written from their point of view. It feels patently ridiculous to assume every American, living and, dead has had the same American Experience. I feel not one ounce of shame about where or who I’ve come from and will continue to tell my story from my perspective no matter the gnashing or teeth and rending of garments it may cause the Privilege Police. After all, they are perfectly free to write an article addressing the same topic or experience from their point of view. Apparently creating original content is harder than just sitting at the keyboard being offended by every damned thing.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Ass pain. A sure sign you spend too much time trapped in cubicle hell is that the low-bidder chair that goes along with it slowly starts physically damaging you. It’s not a problem in my nice fancy office chair at home or even in the slightly-higher-than-low-bidder chairs in the conference rooms. Until fairly recently I didn’t even know a tailbone was something that could hurt. I guess you can now add work-related ass pain to the list of things you have to start dealing with as you approach 40 that a twenty year younger version of you never considered.

2. Allegations. We now live in a country where all it takes is the allegation of wrong doing to end a career or destroy a lifetime of work. For all those people cheering the fall of people who “probably” or “may have” done bad things, be careful what kind of world you’re cheering on, because we’re all going to have to live in it. Then again it worked out well enough for the ​witch hunters of Salem.

3. Junkies. I had my eye on you from the second I pulled into the gas station. I saw the swerving lean on the trash can and then back the other way. I saw your knees seem to buckle, but you miraculously stay on your feet. I’m a little impressed that you made it across the parking lot without getting yourself run over in the process. God, it seems, protects junkies as well as drunks, small children, and ships named Enterprise. I appreciate your determination, but you see, you picked the absolute wrong person at the absolute wrong time of day to ask for a handout. I’m here pumping gas at 6:45 AM so I can haul myself to the place where I exchange my time for someone else’s money. You might try doing the same. You’re a man every hour as old as I am with maybe a few to spare – so I don’t feel at all guilty at thinking that you should be somewhere earning your own keep. In times past, that use to be the defining characteristic of being a man. In today’s world where everything is an illness and we’re supposed to be full of pity and understanding, it’s not fashionable to say things like that. Fortunately, I’ve never been one to give a damn about what’s fashionable. I can’t seem to do much to discourage the state from pouring ever increasing amounts of money down your rabbit hole, but I’ll be damned before I willing give one slim cent to anyone who decides chasing their high somehow entitles them to a living from my work and wages.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Breakfast options. I already get up between 4:30 and 5:00 most mornings. Although it’s the most likely real solution to this issue, I don’t want to get up earlier and cook a meal. Still, I’d really like a breakfast option that wasn’t an egg on a English muffin or similar concoction wrapped in paper and passed out a window for people who are up and out before the crack of dawn and don’t laze away the morning before showing up at the office around 9:00.

2. Not asking how high. Jumping on command is all well and good. It’s sometimes a necessary evil, but honest to God, not knowing how high, or which direction, or for how long you’re supposed to do it just leads to and exhausted jumper who’s engaged in a whole lot of activity without much to show for it when the poor bastard finally falls over.

3. Know what you want. I’d hate to even estimate how many times a day someone asks me for something. I’m going to to my level best to deliver exactly what you ask for – unless whatever it was is patently stupid in which case I may ask for clarification or make an alternate recommendation. Still, if you insist, I will cheerfully deliver the product as requested. Here’s the thing, though… If what you ask for and what I deliver turns out to be not what you actually wanted, well, I’m sorry but I’m not feeling any guilt about it.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Decisions. I’m theoretically leading a project right now. I say theoretically because every time we get together to discuss it, we revisit and rehash decisions that I was under the impression were made a month or two ago. But no, instead of actually trying to move the ball forward, we want to spend our time going over and over and over and over and over the same damned material. I have to wonder if the weekly outcome would be any different if organizations didn’t send a different representative to this exercise in futility each week. Then maybe we could get a little institutional memory going and I could wrap up a Thursday without without my blood pressure treading dangerously close to stroke territory. All for the want of decisions that actually stick once they’re made.

2. Thursday Dinner. I try to cook a big meal every Sunday – enough so there are two or three days of leftovers and I don’t have to do any heavy cooking after work. By Thursday night, though, even the biggest of meals has either disappeared into my gullet or is just no longer appetizing. As much as a creature of habit as I am, eating the same dinner four days in a row is a touch too far for me. That’s generally how you end up having scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast for dinner on Thursday night. Not that I dislike either of those things, but after a long stupid day something more substantial would have been nice. Sadly, something more substantial would have also required far more effort than I was willing to put in.

3. Guilt. Most nights, especially now that it’s getting dark earlier, Maggie and Winston are happy to snooze peacefully under the kitchen table while I try to combine words into sentences and sentences into complete thoughts. On other nights, Winston tries to be a 40 pound lap bulldog and Maggie somehow manages to wedge herself between my elbow and the keyboard. They’ve been in “needy” mode all week… and while I couldn’t do without them, it would be nice if I’d have bothered to raise more independent children.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Neighbors. Tuesday night, one of the strong storms passing through the area cleaved several large branches off a tree in the neighbor’s yard. Two of those large limbs landed squarely in my yard, so after work I got out the saw, cut them up and piled them neatly for burning once they’ve hand a few weeks to dry out. The third of the limbs to come down fell in the neighbor’s yard, but landed in such a way that it snapped one of my fence posts and buckled several rails. Two days later, I’m still looking at that downed limb lying across a crumpled fence from my kitchen window. The neighbors have been home. I’ve seen the kids playing in the yard and I’ve seen their vehicles come and go, but neither of them has broached the subject of the limb, or the fence. We’re now engaged in a great game of seeing how long it takes the neighbor takes to do some basic yard work and if they’ve got the personal integrity to at least offer to take care of the repairs. Given my observation over the last four years, I won’t be holding my breath waiting for either of those things to happen. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’d have addressed the issue already… and therein clearly lies the problem of holding others to the standards to which I hold myself.

2. Standing corrected. I hereby retract that mean things I said about my credit union yesterday. I discovered today that the fault was all mine for making a boneheaded mistake writing out the damned check. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.

3. Attempted guilting. Since the office is now officially down to four, there’s apparently going to be a self-appointed chief of attempting to make everyone feel guilty about taking time off, “because then everyone else is sooooooo busy.” Maybe if I were a better person, I would feel guilty. Then I remember that I didn’t create the staff shortage and that I’ve earned every hour of leave I’ve banked over the last eleven years, so I’m going to go ahead and schedule it when I need it rather than when it’s convenient for someone else. I’ve got problems enough of my own without giving in to attempted guilting. Nice try, though.