I haven’t had too much trauma being “socially isolated” over the past year and a half. I’ve come to realize that I find a lot of people really annoying. And, sad to say, a lot of people find ME annoying or in need of criticism, too, and have no compunction about telling me so. Sometimes, even when I’m being nice, someone feels the need to offer “constructive criticism” that I never asked for. It is annoying, but I try really hard not to be a bitch about it if I can help it. On the other hand, other people make me really appreciate my dogs. Dogs don’t feel the need to criticize others for being themselves.
Today, I was reading a post I wrote as a tribute to a person I used to know. She died in 2016. I remembered her to be a very lovely person who was always nice to me and super friendly. Below is my tribute to Naomi. It’s proof that I’m not a totally mean and cranky person all the time.
A couple of nights ago, as I was sitting all alone in my house, I remembered a woman I used to work with about thirty years ago. Her name was Naomi. We both worked in the German (Rhinefeld) section at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was in high school and she was a mother and wife.
I didn’t work with Naomi directly. I worked in the ice cream shop and she worked in the deli. Naomi was what was known as a Level B supervisor. That meant she was kind of akin to the boss of the Level A supervisors. Level A supervisors were basically peons who had basic managerial powers over even bigger peons like me.
I was at the bottom of the barrel at Busch Gardens. I worked there for four summers and never once got a promotion. It was before I realized that I work best alone. I was also very depressed and anxious at that time, and I admittedly had a horrible attitude, although I was often praised for being a hard worker and very reliable.
Despite my interpersonal demons with some other supervisor types at Busch Gardens, I always liked Naomi. She was British, very friendly and kind, and always pleasant to be around. I remember I’d come into the deli to drop off my purse and such. That was where the lockers were. There we were in our ugly fake lederhosen, looking rather ridiculous, but there to “put on a show” for paying customers. She’d always say, “Hello, pretty lady!” in a cheerful tone of voice. I remember she always made me smile, especially when she described the disgusting non-dairy topping we used on all of the desserts. It was basically made of beef fat. She described it as “dead cows” on the chocolate pudding.
Naomi was fun to work with and had a good sense of humor, yet she was quite assertive. I remember one time, Naomi complained to Busch Gardens’ upper management about one of the bigwigs, an Italian guy named Frank who was verbally abusive. He’d come barging into the deli and start hurling around criticisms and insults in a way that was very upsetting to the young people working there. Naomi’s complaint got Frank sent to an anger management course.
I remember congratulating Naomi on her assertiveness and good leadership and she laughed and said, “They probably put him up in a luxury hotel and gave him an expense account.” She’s probably right, but it was still pretty cool that she had the guts to complain, and Busch Gardens management actually did something. She was a good boss, and I think, a good friend. I even remember Naomi wrote a piece for Busch Gardens’ company newsletter. It was about how her daughters had worked at Busch Gardens and she had decided to try it herself, to great success.
When I knew Naomi best, she was probably about the age I am right now. That was thirty years ago, and I learned the other night that Naomi died in October 2016 at the age of 77. She was a year younger than my mom is. I don’t know how or why Naomi died. I gathered from prowling around Facebook that she’d had some kind of medical crisis that was very serious, but didn’t initially trigger a death knell. The crisis appeared to have happened over a year before she succumbed. Whatever it was was clearly very serious. It looked like she never recovered her health.
I quit working at Busch Gardens in 1992. It was a good time for me to quit, because in my next job as the cook at a summer camp, I did get to be a supervisor of sorts… and I did get to make a lot of my own decisions and work independently. I found it a less frustrating and less annoying job. Best of all, I didn’t have to wear dirndls or fake “lederhosen” outfits of blouses with ugly suspenders sewn onto them, black tennis shoes, knee socks, or culottes that gave me constant wedgies.
I never forgot Naomi, though, or many of the other people I worked with. I did find a lot of friends at Busch Gardens, many of whom I sometimes interact with on social media.
I do have one more memory of Naomi. This one is more recent.
About twenty years ago, I was living with my parents in Gloucester, Virginia. I was suffering from clinical depression and getting treatment for it from a therapist and a psychiatrist. I also took voice lessons. I find that, for me, singing is good for relieving depression.
One day, I arrived at Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts (EVSPA), which is where I was taking my voice lessons. I happened to run into Naomi there. She was directing a group of young people. I overheard her talking about them doing a show. I want to say it was Godspell.
I never knew Naomi was into the theater. I was never really into the theater myself, although I’ve been known to sing show tunes, especially when I was taking lessons at EVSPA. I don’t know if Naomi remembered me, but I do remember saying hello to her. She looked much the same as she had when we’d worked together, and she was just as friendly and cool. I remember being surprised to see her, since I never knew she was an actress. I’m sure she never knew I am a musician.
I don’t know why she popped into my head the other night, but I looked up Naomi and discovered that she’d actually done a lot of good for young people in Williamsburg, Virginia. She started a theater group called Backstage Productions. It was open to all comers. I have a feeling that Naomi’s vision was tremendously important to a lot of people at a tender age, looking for something constructive they could do… a place where they’d be welcome to try something new.
I wish I’d had the chance to know Naomi beyond working with her at Busch Gardens. I’m glad I met her, though, and that her memory touched me enough to look her up a couple of days ago. I’m not happy she died, but at least she died having done something amazing for countless people, from the youngsters who were able to perform with Backstage Productions to all of the people who watched their performances. And that doesn’t even take into account people like me, who were touched by having the chance to work with her while wearing hideous fake lederhosen at Busch Gardens.
On another note, it occurs to me that the last thirty years have flown by… I probably should be more productive myself. I tried being productive on SingSnap yesterday. I decided to do some singing rather than open a bottle of wine, which is what I was somewhat tempted to do. I try not to drink when Bill isn’t home, and he’s been away all week. It’s been a sober few days, which hasn’t hurt me at all. But I do get bored and lonely… and sometimes I succumb to temptation. Drinking helps pass the time. But it also gives me dry skin, hangovers, upset stomach, depression and anxiety.
Last night, I didn’t succumb to the temptation to open a bottle of wine, but I was feeling a little self-conscious because I can easily hear people outside my window. I’m sure they can hear me, too, and wonder what the hell is going on in my house. I can pull down the Rolladen, which gives me the illusion of more privacy, but I know the sound still escapes.
I did a few songs, including a religious one. I’m not a very religious person myself, but I like the song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” (even if this particular arrangement is a tad schmaltzy). So I decided to do it last night… Of course, someone felt the need to offer me unsolicited tips about my “bravado” (vibrato?), which I will admit, kind of annoyed me. It’s karaoke, not American Idol. Besides, while my efforts may not have been perfect– and they never are– they’re just fine for my purposes. The better person in me realizes that the commenter probably meant well… and maybe thought she was being helpful.
But anyway… I dedicate this to Naomi. I have a feeling she’d be encouraging and kind about it. I don’t know what happens after a person dies… maybe her soul can hear these things. At least I know my soul can still connect with hers.
Above, you see I linked to a “dedication” to Naomi. I sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” I had forgotten that I sang that song for Naomi, so I just clicked the link to check it out. Sure enough, I got some comments from people, which I mentioned in the original post. Most were very nice. But I also got a comment from someone who complimented me, but also wanted to play “voice teacher” on a karaoke site. She said she wanted to hear “more bravado” (vibrato?). Then she instructed me to use my diaphragm more. I suppose she meant I should “support” more with my diaphragm. I have a feeling she’s not an expert.
As I wrote in my original post, I’m sure the lady was trying to be helpful, but I must admit her comments were a bit irritating. If I had asked for advice, that would be one thing. But I hadn’t asked for any tips… and it’s just a karaoke site, anyway. She’s also making a lot of assumptions. What if I’m not someone with healthy lungs?
I’m not going to listen to the recording because, if I am honest, I don’t enjoy listening to my own stuff that much. I find myself criticizing it and wanting to redo it. But it’s entirely possible that I was emotional when I recorded that song. Or… what is more likely is that I didn’t go full out because it would have blown out the recorder. Sometimes, if I get too powerful, the sound cuts out. It’s frustrating, and after multiple redos, you just want to get on with it.
It strikes me, though, that if we were at a bar doing karaoke, I would not get a “do over”. No one would expect perfection. We would all just clap, right? But if you put up recordings on a karaoke site, you might get an unsolicited “lesson” from someone whose counsel and opinions you never sought.
So what does this have to do with today’s title? I just wanted to comment on people who are annoyed by me… and people who annoy me. I’m beginning to think that I’m just not cut out for interacting with others. Some people have the most amazing “people skills”. They are fun to be with and popular. And then there are people like me…
I was going to write a post today about an incident that occurred in the early 90s. I was in a choir and, back then, I was kind of loud and obnoxious. I wasn’t trying to annoy people, but I know I did. And some of them were not at all bashful about telling me so. I remember one guy, who had just made up a song about punching a guy for making him “feel like shit”, yelling at me because he found me “rude” and “obnoxious”. Remembering that song he made up about violence, I couldn’t help but realize it was the pot calling the kettle black.
Other times, people have criticized me for being who I am. Some have outright had the nerve to tell me to my face that I should change who I am to suit them. I remember it made me feel awful, especially since so few of those people ever took the time to get to know me. I’m actually a pretty good person most of the time.
Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I used to be more outspoken than I am now. And I am not entirely innocent, either. There have been people in my past who got on my nerves. I used to be less kind than I am now. Nowadays, I find myself not wanting to try to connect to people anymore. So many of them turn out to be disappointing… or I disappoint them in some way. I just want to be who I am. And I want to be able to sing a song on a karaoke site, dedicated to a long lost friend, without someone turning it into an unsolicited teaching moment.
The older I get, the less tolerance I have for other people’s opinions about me. I have much less patience for unsolicited advice and verbal abuse. As a matter of fact, one way to permanently get on my grudge list is through verbal abuse. I really can’t take it anymore… and so, that leads me to be kind of socially anxious. I don’t want to try to connect to people, because I feel like it will eventually lead to somewhere unpleasant for both parties.
I think age makes a lot of people set in their ways. I am no exception. I annoy people, and they annoy me… It’s a blessing that I don’t have to deal with people very much anymore. A lot of them make me sad.
I do have fond memories of Naomi, though. She was a very kind lady and, I can see, that she left quite a mark on the world. I’m sure people still miss her very much.