communication, complaints, language, rants

No… Betty White didn’t say that vaginas are tougher than balls are…

A few days ago, I reposted a rant I wrote in 2014. In that rant, which was originally composed on December 30, 2014, I went off about how annoyed I get when people want to “correct” each other’s opinions. At the end of the rant, I included a popular meme that included Betty White’s visage and the quote, “Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” I also shared the original source(s) of that particular joke, which actually came from two comedians– Sheng Wang is partially credited, but it appears that he “borrowed” the joke from Hal Sparks, who did a hilarious routine on Showtime back in 2010. Have a look.

This guy has some comedic chops. Why don’t I know more about him? And why is his material being attributed to someone who has publicly said that she would never had said such a thing?
From Snopes.

When I reposted that blog entry from 2014, I didn’t know that Betty White would die just two days later on New Year’s Eve, 2021. And in the wake of her death, people are, once again, sharing incarnations of that meme with the misattributed quote about how tough vaginas are. I’ve already seen it a few times, and, well, it bugs me.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you shouldn’t be surprised that the practice of misattributing quotes to celebrities bugs me. It’s especially irksome to me when the person who is being falsely attributed to a quote is dead. When a person is dead, he or she can no longer shield themselves against people who put words in their mouths.

In November 2012, Betty White was interviewed by reporter Michael Cragg for The Guardian. Even back then, the infamous vagina quote was being credited to Betty White. Cragg even begins his story with that quote before setting the record straight:

Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” If you happen to look this quote up, you’ll see it attributed to notoriously sweet 90-year-old TV great Betty White. Only those words never passed her lips, and she’d quite like people to bear that in mind next time they see fit to quote it at her, as I have just done. “That’s what I hate about Facebook and the internet,” she sighs. “They can say you said anything. I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.”

I know many people loved Betty White, and that funny quote sounds like something she could have said. I can practically hear her Golden Girls character, Rose Nylund, saying that. But she didn’t say it, and has said she never would have. She plainly said, “I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.” And yet, ten years later, people still share that quote as a means of “honoring” her. Is it really honoring someone when you pair their visage with someone else’s words? Especially when that person has repeatedly and publicly stated that they’ve been misquoted or misattributed?

Betty White joins a long list of famous people who have been credited improperly for things they’ve neither said nor written. How many times have I seen George Carlin credited for writing The Paradox of Our Time, an essay that sounds a little “Carlin-esque”, but was actually written by Dr. Bob Moorehead? George isn’t the only one who has been wrongly credited with writing that essay. It’s also been credited to the Dalai Lama and an unnamed Columbine student. Obviously, many people think it’s a wise and thought provoking essay; that’s why it continually gets shared. But if people really think it’s such a great piece of writing, why not give credit where credit is due? Credit the real writer, Dr. Bob Moorehead, not George Carlin or the Dalai Lama. Take a minute to double check before you share, too.

Most of us have never met the celebrities we admire so much. I think that’s a good thing, since heroes often don’t live up to their images. I have a feeling Betty White was just as sweet in person as she seemed to be on TV, but I don’t know that for sure. She was an actress, and it was her job to be someone she wasn’t– to convincingly play a part on screen so well that people believed they knew her.

I think it’s important to remember that most of the things Betty White said while playing a character, were things that professional writers wrote for her scripts. She played parts that were initially created by someone else, and brought to life by her talent. So when Rose told a St. Olaf story, that wasn’t just Betty– that was also the person who wrote the script.

Even if that quote about the toughness of vaginas sounds like something Rose Nylund would say, we should remember that Rose Nylund wasn’t, in fact, Betty White. Betty was Betty White… and when she wasn’t playing a part, she was herself. And the vast majority of people who know her name and have seen her work, never actually knew Betty off camera. It probably was annoying to her that so many people assumed they knew her well enough to put words in her mouth, so to speak. But, in the Internet age, I’m afraid that is an occupational hazard, as she noted in her article with Michael Cragg of The Guardian.

I do hope that by sharing this post, maybe a couple of people will reconsider sharing that meme– funny as it is. The lady just died two days ago. I’m sure there are other things she actually said that could be shared instead of the “tough vagina” meme that appears to have been inspired by a couple of somewhat less famous comedians. Why not give Hal Sparks or Sheng Wang the credit? They would probably appreciate it, and since they are presumably still living, they can actually use the associated fame.

Betty White was a wonderful, talented, blessed performer who was with us for so many years. Surely we can find another funny quote that Betty actually said that we can share among our friends on Facebook or other social media. Or, better yet, instead of sharing quotes that famous people said, why not come up with some of your own wisdom? I’ll bet you can do it if you try hard enough. But… then you might have another problem.

Every once in awhile, I’ll say something clever and original, and Bill will laugh and say, “That’s funny. Who said that?”

And I’ll roll my eyes and say, “I did. Why is it that whenever I say something funny or interesting, you automatically assume I’m ripping off someone else?”

And then he laughs and apologizes, then admits that I can be clever and witty in my own right, too. In fact, he’s said that’s one of the things he likes about me.

I’m not sure why people feel the need to share quotes, anyway… I used to have a Facebook friend who almost never posted his own thoughts. He just shared things other people said. I wondered what the point of that was. Is that something people do in their everyday lives? Do people go up to others and say things like, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Gordon B. Hinckley said ‘Conflict grows out of ignorance and suspicion.'”?

I have seen many people use wise quotes online, but it’s not something I see out and about in public, not that I go out in public much nowadays. So why do we do it so often on Facebook? I’m sure some people do it to inspire thought, and there’s nothing wrong with occasionally sharing a profound quote… but I’m a lot more impressed by people who share themselves, rather the stale words some famous person said… or didn’t say. But there’s no pressure to be wise, either. Why not just be yourselves? And let famous people be THEMSELVES.

I know this post makes me sound terribly uptight… and, you know what? I’m gonna own that. We all have our little quirks. This is one of mine. Dead people, especially, can’t defend themselves against false attribution. I will keep complaining about it as long as it’s a problem… which means I’ll probably write another rant on this subject at some point. And if you don’t like it, as Eddie Murphy said, while imitating his drunk stepfather…

“It’s my house…” Yes, Eddie said this, while imitating his stepfather… and I completely agree.

Standard
communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

Just WTF does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Well, it finally happened. I now have a topic to discuss today that isn’t about the Duggar family. Prepare for an epic rant.

Years ago, I was a big fan of Mad Magazine. Unfortunately, I was introduced to Mad by the neighborhood pervert, who had a son who was a few years older than me. I suspect the pervert’s son was the Mad Magazine fan. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I’m just glad he gave me something to look at besides the men’s magazines he usually showed me back when I was a wee lass. Even though I can’t look at a copy of Mad without remembering the Home of the Whopper (as the neighborhood pervert occasionally referred to himself), the fact remains that it was a funny magazine, especially when I was an adolescent. And after all these years, I have managed to maintain my adolescent sense of humor.

Not that anyone really appreciates it…

Back in the early 1980s, Mad Magazine did a parody of public television telethons. I don’t remember exactly what the spoof was about, but I do remember that Big Bird was a participant. The clever cartoonist had drawn Big Bird as he would have been on Sesame Street, introducing the letter for the day. In that particular article, the letter for the day was “P”, and Big Bird introduced it by saying “P stands for ‘prance’ and ‘pad’ and ‘punch’ and ‘puss’ and ‘please’. As in, ‘I’m going to prance over to your pad and punch you in the puss if you don’t please give us money.'”

The eleven year old version of me thought that was just fucking hilarious. I remember laughing my ass off, mainly because I didn’t know that the word “puss” is not akin to the word “pussy”. I had a grand time picturing Big Bird prancing, let alone prancing over to someone’s “pad” and punching them. And of course, because I had never been exposed to the old fashioned word “puss”, and was picturing Big Bird punching someone in the pussy, I laughed even harder.

My laughter is distinctive, and some people find it irritating. My parents were among those who criticized me for the way I laugh. My dad especially hated it, and would tell me I sounded like a cackling witch.

Anyway, after I read that article in Mad, my mom asked me why I was laughing so hard, so I told her. Her response was to get annoyed with me and crankily inform me that the word “puss” refers to someone’s face– hence the expression “sour puss”. In fact, she had a distinctly sour puss as she edified me with that information. I still thought the mental image of Big Bird prancing to someone’s pad and punching someone in the pussy was hilarious, and continued to laugh like a banshee. Years later, I still think that mental image is funny, and I occasionally still laugh about it.

Of course, not everyone thinks the idea of Big Bird punching someone in the pussy is funny. I probably still annoy people, too, even when I’m doing something as innocent as laughing at a ridiculous mental image. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think I’m an asshole, even when I’m seriously not trying to be an asshole.

So what’s that story got to do with today’s title? Keep reading, and I think it will be clearer. Or maybe not. My mind works in strange, tangental ways.

My old friend, Jamie, posted a couple of pictures of himself yesterday. He currently has long hair. I’ve never known him to have long hair, because I haven’t seen him in person in many years. When I knew him offline, he had short, conservatively styled hair. But we have known each other since we were very young, having graduated from the same high school and worked at the same amusement park for a few summers. Naturally, neither of us still looks the way we did in the late 80s, early 90s.

Anyway, Jamie has long hair now, and he wanted to know if he should wear his hair up or down for the occasion of attending his son’s graduation. I’m assuming the young man has just finished college. I didn’t have an opinion on Jamie’s hair or how he should wear it, although I am impressed that he apparently still has so much of it at his age. Instead, I was struck by the rather dour expression on his face in his pictures. I didn’t remember him to be so somber looking when I knew him offline. So I posted, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” That’s a song from Annie, by the way, and it was intended as a lighthearted joke.

Some time later, a mutual friend of Jamie’s took me to task for making that comment. She might have been surprised to know that I actually hesitated before posting it, because as a woman, I don’t necessarily like it when someone suggests that I smile. But I figured Jamie and I have known each other for a long time and he wouldn’t be offended. It never crossed my mind that anyone other than him would raise an objection. I certainly never thought I was going to be confronted about COVID-19 when I posted it.

When Jamie’s other friend initially came at me, I figured it was because she’s apparently a woman, and like a lot of women, she doesn’t like to be ordered to smile. But no… somehow, she got the impression that I was making a statement about mask mandates and COVID-19. She left me a second comment about how she lives in New Mexico, where mask mandates have been reinstated, and is fully immunized and boosted and wears masks and yadda, yadda, yadda. I was initially confused by her laundry list of COVID-19 prevention tactics. Then I got a bit irritated.

I should add that it was late at night when I saw her comments. I was about to go to bed, having enjoyed dinner and libations. And I just didn’t get how she took my statement as being about the fucking pandemic, or why everything has to be about the goddamned pandemic. I never mentioned COVID, vaccines, masks, or anything. I just made a simple comment about Jamie’s joyless expression. It never even crossed my mind that his smile would eventually be covered by a face mask, although I’m certain it probably was. But somehow, this lady seemed to think I was making a statement about the pandemic when I was just reacting to pictures posted by an old friend.

So I responded to her that I live in Germany, am fully vaccinated, have an appointment to get a booster, and mask mandates never went away here. I also have a master’s degree in public health and another in social work. And I’ve known Jamie since I was about 17 years old, and was just kidding.

I didn’t add this, but I could have also told her that my comment had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with COVID-19. And I don’t know how she conflated a comment about smiling to being about masks, especially since prior to my peevish response to her comment, she didn’t know a fucking thing about me. I also didn’t add that, given my background, of course I understand how serious the pandemic is. Of course, we’ve never met, so she wouldn’t have known before I told her. But my initial comment wasn’t even about the pandemic. She read a lot more into it than was really necessary.

She came back with “Good to know.”

WTF? I’m not the one who was being rude. She chose to engage me, by chiming in with an inappropriate and nonsensical comment. Why can’t I add a simple response on an old friend’s Facebook status without some stranger assuming the worst about me and putting words in my fingers? I don’t even know this person from Adam, and she doesn’t know me! She might as well have come up to me on the street and started talking about thermonuclear physics, or something equally as irrelevant.

This isn’t so much a rant about the clueless woman in New Mexico with a Ph.D. who works for the Army, as it is that trying to communicate on social media just sucks. People have lost the ability to be civilized. We all sit behind computer screens and deliver the snark first and ask questions later. I’m as guilty of it as anyone is, I guess. We all seem to read more into things than we should, or we make erroneous assumptions that someone is being rude. Or we put words in people’s fingers– make assumptions about points they never even made. We don’t simply take things at face value. I see it in comment sections all the time, which is why I try hard not to respond in them. Too often, making comments ends up being involved in a pissing match with a complete stranger. No thanks.

Communicating with someone online can sometimes be downright weird, especially when you compare it to talking to someone in person. Imagine having an in person chat with someone you know, and suddenly your friend’s mutual friend, a total stranger to you, suddenly butts in to your exchange with a completely irrelevant comment about socks or something. That’s what it’s sometimes like to communicate with an old friend online. But, of course, communicating online, especially on a public forum, is NOT like having an in person conversation, precisely because total strangers and outsiders to the conversation can butt in with something off topic.

Maybe I am perturbed right now because I really miss offline communications, and actually getting to know people. It annoys me that I wind up interacting with complete strangers just so I can exchange a few words with a legitimate old friend from back in the days before the Internet.

I suppose I could have simply ignored her. Maybe next time, I’ll just do that. Ignoring her doesn’t solve the issue that has so irritated me this morning, though. On the other hand, maybe if we have occasion to interact again, she might have a better understanding of who I am before she pops off with something completely useless and irrelevant. Or maybe not. My guess is that she’s already forgotten about me and our unpleasant exchange.

Adding to my moan this morning are a couple of other things. First off, I somehow managed to break the business end of the Type C thunderbolt cable for my iPad. I don’t know what happened, but the end managed to come loose and now it no longer works. So I had to order a new cable, and that cost me some euros. I ordered early in the morning and Amazon.de said the replacement would get to me today. But, I see that it will probably get here tomorrow, which sucks because Saturday is the one day of the week I might hope to get out of the house and do something fun. Sundays in Germany are often pretty dead… at least if one wants to do any shopping or anything. Delivery people here don’t always leave packages like they do in the States.

And then, another person– someone I don’t know offline, but “met” through Epinions– decided to add a rude comment to a discussion my friends and I had a couple of days ago about Josh Duggar. This dude felt the need to post “YAWWWNNN…” on that topic.

My response to him was to “keep scrolling.” I mean, if you have nothing of substance to add to a discussion on someone else’s Facebook page, and you think what they’ve posted is boring, why not just move on? There’s no need to leave a rude comment that does nothing more than irritate people. Again with the uncivilized behavior, right?

That guy has a tendency to be a grouch sometimes, but he’s not the worst offender. In fact, he rarely chimes in on things on my page. He probably has better things to do than hang out on social media. Given that, he doesn’t need to leave a random comment that he thinks my discussion is boring. But at least he’s not like …tom… Some of my regulars know all about …tom…

…tom… could not resist leaving insulting comments to any and all topics. He was another person I “met” on Epinions. I never liked him much, but decided to try to give him the benefit of the doubt. After awhile, when he would leave those kinds of rude and useless comments, I would respond with profanity. Usually, I would tell him to “fuck off” or “go play in traffic” or something like that. I will admit that’s not very civilized behavior, either. I mainly did it because he was such an insufferable jackass, and it was sometimes fun for me to be unabashedly profane when he asked for it. Remember, I wasn’t on his page; he was on mine.

One day, I finally got tired of the bullshit and kicked …tom… off my friends list. That was kind of sad for me, because he gave me a lot to blog about– or at least vent. On the other hand, trying to have a meaningful conversation with him was a complete waste of time. He would chime in on things, often without having the slightest notion of what the discussion was about. He would leave rude, critical, condescending comments. He had no respect for me, so trying to be friendly with him was not productive. And while cursing is something I do as if it’s my job, I don’t feel good about swearing at people. Not unless I know they enjoy it. I don’t know how …tom… felt about being asked to “fuck off”, but he once told me he wasn’t “unfriending”, even though he seemed to find my page so worthy of criticism. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Maybe that’s the solution. I should just tell people who annoy me to “fuck off” and use my block button. Not caring about how other people perceive me might even be the key to happiness. Another key to happiness is to stop trying to engage with strangers, especially those who make assumptions before they know any facts. And maybe someday, I’ll log off of social media altogether and simply read books, like I did in the days before I joined Facebook. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

People need to learn to come at people where they live… or simply shut the fuck up.

And just to bring this topic back around to where it started before I seemed to go wildly off on a tangent, I’d like to announce the letters for today. Big Bird says, the letters for today are “F” and “U”. As in, “feeling fed up”… and of course you know what else. 😉

Standard
communication, law, Police, travel

Damned if you do… damned if you don’t…

I still have a ton of travel blogging to do, and I’ll be getting to that in a little while. First, I want to write about a situation I read about this morning.

Last month, white mom, Mary MacCarthy, was traveling with her ten year old biracial daughter, Moira. They were on their way to a funeral in Denver, Colorado. Ms. MacCarthy’s brother died suddenly in October, so MacCarthy had to take a last minute flight from her home in California. MacCarthy is a single mom, and her brother was like a father to Moira. The girl was crying when she was boarding the flight, and the two were initially not able to sit together. MacCarthy asked other passengers if someone would be willing to move so that she and her daughter could be next to each other.

Another passenger was kind enough to oblige, and the pair arrived safely in Denver, where they were met on the jet bridge by a couple of Denver police officers. MacCarthy was shocked to be confronted by the cops. She worried that they were there to deliver more bad news. But, it turned out that they wanted to talk to her because someone had called them, suspicious about their behavior. Moira had been crying because her uncle died. Then, afterwards, she was confronted by the police, and terrified because of all of the news coverage about people of color being abused or even killed by the police.

After talking to MacCarthy and her daughter, Denver police cleared them of any wrongdoing, and they were free to go. MacCarthy recorded the incident on her phone. The initial police report indicated that a Southwest flight attendant had reported the duo for “suspicious behavior”.

Two weeks later, MacCarthy got a phone call from the Denver Police Human Trafficking unit. The caller said the unit was following up on MacCarthy’s case. It was only then that MacCarthy realized she had been suspected of human trafficking.

MacCarthy sent an email to Southwest Airlines about this incident and, she says, so far they have not apologized. Instead, she claims she has only received two brief automated responses. MacCarthy has retained an attorney and is accusing Southwest Airlines of “racial profiling”. She now wants “a written apology from the airline, immediate reimbursement of the full price of their tickets, and “additional compensation to account for the trauma imposed on an innocent family, and especially on a grieving ten year-old Black girl.”

Southwest Airlines has said it’s “disheartened” by MacCarthy’s story of the events and has “plans to reach out to her.” In a statement to CNN, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Dan Landson said:

“We are conducting a review of the situation internally, and we will be reaching out to the Customer to address her concerns and offer our apologies for her experience traveling with us. Our Employees undergo robust training on Human Trafficking. Above all, Southwest Airlines prides itself on providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for the millions of Customers who travel with us each year,”

I can’t blame Mary MacCarthy and her daughter for being very upset and traumatized by what happened to them last month. On the other hand, I also have some empathy for the flight attendant who called the police. It sounds like the flight attendant was following protocol based on training. And while it’s certainly possible that the call was based on the flight attendant’s racial biases, I can’t conclude for certain that it was, based on the information I’ve read about this case so far.

Just yesterday, I read another story about a sixteen year old girl who was abducted by a 61 year old man. The girl had seen a hand gesture on Tik Tok called the Signal for Help. She used it while riding in the car with her kidnapper, hoping someone in another car would notice her signal of distress. Fortunately, someone did notice, and called 911. The motorist who made the emergency call also stayed behind the car and updated the police to the kidnapper’s location. That’s how the Laurel County sheriff’s department in Kentucky managed to arrest James Herbert Brick and bring the teenager he’d abducted to safety.

Brick has been charged with two felonies: unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. He was locked up in the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Ky., on a $10,000 bond.

In both of these scenarios, people saw something and said something, which is the advice often given to those who are concerned about something that is amiss. I’ve heard that advice given in situations involving potential crimes, as well as in situations that involve potential medical issues. Yes, it’s possible that a person is making much ado about nothing, but, as they say, “better safe than sorry”, especially when children are involved.

My heart goes out to Mary MacCarthy and Moira. They were already upset and anxious on that flight to Denver, given the terrible and sudden loss of MacCarthy’s brother, who was only 46 years old. Ms. MacCarthy also says that Moira is only ten, but she looks much older than ten. And it’s almost always scary to be confronted by the police, particularly in this era during which Black people have been injured or killed by American cops.

But… unfortunately, there are people out there who traffic children. Not all traffickers are scary looking men. Sometimes women are involved with trafficking children, and they get away with it, because they don’t fit the stereotypical profile of a trafficker. And flight attendants are trained to look for the signs of people who might be harming children. The flight attendant who called the police reported that Ms. MacCarthy and Moira were among the last to board the flight and the last to buy tickets. And they didn’t speak during the flight. Of course, the flight attendant had no way of knowing the circumstances of why the duo were behaving as they were, and she had many other passengers to look after on the flight. It might not have been possible for her to find out more about the situation before she made her judgment call.

It seems to me that Ms. MacCarthy is legitimately upset because she’s offended. I don’t blame her for being offended. But I would also hate to see people being discouraged from calling for help when they see something that doesn’t look right. I understand that calling the police on matters involving people of color can lead to tragic consequences. It shouldn’t be that way, though. People should feel free to call for help if they think help is needed. And I think in this case, the flight attendant was obviously concerned and felt that the situation merited calling the police. It turned out that she was wrong, but what if she hadn’t been wrong?

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed several people hitting a post I wrote earlier this year about how the “Karen” stigma can actually be deadly. That post was about a column I read in The Atlantic magazine, about a woman who was concerned that her pharmacy wasn’t requiring people to wear face masks at the drive in pickup station. But she didn’t want to be a “Karen”, so she didn’t say anything about it.

That post was written in late January of this year, before a lot of people had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The incident the article it was based on occurred even earlier than that. The point I made in that post is that being overly concerned about being labeled a “Karen” or a “BBQ Becky” or “Permit Patty” could actually cause harm to people. If there is a situation that is potentially dangerous, a person should feel okay about asking for help from people who have the ability to investigate. In a perfect world, making such a call would be perfectly safe, and would not result in someone being hurt, killed, or even humiliated.

Ms. MacCarthy assumes that she and her daughter were questioned because they don’t look alike. And it’s possible that racism played a part in the reason the flight attendant noticed them and called the cops. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the flight attendant was legitimately concerned and believed the duo were throwing up major red flags. The end result was that Mary MacCarthy and her daughter were cleared and allowed to go on their way. Yes, it was traumatic, embarrassing, and scary, but in the end, no one was hurt or killed, and no one actually was being trafficked. Those are good things, even if Southwest Airlines hasn’t apologized for the mistake.

For the record, yes, I do think the airline owes Ms. MacCarthy and her daughter a sincere apology. I’m sure that Southwest Airlines will eventually settle with Ms. MacCarthy. Hopefully, the settlement will be appropriate and make the situation less horrifying for MacCarthy and her daughter. According to NBC news:

“At this point they can speak with my attorneys,” MacCarthy said.

She says it’s about more than an apology.

“I travel with my daughter’s birth certificate because I’m ready to answer any questions if necessary,” she said. “The fact that we’re mother and daughter, the fact that I’m a single parent traveling with my daughter. It’s the right of TSA to ask those questions, I’m open to that. But the way this was handled was so unprofessional.

“I will do whatever it takes to speak out against the type of ignorant behavior and policies that lead to families being treated this way.”

I think people involved with serving and protecting the public have a tough and often thankless job. But I also think that these kinds of situations, where an offended person pursues legal remedies against those who act out of caution– especially when it involves children— could have a chilling effect that might lead to more children being harmed or killed. If someone sees something that raises a red flag, but they decide not to act because of the danger of being sued or even just being called a “Karen”, there could be even more tragedies. I’m sure the young lady who gave the Signal for Help while being driven through multiple states with her 61 year old captor is happy that someone acted and called the police.

But… in Mary MacCarthy’s defense, I also think that once the Denver Police cleared her and her daughter, that should have been the end of it. The human trafficking department should not have called her to “follow up”. I think if that hadn’t have happened, this story would have a different trajectory. And I do believe her when she says that Moira is traumatized by what happened.

I hope someday, the police situation in the United States will be overhauled, so that officers can actually be thought of as good people to call for help, rather than just threatening and potentially deadly. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. And… on another note, flying has gotten to be pretty terrible these days. Stories like these make me want to avoid flying even more than ever.

Standard
communication, politics, psychology

We should all listen to each other more…

This morning, I read a headline in the Daily Press, the newspaper that serves the Tidewater area of Virginia, the place where I was born and raised. The headline was about Virginia’s gubernatorial race. This year, Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, will step down as governor, and someone else will take his place. The newspaper was reporting on how the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, “dodged” a question about vaccination, which drew criticism from Democrats.

I know a lot of people hope to see Glenn Youngkin beat the Democrat candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. This is because a lot of people from Virginia don’t like Ralph Northam, or Democrats in general. A lot of people don’t like Mr. McAuliffe, either. I come to this conclusion based on comments I’ve read online, but also because I am from Virginia and I still know a lot of people there. Plenty of folks think Democrats are just plain evil. On the flip side, plenty of people also think Republicans are evil.

Even though Virginia’s political leanings have recently shifted from red to blue, there are still many Republicans in Virginia, particularly in the area where I grew up. And, just as they might choose a favorite sports team, people in Virginia have a tendency to choose sides in politics. I suppose it makes things simpler for them. On the other hand, it also makes our society more divided. I’ve noticed that people will often write off people solely based on their political preferences. There’s little thinking or discussion involved.

I didn’t read the article in the Daily Press about the governor’s race. Doing so would have required turning on my VPN, since the Daily Press, like so many other U.S. based newspapers, has made itself unavailable to readers based in Europe. We have a pesky data privacy law over here with which a lot of American papers can’t be bothered to comply.

I did, however, read some of the comments on the Daily Press article. Someone lamented about how anti-vaxxers were selfish and rebellious. Below is a screenshot.

Good lord! The comment about banning vaccines and masks comes from someone who lives in Tennessee, for Christ’s sakes!

I had to laugh at the guy who called Biden’s administration a “pos” (piece of shit), and wanted to know if the commenter he was responding to would jump off a bridge if Biden asked him to. Did this guy have the same mindset in January 2021, when Trump called on citizens to storm the Capitol? Are most people really like this? Do they really have no ability to think for themselves? I mean, there are some conservative ideas that I can get behind. And there are some liberal ideas that I like. Why does it have to be “either/or”? Why can’t we work together to make policies that suit the majority of people? Are there any moderates left in the world? Or are they all just keeping quiet?

Lots of people are in legal trouble right now because they listened to Donald Trump and “jumped off his bridge”.

I attempted to tell Bill about the comments I was reading, but he suddenly interrupted me with thoughts of his own. Granted, they were thoughts that were on topic, which was a plus. However, it was pretty clear that he hadn’t really been listening to me. A few seconds after I started speaking, he began formulating a response. In doing so, he missed part of my message.

I was immediately annoyed by the interruption and said so. I love Bill very much, but he has a terrible habit of interrupting me when I’m mid sentence. He also has a tendency of speaking to me when I’m engaged in something else, like reading, watching a video, or playing a game. Consequently, I often have to ask him to repeat himself or “hold that thought” until I’m ready to actively listen to him.

I often feel frustrated, because I can’t finish a thought or I get distracted from something on which I’d been concentrating. I have kind of a short attention span, so when people interrupt me, I tend to forget what I was saying. I also grew up in an environment where people didn’t really care what I thought and happily told me so… and in fact, I was labeled “arrogant” when I did express opinions. So, I’m probably even more sensitive to being interrupted than I might otherwise be.

Bill immediately apologized. He knows he has a tendency to interrupt. It’s a habit that gets reinforced in his job, where people are action oriented. He works with a lot of military folks, and they aren’t big on introspection or “soft skills” like listening instead of speaking. There’s a lot of testosterone and posturing that goes on– guys jockeying for leadership. Bill is probably one of the less alpha guys in his office, but he still has this habit of cutting me off when I speak. He doesn’t mean to be rude when he does it. It’s just something he’s learned to do.

It occurred to me that a lot of information and insight gets lost because people are so busy talking over each other. Successful communication depends as much on receiving messages as sending them. If you’re speaking or formulating a response when someone else is speaking, you’re going to miss some of what they say. And whatever you say in response will probably be poorer for it.

After Bill apologized for interrupting me, I said, “What do you think would happen if you consciously made an effort to listen more?”

Bill thought about it for a moment and said, “I’d probably learn more.” Then he told me that listening more carefully was a concept he’d actually talked about with his Jungian therapist.

Then I said, “I challenge you to make an effort to speak less and listen more today. When you’re at work and someone speaks to you, try to make yourself listen carefully to what they say. Do you think you can do that?”

Bill smiled enthusiastically and said, “I can try.”

That’s one thing I like about Bill. He has a really good attitude about most things. He’s slow to take offense and quick to take correction.

I truly am curious about what would happen if people listened more and spoke less. This is a habit so many of us have– myself included. We’re so busy wanting to be heard ourselves that we don’t let others have their say. And then we get offended when they don’t want to listen to us when we want to speak.

It’s not just a problem in conversations, either. It also happens when we read. Here’s an example.

A few days ago, someone in our local pet group posted a comment about heartworm preventative in Germany and asked a question about where to find heartworm treatment for her new dog, who had recently come to Germany from Romania. German vet clinics aren’t like U.S. vets. A lot of the clinics in Germany are just offices, rather than hospitals, where veterinarians can board sick animals. Heartworm treatment generally requires hospitalization. The vet where she took her dog could only test for the infestation; they could not offer treatment, because they don’t have hospital facilities.

I was the first person to respond to the poster. In my first comment to her, I explained that heartworm preventative isn’t widely prescribed in Germany because heartworms aren’t that prevalent here. I wrote that German vets usually only give prescriptions to people if they’re taking their dog to a warmer country. Vets here don’t prescribe heartworm preventative as a matter of course, the way American vets do. More discussion ensued, and we established that she’d need to find a vet with a hospital.

Another commenter came along and tagged me in a comment, “correcting” me for what I’d written about heartworm preventative medication. She wrote that German vets will prescribe preventative if someone is going to a warmer country.

My response was, “Right. I mentioned that.”

I’m sure my response came off as a bit “curt” and “bitchy”, but it always annoys me when someone doesn’t read carefully and then tries to correct another person. If she’d spent more than a few seconds reading more carefully what I’d actually written, she wouldn’t have felt the need to make the point about warmer countries that she’d mistakenly thought I’d missed. Those few seconds spent more attentively reading/listening, could have spared her the few seconds she’d spent “correcting” me, and the few seconds I spent letting her know that the correction wasn’t necessary. It also would have spared us both some irritation.

Why do people do this? I think it’s mainly because of egotism. We want to look smart, accomplished, and helpful. People want to be heard– but they don’t always want to listen. I think Americans, in particular, don’t want to take the time to listen before they respond. They’re always rushing to prepare for things, even though a minute spent listening could spare them five or ten minutes down the road. Time is money, we’re told, so we rush to say something, do something, take action– but so often, if we’d just cooled our jets and shut our mouths, we could have spared ourselves needless grief, time, and money.

Plenty of other commenters came along after I commented on that thread about heartworm treatment in Germany. Many of the people who commented never bothered to read what had already been written. It seems they all assumed they knew better than everyone else who had responded. I ended up turning off notifications for that post. Hopefully, the lady found a vet to help her dog.

This issue of how we don’t listen well came into my head a couple of days ago, when I stumbled across a televised interview of one of the women who wrote Not Without My Sister. The show was aired in Ireland, and proved that some interviewers are terrible listeners.

I found this interview very frustrating to watch.

Notice how the interviewer often doesn’t really let her guest finish her sentences. Part of this may be because of time constraints. Part of it may be because the interviewer is trained to ask questions. But I wonder how much she can be hearing if she’s so busy forming responses and new questions as her guest is trying to answer. As a viewer, it was annoying to watch this interview, because I couldn’t hear all of what the guest was saying.

The above interview isn’t as bad as some, though. I can’t stand watching shows like The View, because there’s a whole group of women talking over each other. It’s hard to get a clear message rather than just noise. I wonder what the point of the show is, if no one can get a word in edgewise, and no one is actually listening to the person who speaks.

Anyway… I hope Bill will remember what we talked about this morning and give my proposal to talk less and listen more a try. I wonder how much more efficient and productive people could be if they’d just stop and listen for a moment. How much information will they get that is not distorted? How much time will be saved because someone didn’t have to repeat themselves? The possibilities are endless.

We really should all listen to each other more. I include myself in that suggestion. I’m going to give it a try. I hope some of you will be inspired to try it, too.

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communication, complaints, rants

Back to the chum bucket with you…

We just arrived home a little while ago from our brief trip to the Schwarzwald. What should have been a relaxing break from Hesse turned into a bit of a shit show.

Before I get into the specifics of what happened, I will state upfront that this issue is partly my fault for not unplugging from social media. I really need to break the Facebook habit. It seems to bring me a lot of displeasure and discontent lately. I also need to quit caring about people and things that ultimately don’t matter.

Our trip began on Wednesday. The drama started a couple of days prior, and culminated into a trifecta of toxicity last night. I’ll try to keep it simple…

Last Monday, I got a private message from a woman who used to live in Stuttgart and moved back to the States a few years ago. She was very active in the community when she was here, ran several groups, and organized tours and such. Every year, she helped a vintner in Stuttgart with their harvest. This year, she says she got so busy that she forgot about the harvest. She asked me if I would mind helping her.

At first, I was pretty cool to the idea, because it sounded like I would have to be in Stuttgart. We live three hours away now. I have never met the people she’s been working with, and I don’t want to be expected to go to Stuttgart every weekend for three weeks. But then she said I didn’t have to actually be in Stuttgart to help pick the grapes or anything. So I told her I wouldn’t mind hearing what she had to say. She said we would have a video chat the next day. But then she never contacted me.

Off I went to Baiersbronn. Didn’t hear from the woman until Friday, as we were enjoying a fantastic lunch. She wanted to video chat. I said we were busy, so she rang off. Then last night, she contacted me again, wanting to video chat. I told her today would be better, since we still weren’t home. Then I told her that we had to go get our dogs between 6 and 7 our time, so 7:30pm would work best.

She asked which video chat program I preferred. I told her that I actually hate video chats, so I rarely use the programs. I get nervous on camera. But I have Skype and Zoom, and I didn’t say I wouldn’t do a video chat. I just said I don’t like doing them. She said there was no reason to be nervous… then she said maybe she should find someone else. I agreed with her.

Then she said this was their “livelihood”, so it was “serious business”. And that came off as a bit manipulative and passive aggressive, so it pissed me off. Especially since she came to me for a favor. But as I’m looking at the chat log now, I see she’s put in a bunch of smilies and stuff. Maybe she wasn’t trying to be manipulative and lay a guilt trip, but that’s how it came across. Bill thought so, too, when I showed him the chat.

Then I shared a wonderful article from the New York Times Magazine about Baiersbronn. We decided to visit it in 2018, after I read that piece. I shared it in the wine group I run. One of the members left an “angry” reaction and snapped, “I’m not paying for a subscription to read that!”

I responded that she didn’t have to subscribe. I don’t get commissions from the New York Times. It was just a nice article about the town and its many chefs. I thought it would be a good read for people in the group. But… then I got a comment from someone wanting to know the names of the restaurants… and someone else who linked to a vastly inferior blog post about Baiersbronn. Neither of the comments had anything to do with the article I posted.

Bill commented that people shouldn’t expect to read content for free. Then the woman came back and wrote that the New York Times isn’t a “credible” news source. Guess she’s a Trumper. Either way, though, all she had to do was scroll on, if the link wasn’t useful or interesting. Instead, she basically implied that she doesn’t like the source because of her politics. There wasn’t a fucking thing in that article about politics. It was written during the Obama era. I just thought it was an informative and interesting link…. and I was sharing information. Evidently, that wasn’t okay.

And then, I noticed a “like” from the formerly resident troublemaker. A couple of months ago, this chick, who is a sommelier or something, and runs her own wine group in Stuttgart, was pimping her group in my group. I slightly lost my temper with her and told her that pimping her group in my group was disrespectful. I finally implied that I was going to kick her out. She laid low for awhile, which was nice for me, but recently started posting again. She never posted her own stuff, though. She would just leave comments on my stuff, often in an attempt to make me look incompetent. Or, at least that is how it appeared to me.

A few days ago, I shared an ad from the Stuttgart Sky Beach about an event they’re having. I have no stake in the Sky Beach. I was just sharing information about an event. She posted a link to a competing event in the comment section, writing about why people shouldn’t choose the Sky Beach event. I suspect that she was getting kickbacks from selling tickets to that event. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that she’s hooked up with a bunch of wine sellers and is about making money.

I thanked her for sharing the information, then asked her to put it in a separate post. People can choose for themselves what activity they want to do. She ignored me.

This morning, she added her two cents to my New York Times link… a link to the Michelin site, for the woman who asked about the names of the restaurants. She helpfully added that the Michelin link is “free”.

Maybe I’m crazy… but it seemed to me, that once again, she was trying to make me look incompetent. She has asked me more than once to join her group. If I did that, my group would be redundant, and she would be in charge. I don’t care that she has her own group. I don’t care if people in my group are in her group. But I don’t want to be in a Stuttgart area group, because they tend to be toxic. Aside from that, I know that she promotes things that make her money. I don’t care about making money. I just want to have a group that is friendly and helpful and fun for everyone, including me. I don’t claim to be a wine or food expert. I just want to share information, and I want to do it without having someone posting after me, trying to undermine me.

It was getting to the point that I would cringe when I saw her name pop up. She literally made me feel sick to my stomach this morning. So I decided to kick her out of the group. The decision was a long time coming, and it brought me no pleasure to do it. But you know what they say– “too many cooks spoil the soup…” She wanted to be in charge of my group. She has her own group to run.

Bill pointed out that the toxic chick was acting a lot like Plankton on Spongebob Squarepants. He said I should send her back to the Chum Bucket. I agreed.

I didn’t send her a PM or address her in the group. I just quietly kicked her out and permanently banned her. Then… perhaps by coincidence, I got three new requests to join. I’m wondering if one or more were from her friends. I let two in. The other claimed to be living in Germany, but his profile indicated that he’s a chef who lives in Barcelona, Spain. My guess is that he’s someone she does business with. In any case, he can always join her group. He doesn’t need to be in mine.

I think this chick wanted to be in my group for ideas, new members to spam, and to irritate me to the point of closing the group. I came close to doing it a few weeks ago, but then decided not to when some people seemed to be enjoying the group. I found myself revisiting the idea this morning, as I choked down breakfast. That’s how “toxic” I feel about this woman. Her motives may be innocent, but my intuition tells me that she’s up to no good. I’m usually right about these things. She has her own group, though, and she can run it the way she wants to. And if everybody else wants to join her, that’s fine with me. I’m not trying to make money or be popular. I just want to share information.

Poor Bill had to listen to me complain most of the way home… all of this stuff comes from the neuroses I have from growing up with a very dysfunctional family. I really hate conflict. I don’t like dealing with manipulators. I can’t stand feeling like I have to confront people… especially people who ought to be adults. That woman who posted an angry reaction to a newspaper link got me a bit irritated. I was tempted to kick her out, too… But I know that doing such a thing would probably lead to a lot of high school styled drama.

I really don’t like feeling like a tyrant. I don’t think I act like one. But I think my instincts are right about these situations…

I probably should sign up for a Fuck It retreat in Italy. I need to learn not to engage with these people… and just say “fuck it” and delete the people who get under my skin.

As for the vintner lady looking for free labor, I calmly wished her luck in finding the right person to help her. I think it’s a tall order, but I’m sure someone out there would be more than happy to get involved in her project.

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