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In my communications classes, we talked about scripts. We use scripts, or knowledge of certain situations, to know how to act. For example, the grocery store, the doctor’s office etc. But crowded public events, such as a farmer’s market, can be a wild card. The best you can do is to try and stay out of one another’s way.
And then there are scripts-within-scripts, like how to line up for something. Full disclosure, this a story about how I made a booboo in a line-up situation, the ultimate booboo: cutting in line.
Now it wasn’t intentional. It was a busy produce stall with merch laid out on tables in a U-shape, with the cashiers in the centre of the U, in the back of the stall. Produce in hand, I scoped out the formation of the line-up. There were the people paying, a couple of people behind them, a couple browsing the lettuce bins, and people just generally milling around on the periphery.
I didn’t know if the lettuce people were browsing lettuce while in line, or just browsing. So I just picked a spot behind the folk who looked definitely to be in line. Cue the woman burning holes in my back with her eyes. I stared back. She says nothing. I say nothing to her.
To the lettuce people, she directs a question, “Are you both in line?”
Lettuce Man replies, “Well we thought we were!” Jocular chuckles.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” I offer by way of apology.
I am by now next in line. Burning Eyes summons the courage to speak, “Well now that you do, you should go to the back of the line.”
It was the little skit for my benefit on proper line-up etiquette that burned my organic new potatoes. I completed my wrong by proceeding to the cashier. (Hey, as long as I’ve gone this far…) I knew I was in the wrong. I knew it as soon as Burning Eyes started shooting daggers at me. But no one was willing to simply and directly say, “Excuse me, line-up is over here…” I would have cheerfully corrected myself and waited my turn.
Cutting in line is just not done, I know, I know. But passive-aggressive behaviour in public places – that’s gotta stop, too.
Traffic is moving a little too slowly. What the hell happened?
Ah, it’s raining a little. It’s been sunny. Therefore, there’s probably been an accident. Why are people so stupid? Why don’t they be a little more careful?
Oh look, the street’s been blocked off. Must be a doozy. Should I turn around, or follow the traffic along the detour? Looks like a few people are turning around. Hmmm. Nah, I’ll just run into traffic somewhere else.
Why did I decide to drive somewhere at 4 pm on a weekday?
You know, it didn’t used to be like this, all this traffic everywhere.
Isn’t it Bike to Work Week this week?
I hate each and every one of you, especially those of you in front of me. Why aren’t we moving?
Back in the day, I always had these boyfriends who lived in Burnaby, even though I lived in North Van. And because I was in University, I had evening jobs. So I could go to my boyfriend’s house in the afternoon, and make it to my job in North Van in about half an hour, in rush hour traffic (unless there was an accident). Hah, just try to make that trip in under an hour nowadays.
That lovely bike lane sure is empty. I’m glad, though that no one is driving in the bike lane, because that kind of entitlement attitude sucks. I wish I was riding my bike, right about now. And I too, would be smugly sailing past all of these people sitting there putting wear and tear on their gas beasts.
Can you ride a scooter in a bike lane? Not legally, but I would if I had one, admittedly, just to get out of here.
How long have I been sitting here? Gas, clutch, brake. Crawling, crawling. Oh, am I just uncoordinated with the clutch and gas, or does that jumping mean the clutch is going. Noooo! I need a stretch of good solid driving movement to cool her off. How I long to move, to get out of here. The next turn off from this road is… too far away. I’m stuck. Hope the car holds out.
It’s a good thing I’m listening to this calming Be Good Tanyas CD.
This is taking far too long, even with an accident. Move it, people. Let me out of here!
The Car is Dead. We’re on the Road to Nowhere. It’s either move to a smaller town or just ride everywhere on two wheels.
I’m only driving alone because I had to go an appointment in another part of city, anyway. Surely the rest of you could have carpooled.
Please stop reproducing. You’re annoying me. Your children are annoying me. I’m stuck on a planet with too many of you. Yesterday a small child threw a stick at me as I was walking past him. It was just a twig, but it was deliberate. The parent said nothing to me, or to the child. I weep for our future.
No more driving in rush hour. Not on my otherwise beloved standard tranny, anyway.
I really understand that Michael Douglas movie, Falling Down, now. Shall I act out the home version?
And I’ve broken free.
On my way home. Thank god.
For some aimless afternoon fun, I braved walking into Holt Renfrew downtown. Normally when someone who looks like me walks into a store like that, the staff sends out some sort of pheremone to dispatch the haughtiest amongst themselves to follow me around. But that did not happen, and I wandered freely amongst the two-and-a-half floors of the too-bright store full of ridiculously expensive things.
I walked past racks and mannequins, shelves upon shelves of handbags, cases full of shiny things and fine timepieces, and shoes by the pair. And makeup counters, but I always avoid those in any store. Two whole floors of women’s things, a half floor of men’s – and suddenly, it hit me while staring into a great big backlit display of sunglasses – wall o’ shades – everything here is just decoration for the body. Expensive objects to cloak the body and things to wear for awhile until they go out of fashion, nothing more.
I have no money to spend on such armour – how Carrie Bradshaw could afford multiple designer ensembles on every danged episode of Sex and the City is a complete mystery to anyone who has actually tried to live off their writing – but even if I could buy things at places like Holt Renfrew, I would still find it strange that you can’t buy anything there like art for your home or implements for a hobby, like silver pens or cashmere yarns.
Nope, it’s not about beautifying your world or taking enjoyment in doing, this stuff is all about you, the hobby of grooming yourself continually and elaborately, like a big expensive monkey.
But we all like pretty things and I guess I can’t fault Vancouver’s richies and pretties for liking the pricy stuff. (Another thing about HR I found odd – no price tags visible anywhere…) So I’ll end this post by giving a little shout out to a shop called Room 430 where everything is designed and made in Vancouver, and not only that, the designers help dress those of us who can’t dress ourselves. It’s my favourite place to get something special when I do actually need to look nice.
It’s not as though there is a dearth of interesting topics to write about. Transportation, the Olympic$, the Climate Change Dividend, even the asylum next door – all kinds of people are doing interesting things and events are going on all around us. People are blogging about them too. Every day, something new to know.
As for me, I signed the papers I’m over the shock. And here I am again: my own boss and cruise director, tasked with doing something useful, not just the dishes. That means thinking up my own projects as well as mustering up the courage to go after all the opportunities that cross my desk. (At least the ones that don’t look too dodgy.) Sometimes when there is a legitimate posting, whether it comes via the Editors’ Association mailing list, Craigslist, Jeff Gaulin or Freelance Writing Jobs, I talk myself out of it before even applying. This habit must be stopped – if I plan to make any money.
I like money.
Writing for money is hard work – I’m not kidding – if you plan to get paid for it. It feels like that today at least. Getting a job was a way to get money that I needed at the time, but it’s the easy way out. You don’t have to think for yourself and the cheques come regularly.
My sister, a creative chick who’s been at the freelance game for awhile, said to me, “You have to stop working the backup plan and the safety net, and go do it.” She’s absolutely right. There is no happiness in mere acceptance at the workplace, I need to go achieve something and make a name. It would be easier to just fit in, but that is not to be.
A couple of years ago, when I left a long-term temp assignment to go back to school, the lovely woman who I worked with gave me a gift from her corporate swag closet. The closet had some logo stuff like hats and golf balls as well as coffee mugs with those motivational slogans on them (like Demotivators, but for real), and my particular gift was a a deck of cards called The Power of Intention Cards.
The cards have an “intention” printed on the front side, and an explanation on the back of how to use the intention. They are the creation of self-help author and motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer – you may have flipped past his show on PBS, which usually features the bald-headed guru standing in a dark room speaking to an assembly of folks in folding chairs.
As you may already have realized, I am not much for motivational speakers (except perhaps Matt Foley, RIP Chris Farley). And though I kind of poo-pooed the cards at first, there is something freaky about the way the same two or three cards keep coming up for again and again. I try to pick one at random every few days or so, first shuffling the deck and cutting it a few times, then fanning out the cards in one hand while I close my eyes and run the other hand over the cards until I feel some pull towards one particular card.
Often I get this one:
It reads, “In any moment in which you’re experiencing thoughts that make you feel sick or bad, do your best to change them to support the idea of feeling good… work to activate thoughts that predict recovery and overall well-being.” In other words, think positive in order to feel good. This idea has some merit, in that anxiety and stress can make you sick. And we tend to take good health for granted until we get sick – something my friend said yesterday as she was suffering through the pain of a gum infection that has required two surgeries inside of the last week, and before that, took far too long and too many visits to specialists to diagnose properly.
So maybe it’s a preventative thing, reminding me to be thankful for overall good health even when my anxiety goes into overtime and makes me worry like a grandma.
The day before yesterday, I got this card:
That day, I went into work, and halfway through the morning, I was fired. Called into a meeting, given a box, told to pack it up, and leave. It was the closest thing I’ve experienced to a professional hit – a swift, cold, coordinated attack. Bang bang, done. There were a couple of mitigating kindnesses: the HR girl called me a taxi; my boss told me to call her if I was interested in some future tech writing work. And my co-worker and former classmate sent me some consoling e-mails, one that began with “WTF!!!!” in a huge font. I really enjoyed that.
The card reads “Revenge, anger, and hatred are exceedingly low energies that keep you from matching up with attributes of the universal life force. A simple thought of forgiveness toward anyone who might have angered you in the past will raise you to the level of Spirit and aid you in your individual intentions.” Hmmm… suck it up and brush it off, Dr. Dyer?
The last couple days I’ve spent walking, thinking, reading and writing – and talking about the event. I’m not sure where to go now. I’m not sure I would like another job. I picked the card again today, but I think it’s because I’m NOT ready to forgive. While you can’t hold on to anger and resentment forever, you needn’t rush out to hug snakes and other low-lying predators either – even if they can’t help what they are.
Maybe it’s the winter blahs, or maybe daily life is becoming overwhelming, but I just have nothing useful to say to anyone, write about or work towards. I just want to lie back and consume things created by others rather than putting out the energy to start a new project or change the direction of my life. Watching movies, reading books, and sticking frozen food in the oven rather than making stuff, writing or planning that gourmet meal from all my cookbooks and mouldering food magazines.
It seems like I had more time to play when I was younger. I think it might be important to re-discover playtime. And joy and fun and carefree days… getting old can really age you.
In Japan, they have a saying: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” The message is that those who don’t conform, for the good of society, are a threat to harmony and must be brought down. On this side of the ocean, I’ve noticed that there is a similar societal pressure to be likeable and have a pleasing personality. No matter your other talents, it’s important to have a high “emotional intelligence” if you want to have success. It’s important to be popular, otherwise you’re a big fat loser, right?
The funny thing is, I’ve noticed that a lot of assholes are popular. It ain‘t scientific, but two individuals from my past who I consider to be absolutely piss-poor human beings for being selfish, vengeful, manipulative and just plain mean, each have over 200 friends on Facebook. Maybe they work at large companies with lots of co-workers on FB, but I suspect it’s just because they’re assholes who happen to be likeable assholes. In other words, they are good politicians.
This is not to say that everyone who is likeable is an asshole, oh no. I know many people who just seem to have that gift for easy rapport with anyone who they meet. My sister’s friends especially, seem to have the knack of making you feel remembered and important each time you see them. They remember what you talked about the last time you saw them, they ask how such-and-such is going, they share freely of wine and cigarettes and other little social lubricants. There is no agenda; they’re not just waiting for you to finish your thought so they can jump in with theirs.
I always wanted to be more like that, to get on easily with whoever life throws in my path, and have that sort of easiness with people. But I’ve never quite mastered it. I never remember anyone I don’t already know when a mutual friend brings them up in the conversation. Like someone I met at a party. Who? What did they look like? Oh sure I remember now… (no idea) I don’t remember birthdays. I’m told I put up walls when first meeting someone, or that I can appear rather cold and silent. I mostly just feel shy and awkward when meeting another person for the first time, and beyond that impatient and/or infuriated. Sometimes I can’t wait to just get home and get away from people.
Unfortunately, I’ve never been any good at hiding my feelings, and I’m an awful liar. So whatever I’m feeling seems to leak out and someone always seems to take it upon themselves to call me on it. That part always bewilders me, especially when it takes the form of advice, like “You should be nicer to me!” or insults, like my favourite: “You’re a cold-hearted bitch!” I mostly try to stay uninvolved, and I’ve never tried deliberately to hurt anyone, so it always takes me by surprise when others try to attack me for … being imperfect, unlikeable me. Bloody well mind your own business, is my usual reaction followed lots of imagined snappy comebacks.
Going back to my original point, it makes people angry to deal with someone who just doesn’t care what others think of them. Ah, now I remember where that came from, the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. In the story, Toru constantly compares himself to Nagasawa, the future politician who shows him how to get laid without caring so much about it. He does have some lingering angst about it, and Midori, the independent love interest, tells him that not really caring about what others think is what sets him apart from society. I guess that’s me too.
I know myself pretty well, and I know I havewalls and defenses. I like to think I’m generous to friends (and I cannot stand cheapness in others!) but once you cross me, there’s pretty much no going back. It doesn’t even have to be a huge fight. I’ve had disagreements, passive-aggressive bitch fights, and although I’ll obsess for awhile over the conflict, I won’t make the effort to right things unless the other person and I are really close. Generally, I choose flight over fight.
Despite it all, though, people generally know where they stand with me, and I don’t much care about pretending to like someone I don’t, or sucking up for political reasons. You can like me if you want. I like to be liked.
I’m really not sure why I am this way, but I guess I had to get it off my chest.
The other night I went to a social hour drink thing at a hip little pub by Main Street. The people attending were all writers, editors, and publishers, and I think most of us were, at best, acquaintances or had at least heard of each other. Anyway, I was sitting next to two people who wanted to exchange e-mail addresses, but neither had business cards or pen and paper. I always carry a pen so I offered it. The woman accepted the pen, and wrote down what she wanted to write on a napkin. But then, instead of giving the pen back, she set it down beside her napkin and commenced to roll it around and play with it.
Listening to their conversation, I could only think “Give me my pen back!” It was lying there on the table, but on the far side of the napkin she had written on. The moment was positively Seinfeldean. I was George. I couldn’t concentrate on what was being said, so consumed I was at this breach of pen-borrowing etiquette, that is: borrow, write, return. I watched her fiddle with my pen for a few minutes. I needed it back. I love that pen.
She still kept it on her side of the napkin. As soon as I could, as subtly as I could, I grabbed it back. She looked surprised for some reason. Maybe she’s always gotten away with stealing pens lent in good faith. Hah! Foiled you!
There will be no more pen-lending to strangers for awhile. At least, not until the social contract as it applies to other peoples’ ballpoints has been repaired. In the meantime, have some business cards.