A Refreshing Conversation With An Older Gentleman Who Takes Life In Stride

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, Sometimes you’re the bug…” 

I was listening to an older acquaintance chuckle as he told me about a scam he’d gotten caught up in.  He understood what had happened and how it’d happened.

After some research and many phone calls, he’d extracted himself from the scam and was a few hundred dollars poorer because of it.

He told me that in retrospect he realized that the whole mess was less about him being stupid, than about the scam being slick and sophisticated, taking advantage of his trusting nature + his unfamiliarity with certain details.

No surprise there, eh?

But what struck me about this conversation, that was more like a monologue, was that this older gentleman telling me this story wasn’t bitter about what had happened.  There was not one ounce of “I’m a victim” or “I blame _____” going on with this guy.

Instead, he was telling his story as a cautionary tale.  All he needed was for someone to listen and understand his predicament– and for someone to tell him that he “done good” solving the problem himself.

All of which got me thinking…

When was the last time you were part of a conversation like this one?  SERIOUSLY, when did you last listen to someone who had been taken advantage of– and who wasn’t whining and emoting about the unfairness of it all?

Someone who was behaving like an adult who grasped the fact that in the rhythm of life not everything works out as planned– and that’s ok, too, because if you’re smart, you learn from it and move on.

Like this older gentleman did, in his quiet self-deprecating way.

Apparently You Cannot Motivate Me With One Written Word

To thine own self be true…

LATE LAST WINTER I STUMBLED on an article that was about how to be more productive.  I wasn’t looking for an article on that topic, but for some reason when I saw this particular article I stopped to read what it had to say.

The gist of this article, that I did not save the link to, told me that if anyone [who reads English, I’m assuming] sees the word ACHIEVE while working at any task, then that anyone will be more productive.

So being a curious open-minded person who happened to be bored on a winter afternoon, I wrote “Achieve” on a post-it note and put the post-it note where I’d see it when I sit at my desktop computer every day.

The premise of this idea seemed a little woo-woo to me, but I thought: Why not? I’ll keep the note where it is for spring and then when summer arrives I’ll evaluate what has happened.

 + +

SUMMER IS HERE NOW SO it’s time for me to weigh in on the efficacy of this visual aid: that is, have I been inspired to new heights of productivity because I see the word ACHIEVE every day?

As much as I want to say “yes, this ezpz solution has helped me be more productive,” I’m going to be honest and tell you, my gentle readers, that I don’t think I’ve been any more or less productive since I put this post-it note in my line of sight.

I, of course, have no way of verifying my finding because I have no baseline level of productivity from which to start my study, so my conclusion is entirely subjective… rather like the idea in the article that prompted me to try this experiment.

But what I have learned about myself from this little foray into the land of inspirational signage is that for me the desire to do things has to come from within, and cannot be supplanted by one random word… no matter how clearly or often I see that word.

++

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Do you find yourself motivated when you see an inspirational sign with one word on it?

OR

Do you find yourself to be motivation-resistant to one word signs like I am?

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Say What? Botox & The Fine Art Of Conversation

HERE’S A NEW-TO-ME PROBLEM…

I’m Botox-free, but have a micropeel at the skin care department of a doctor’s office every couple of months.  I started doing these peels about 15 years ago, on the advice of a doctor who told me they’d reduce my acne.

And they did.

Now I continue to have them because they keep my skin looking clear and healthy. Plus the peels kind of reduce wrinkles. Sort of.

I admit to being vain, to a point, so I’m not going to stop using them any time soon.

BUT HERE’S THE THING…

I’m beginning to interact with people in my real life who have availed themselves of the other services that this type of doctor’s practice provides.  That is to say lately various people who I know have wrinkle-free frozen faces that seem to be the result of using Botox.

I’m talking about people as young as their late 20s and as old as their late 60s whose faces suggest to me [or sometimes they tell me*] that Botox is part of their regular skin care routine.

To be clear here, I’m not writing this post to pass judgment on whether anyone who does this medically approved procedure is more, or less, beautiful because of it.

Do what you want, that’s cool by me.  Be pretty in your own way.

No, what I’m getting on about here is the fact that these people suddenly appear to be devoid of emotions.

AND IT’S THE DARNEDEST THING.

I’m an above average communicator with the ability to read people… if they give me something to read.  Yet I cannot, for certain, tell you if when speaking with these Botox-ed people if they understand what I’m saying, or asking.

There’s no emotion.  There’s no feedback.

And to be honest, as an introvert interacting with seemingly non-empathetic people who lack expressions, I feel more alone than usual.

And a little bit scared.

Because without some visual clue from a person about what’s going on within their mind, I’m left to parse their words to determine if what I said was, at least, heard– and then, possibly, understood.

I mean, suddenly I’m conversing with people who are most likely distracted, complicated, perhaps even not the clearest communicators to begin with– and now I have to guess what they’re feeling, too?

Groovy.  Just groovy.

* So are they confiding in me?  Or are they telling me I need Botox, but they don’t want to come out and say so?

The Tale Of Getting Our Held Mail Upon Return From Vacay

I DID NOT START THIS.  I want to be clear on this point.

I inherited this feud from some women who used to live on this street when all the houses were new, and the street wasn’t finished yet.  Women who moved to the midwest from big sophisticated cities.

Women who had never dealt with a small town misogynistic resentful male postal clerk who grumbled loudly about doing his job, poorly.

For reasons never fully explained to me they hated him, and being who they were, they launched a letter-writing + email-sending campaign to get him fired.  They found the names of everyone in the U.S. Postal Service who might be influential enough to get this resentful male postal clerk axed from his job– and set about trying to make it so.

Their campaign, organized and relentless as it was, did not work.

THEN they moved away leaving me the only woman on this street who knows what they did– and still suffers for it because he remembers which part of our street was out to get him.

The block I live on.

# # #

# # #

SO KNOWING WHAT I KNOW, I went over to our local post office branch to get our mail that had been held while we were on vacation.

As usual he was the only clerk working behind the counter and I had to stand in a long line.  No big deal.  Totally expected.

What I did not expect, however, was our resentful male postal clerk getting into a prolonged shouting match with a male customer who was trying to decide which box to use to send something somewhere.

Our resentful male postal clerk had strong opinions on what this customer guy should be doing– and the customer guy was. not. buying. it. at. all.

I found this tense conversation fascinating because this is my first experience with our resentful male postal clerk turning vicious on a man.

He’s branched out.  [pun intended]

# # #

# # #

EVENTUALLY I GET TO THE COUNTER.  With a sense of foreboding I hand my driver’s license to our resentful male postal clerk, and I wait for the inevitable hateful glare.

The snarl.

The shout.

“Greenwood Street, huh?”

But this time, my gentle readers, I was ready.  I put on what might be my best dramatic performance ever, playing the part of a contrite suburbanite.  When he squinted his eyes and glared at me, I slouched, I looked down at the floor, and I hung my head in shame for living on the street that I do.

Oddly, this performance seemed to light a fire under his heretofore slow-moving butt and he went into the back of the post office branch to retrieve my mail.  Lickety-split-like.  Without whining.

# # #

# # #

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.  As if this story could get more exciting and amazing, when our resentful male postal clerk returned from the back with our mail, that included 31 catalogues + many letters, he had it in an official U.S. Post Office rectangular white plastic toter that he handed to me.

This is unprecedented.

Never before has this resentful male postal clerk NOT dumped all of our mail on the counter for me to grasp, as best I can, in my arms.  He has previously enjoyed making me look like a klutz as I scramble to not drop anything while skedaddling out of his post office branch.

But this time, he was, for him, in his own way, almost kind to me.

And I gotta tell ‘ya, I find this a bit disturbing.  It’s just not normal– like he’s playing some new game with me that I have yet to figure out.

Phooey, Piffle, and Pshaw: Gray Days Return & I Am Tired

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

~ Cicero

~~

Phooey!  I’m working on being grateful now, but after last week’s unexpected clear blue skies, this week’s return to dreary gray skies with snow has been difficult.

Piffle!  Then add the lost hour of sleep [I’m looking at you, Daylight Savings Time] and I’m not feeling my usual writing mojo OR joie de vivre OR any other flapdoodle-y & twaddle-ish way of using words to indicate joy and productivity.

Pshaw!  So instead of stressing myself to find something to write about that is actually interesting and fresh, I’ll just share some photos– and attempt to remember that I am grateful for this change in weather because the more the wet now, the prettier the flowers then.

~ ~ 

In case you care, I looked up the meanings of the exclamatory words I used above.  They are defined as follows:

phooey = disbelief

piffle = nonsense

pshaw = contempt

~ ~

Taunts & Tears: In Which I Wonder About Humanity Whilst Shopping

“Do you want $13.47?”

That’s the first thing she said to me.

I told her “no” and explained that I had money.

I was in Best Buy in an upscale part of town and after a long wait in line I’d finally made it to the cashier, a pleasant efficient girl, a bit on the plain Jane side, probably college age– totally confused about what to do next.

“But what do I do with it?” 

She was holding the change from the transaction that had just taken place in front of me when two Kardashian-esque high school kids had purchased some candy with a twenty-dollar bill– and refused to take their change.

“I tried to give them the $13.47 back, but they wouldn’t take it.  They told me to keep the change.  But it’s theirs, not mine.”

I’d been watching and listening to these kids directly in front of me while standing in line.  I knew them for what they were.  Troublemakers.  Snotty rich kids wasting Daddy’s money.  Pointing at the cashier, snickering about her looks.

“But what do I do with the money? It’s not mine.”

As if on cue, we heard a car engine outside the front window of the store and turned to see the two high school kids in a convertible Mercedes, top down, driving by the window laughing and waving at us.

With that my cashier began to cry.  Somehow being mocked by these two had really gotten to her.

So there I stood, waiting for the tears to stop and for her to look at me.  When she did, still sniffling, I answered her question about what she should do.  I said:

You’re ok.  You did everything right.  This is not your fault, no one is going to blame you.  After your shift when you turn in your till tonight you explain that there’s $13.47 too much in there because some rich idiotic spoiled kids wouldn’t take their change.  You’re ok.  This is not your fault, no one is going to blame you.

And you know what?  My words calmed her down so that she stopped sniffling, rang up my sale– and was back to her cheerful self quietly saying her newfound mantra.

“I’m ok.  This is not my fault.  No one’s going to blame me.”

In Which I Listen With The Intent Of Exiting The Scene As Soon As Possible

I HAPPENED TO SEE AN ACQUAINTANCE WHO, after a polite “hello,” launched into a long story about something in her life.

Acquaintance, who is living in the River of Denial, started the conversation, which was really more of a soliloquy, with the words “I’m not a _________, but…” and then went on to tell me about her thoughts and actions that from an objective point of view would say that she is a _________.

“Ain’t it the truth? Ain’t it the truth?”

WHILE I ENJOYED THE THEATRICAL UNHINGED WAY in which she rationalized her behavior, I began to ponder, if given the opportunity, what I was going to say to this woman who, without getting into any of the specifics, I’ll describe as a wackadoodle who needs to see a therapist.

However, being the grown-up that I am I chose to say nothing and remain quiet, listening to her and nodding my head in a supportive way, like an extra on stage behind the lead actor.

As one does, even.

EVENTUALLY ACQUAINTANCE FINISHED TELLING ME HER STORY, and me being me, I said the first thing that floated into my mind.  I let her know that I understood what she’d been yammering on about by saying Snagglepuss‘s immortal catchphrase: “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

And that, kids, seemed to be all that she needed to hear me say to her, thus giving me my opportunity to gracefully walk away from this absurd conversation.

“Exit, stage left.”