Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Don't Understand Some of the People Here

I had kind of a perplexing Facebook experience just this past week. I think, with the unrelenting heat, it was just one of those times where everybody is a little bit on edge. Extreme heat is more enervating, more stressful, than bitter cold. So that could account for it, in part.

Just the other week there was something on Facebook, a funny link with commentary from various folks on it, one of whom I know real well and at least one I don't know at all. One of the folks I didn't know on the comment string caught my eye. I liked their FB monicker(made me laugh), and the fact that they were a young student in their college's jazz studies program- and an instrumentalist to boot(not that there's anything wrong with being a vocalist, but I love seeing girls who want to be players too). So I did something I don't usually do. I sent out a Friend Request to someone I've never met.

Sometimes you do things that aren't "you" just to change your program around, to try to set new patterns(and thus new results)in motion. And sometimes you do it purely on a whim: just because it's something you wouldn't ordinarily do. In this case it was the latter scenario, a case of 'oh why not?' Strangely enough, it was something I didn't expect to hear back on. I figured she'd get it, and go, "Ewwww- why is this middle-aged man writing to me?" And from there, just decline the request.

To my surprise, she accepted. So we became FB friends, which meant I was in her network and she was in mine. We could see each other's FB commentaries, and add our own. This is apparently where I stepped on my schvantze. She'd put up a picture of herself, which elicited a few comments, one of which was from the one friend I have(excuse me, had)in common with her. It had to do with the picture bringing out the mischief in her eyes. I clicked that I 'liked' that comment.

The next day, I brought up my Facebook page, and noticed something missing. I had one less Facebook friend. Her. Dropped her a line, saying basically "whazup?", and to her credit got a prompt reply: 'It just makes me a little uneasy when a middle-aged man I've never met likes my profile'.

That made me very uneasy, as far as that goes. For one thing, I had to realize that I am middle-aged. But seriously- or as seriously as I can take this- if you want to get technical, I indicated that I liked the comment made. This to her was tantamount to liking the profile picture itself, a much more heinous offense here. It's apparently quite inappropriate for me to like the profile picture, although I'd think it'd be okay to like the comment made, provided you make that distinction. "Like" still seems to me pretty mild, pretty innocuous though. Maybe Facebook should put another link, called "lust after". Now if you were to see that clicked by your picture, you might have something to worry about..

Being a middle-aged man, I don't go after girls this young, on Facebook or otherwise. The boundaries she was afraid were being overstepped were already in place in my own mind, only difference being that mine go just a few feet further. To me, there's nothing wrong with appreciating a nice picture of a young girl(and it was just a face shot at that, for chrissakes!). That's not grounds for de-friending someone in my opinion. What would justify hitting the zap button would be if I made off-color or suggestive remarks. But again, I'm not trying to get anything going with some girl one-third my age. Let's leave that to Hugh Hefner--though his are more at the one-eighth mark!

If I examine my motives, this is a person that I would've gone for had I been 30 years younger. Or they were 5 years older. Again, me with the jokes here--okay 25-30 years older herself. So maybe there's a little buzz in the hypothetical realm here, in what-if-world. But in the so-called real world, no I wasn't trying to get anything going. Just add a new FB friend. I mean, what the hell-maybe she has an older sister.

In situations like this, I just have to remember how differently the world looks to different people, based on where they are in their lives: what phase of life they're in, what kinds of experiences life 'throws' at them. A 19-year-old female who is petite and fairly cute is going to have quite a different spate of things made available to her than a soon-to-be-57-year-old man. The world is still a wondrous place, but peopled by more than a few creeps of the male persuasion, whose attention she's going to attract. Her uneasiness at having this strange new person 'like' her picture is justified. At least from her perspective.

One advantage to being 57 as opposed to 19 is that you don't sweat stuff like this. By the time you get here, you've been lied to and shit on a lot more, and you've had a few dreams that didn't turn out the way you wanted them to. I guess that's the price, the trade-off. All told, I still think this is probably a very nice young lady, whether she wants to be my FB friend or not. As far as the possibility of 're-friending' I don't know. I didn't know how to close things out with her, once we'd seemed to resolve this little imbroglio. Just said, 'I think we're good here', and sent her a music page of mine which has a tune or two featuring the one friend we have/had/in common.

We'll see. Not having what I consider to be good social skills, I try and work on this in just about every interaction I have. In this case I did the best I could as I do every time out. Put my best foot forward, even though it sometimes ends in my mouth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

End of the Character

I find it interesting seeing actors from one's favorite TV show or movie interviewed, noting how different or how similar they are to their characters. Larry Linville, who played Frank Burns on TV's M*A*S*H series for the first couple seasons, was 180 degrees away from the character he portrayed: low-keyed, soft-spoken, and reportedly well-liked by his castmates.

One of the comments he made about Frank Burns always stuck with me: "if Frank were to become suddenly liberalized, that would be the end of the character". Frank would, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist.

This was apparently one of his reasons for resigning from the show, the fact that he'd exhausted the potentialities of his character. Nowhere else to go with it and still keep the essential- annoying quality of Frank Burns.

The reason this remark stuck with me is that I've known people in this life who, among their various aspects of self(some of which might be wonderful), have that central something that just irritates the living shit out of you. They could be a rabble-rouser, for instance- someone who just loves, just lives to stir things up, to add drama the way you'd add salt(or A-1 sauce!) to a steak. An incendiary. More plainly put, a shit-stirrer. We have one person in particular from work who fits this description. Well okay, they embody this description.

Or they could be a nasty gossip. Someone who spreads rumors at the drop of a hat, and bad-mouths whoever has just left the room. We have someone in the musical community- well, several such someones but one in particular- who fits this description to a T. He's referred to in some circles as the Town Crier. Actually a Jekyll and Hyde thing going here: a very nice kind individual coexisting with(but frequently eclipsed by) a major asshole. Well I should say a terribly, sometimes pathetically insecure individual whose insecurities drive him to act like a - major asshole. That's the best way I can put it.

Both these individuals are my personal Frank Burnses. The rabble-rouser seems to create trouble and drama almost without intending to, like it was second nature. Like some self-destructive psychic force pulls them in. It's happened at every location they've worked: walk in, sweet-talk everyone, and then proceed to create and spread drama, and then move to a new worksite(with the staff they just left singing, "Thank God and Greyhound you're gone")and probably went on way before working for the same company as me. This behavior is so central to them, their whole socialization process, that if it suddenly ceased: if they came in to work and got to it without meddling or stirring up trouble, you'd either suspect head trauma or be looking around for pods.

Likewise the Town Crier. His deeply ingrained socialization process is not so much to stir up trouble in a given community or setting as to balkanize it. To divide people into 'in' groups and 'out' groups, with himself in the 'in' group of course: always a small and exclusive membership. And he does this in just about every social setting he finds himself in, just as second nature as the 'rabble-rouser' does their thing. He just kicks into automatic, and some sort of polarity is set up between who's "in" and who's "out". I've seen him do it, time after time after time after time. Again, if he were to suddenly open up and be more accepting, less judgmental, less insecure, you'd figure it was either a pretty good bump on the noggin or Body Snatcher time. I think if I ever heard him say, in reference to some bit of potential gossip: "well gee Rog, that's none of my business.", I'd probably faint.

End of the character. Maybe the character as such is part of one's purpose in life, that is to overcome its imperfections, its insecurities. And once that is achieved, it's the end of your 'mission' here. If Frank Burns were to suddenly become liberalized, he'd have a satori moment- and then get hit by a Bus.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fat app and other fun

The mind is its own place, and can make a Heaven out of Hell, or a Hell out of Heaven.

I don't recall who came up with this one, but I think it was William James, author of The Varieties of Religious Experience. As far as its application in my experience(religious or not)I've found it to be true. You can take an inherently positive, fun situation like a musical band- something designed for you and others to make beautiful music together , reveling in the joyous interaction and comradeship- and with the right combination of alpha personalities it can become a snarling morass of ego conflicts and silly snits and power plays among its membership.

And you can take an inherently unfun place like a government office, with its never-ending line of disgruntled clients, seething negativity through every pore. They always want at least to bitch to you about their situation if not bitch at
you about it. Questions, problems, complaints/questions, problems, complaints/questions, problems, complaints. With the right combination of non-alpha personalities though(beta? gamma? theta?), it can be a place where you actually have a good time amidst the emotional squalor around you.

I have been in both these situations: the bands that become decidedly unpleasant due to personality conflicts(those doggone alphas), and the office job that would be unbelievably grim if not for some of the folks I worked with. Currently in the latter situation. It's still unbelievably grim at times, given some of the people we have to deal with, the saving grace being the positive attitude and humor of some of the people I work with.

We do have fun at the office. Everybody more or less joins in on this, but the people who seem to get into it the most are either the newest employees--who aren't yet burnt out--or the old-timers, who are burnt out but for whom retirement is just around the corner.

One thing people were goofing with this past week was a program you can have downloaded to your phone(provided it's an iPhone or similarly advanced model)called "Fat-app", which adds lbs to anyone's picture. The enclosed shot is of me, after being fat-app'ed. I wasn't the Ugliest Mug in the Office, but I do feel I was a contender for that dubious honor. Actually the 'winner' told us he'd kill us if we published his picture, so I just went with mine here.

We have one individual in particular who adds to the fun element(some days you might say fringe element, as in lunatic). His antics vary, from dressing up in Arab garb and playing a recorder to blasting music first thing in the morning. Naturally the music is anything but low-key, usually Opera or the Village People, the latter often accompanied by Steve Martinesque dancing. The other morning he announced he was going to play YMCA and 5 or 6 people groaned all at once. (Had it been a cartoon, we'd have all shared a dialogue balloon.) He played it anyway, and about a minute into things, our manager came out of his office and made him shut it off. I thought this would bring a round of applause, but it was the sound of just one person clapping.


Much of the time at 8:02 in the am, I'm not up for frivolity. I'd rather not hear Macho Man or
In the Navy when I'm trying to drink my coffee and wake up, but I'm glad the frivolity is there. Our job is at times a real Hell-on-Earth, given some of the people we have to deal with. As one of the old-timers, who has been burnt out for awhile now, and sometimes wonders how he's going to get through these next three years(before retirement), the horseplay definitely makes it an easier ride. Maybe not Heaven, but at least a higher Astral region..