Thursday, October 12, 2017

thinking about stuff.

Thinking about the news of the week, and, because I'm probably too good at seeing patterns where there might be none, thinking about how they intersect....

Specifically, thinking about the mess over "Szechuan sauce" at McDonald's. And thinking about the stories we hear *every* "Black Friday" now, about people getting stepped on or crushed or otherwise injured in a mad rush to get one of a small number of expensive and coveted items for a lower than normal price. And also thinking about people (men, mostly, but not exclusively) in positions of power who use that power to get things they want....and to abuse people in the process (I am thinking in particular of a now-disgraced Hollywood figure, whom I will not name here).

And I was also thinking about the news about one of the few tv shows I watch regularly ("NCIS") - I heard this week that after this season, the actress who plays Abby is leaving the show. And in this week's show (sorry, spoiler alert): Ducky is taking a sabbatical of sorts; he is going to be in New York teaching and writing a book.

The character isn't totally written out and I bet they line up "consults" and the like with him. But still. Ducky and Abby were two big reasons why I stuck with the show all these years.

My reaction to Ducky's change in status was: "Oh. Bummer. Well, I know the actor who plays him is older even than my dad, and while he seems to be in good health, I bet it's a gruelling schedule and he wants to cut back"

I mean, I'm sad, but I get it.

And the same with Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby: she's a couple years younger than I am. Maybe she wants to do something else. Maybe she's got some kind of a family thing going on (ill parents, or a partner who needs more help....)

I'm sad, again, and my reaction was along the lines of, "If the cast changes too much, maybe I just wander away and find some new scripted show to watch"

(I *like* NCIS: New Orleans but it is on far too late for someone who gets up at 4:30 am to watch, and I am old-skool, I do not dvr.)

But I'm not angry. Stuff changes; the writers go the direction they want to. (I AM glad that they may write Ducky out as a retirement, rather than having him wind up dead on that beach several years ago when the character had that heart attack). They don't really owe me, as a single viewer, anything. (Also: I don't think I've exactly supported most of the advertisers on the show).

But that seems to not always be the reaction people have - it seems to be more common to throw a tantrum when you don't get what you want.

Another thing - some years back, when I returned home after a trip, I went to the post office to pick up the mail they were holding. The person at the counter (she knew me: she used to be my mail carrier) jokingly said, "Oh, no, we only do mail pick ups on Tuesdays and Thursdays now." Because I am not always good at picking up on tone of voice, I thought she meant it and that the rules had capriciously changed*  and I kind of sadly said, "Okay, I'll come back tomorrow" and gathered up my bags and was going to go when she stopped me and laughed and said she was kidding, she was going to go get my mail for me.

(*I work in a bureaucracy so I am perhaps a bit more....Stockholm capriciously changing rules than normal people)

But, when I think of it: a lot of people she might have done that to would have suddenly gotten angry. Might have said, "I pay your salary with my taxes!" or something similar. Screamed at the person.

And it makes me wonder: what's the difference between me and that hypothetical person?

Part of it's personality: I'm inclined to be meek. I'm inclined to accept capricious rule-changes because I've been through so many. I don't like upsetting other people and I don't like putting other people out (like service workers).

Part of it is upbringing: that I was taught to treat those who serve you graciously and kindly, because they work hard. (Well, some of them do)

But part of it is, I think, I never developed a sense of entitlement. I think that's what connects the Gross Hollywood Mogul to the 20-something dude screaming at a McDonald's worker over nugget sauce: they both think somehow they're *owed* something, and while the Gross Hollywood Mogul apparently more often than not got it (because he could make or break careers, and now I wonder if there isn't a cadre of talented women out there who would have been actresses, who looked him in the eye and said, "I'd rather waitress FOREVER" and that's what they wound up doing), they both think they're entitled to it.

And not just men: The middle-class white woman who throws a fit in a store because the service is slow or they don't have exactly what she wants is common enough to be a punchline to a joke.

I dunno. I've had my share of people who have done those kinds of "I pay your salary!" things to me, or the "But you're keeping me out of pharma school because you didn't give me an A!" thing. (Oh, man, on that last: No, YOU are keeping yourself out of pharma school. You failed to EARN an A because you apparently regarded the lab exercises in my class as unimportant and you failed to hand in four of them, and in fact, that loss of points IS enough to drop you from an A to a B. Live and learn, kiddo.)

But I do think I find one of the more wearying things about modern life is the sheer volume of people who seem to be willing to scream (or, in internet-birb-slang, SCREM) if they don't get what they want. And yes, in some cases you MAY need to be firm and unresisting when you are due something and you are not getting it. But it is possible to be firm yet polite, and to not alienate the bystanders with your behavior.

But also, there's wisdom in knowing....knowing in which situations it is appropriate to plant your feet and say, "No, I'm sorry, I was told that fee does not apply to me, here is the piece of paper that says so" and to continue to calmly repeat that until the unjust fee is waived, versus the situations of where some thing you want is out of stock, in which case you say, "Oh, too bad. Any idea when it will be available?" and you thank the person whether or not they can tell you.

And the problem is: I think we're increasingly becoming a culture without that kind of wisdom.

(Really, it's just the good old Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Though maybe more like:

God, grant me the serenity not to go off on some poorly-paid worker when they're out of something I want, the courage to stand in resistance against wrong and unfair bureaucratic rules, and the wisdom to keep my mouth shut when it's a genuinely minor matter.)

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I like your updated re-write of the serenity prayer. It is hard to accept things graciously now a days. Those of us that do are few and far between.