Archive for category Human Nature

About Face!

Excuse my logic but death stares don’t always mean what you think.  In these troubled times, people from all walks of life are finding themselves beset by problems, sometimes overwhelming ones.  As such, may people whose lives haven’t turned out the way they had dreamed as youngsters will often give off negative vibes.  They may appear angry, tired, sad, disappointed or just downright evil.  Yet I am here to tell you that you should give these forlorn souls a second chance. 

Here are some examples of people whose paths I’ve crossed whose faces belied the soul that was within.

Some years ago, my daughters were in a local softball league.  One of their teammates, a tall lanky girl and quite a good player had a father who would come to almost all of the games. He was a worker for the local parks department so would usually show up in his work clothes.  This you will see later may have factored into his demeanor.  This father always wore a look of utter unhappiness.  As each game of the season was played I would find myself always keeping a distance from this man and praying that he wouldn’t approach me.  Then on one fateful day, he arrived for the game, a little late and walked over to the first base line and stood right next to me.  I could feel my heart palpitating.  About midway through the game, my daughter made a good defensive play in the field.  This man and I had never yet exchanged a single solitary word in all of the previous games.  “Is that your daughter?” he asked.  “She’s good.”

I turned and faced him.  His face had morphed into something completely different than I had ever seen.  He was smiling.  No, it wasn’t a gigantic ear to ear job but it was a smile nevertheless.  We struck up a conversation.  In the ensuing games, we always stood side by side. He turned out to be a really nice guy. I suspect, though I never asked him that he had to work very hard. Remember I mentioned that he always showed up to the games in work clothes.  I believe by the time he got to those late afternoon games he was probably exhausted and as such found it difficult to smile. I haven’t seen this man now in more than a decade but I will never forget him and how wrong my first impression was.

Then there was this woman who worked at an area Dunkin Donuts.  Her name was Ruth but soon after we had encountered her several times, my wife and I had appropriately (so we thought) nicknamed her “Ruthless.”

A typical exchange at the ordering counter would go something like this.  I would ask Ruth for an everything bagel with butter. She would scowl at me and ask in a screechy, cackling, witch-like voice “Do you want it plain or do you want it toasted?”  Now I am in and was back then in relatively good physical shape.  Up to that point in time I had endured my fair share of fights with other guys and usually emerged victorious.  Yet I can tell you unequivocally that Ruth frightened the hell out of me.  It got so that I would send my wife in to order figuring that she wouldn’t attack another woman but might be prone to attack me.

Time passed and we noticed Ruth no longer worked at the Dunkin Donuts. One day we were in a parking lot near that business and we heard someone calling to us. It was Ruth.  She approached us with a radiant smile.  We had never seen her smile before.  She told us how happy she was to no longer work at the Dunkin Donuts because people always treated her shabbily due to the fact that she was a white American working for people from India and some bigoted customers accused her of being some kind of traitor.  She was so gracious to us when she met us in the parking lot that we couldn’t believe it was the same person who had terrified us during so many morning coffee runs.

While on the topic of angry looking woman, there was another woman who always dropped her children off at the grammar school that my children attended.   To say her face could stop a clock was putting it mildly.  I think her expression could have made time march backwards.  My wife and I both agreed that she was scary.  Yet years later we had occasion to sit at a table with her at a school function.  She was extremely personable, self effacing and quite open in describing her life.  When we told her that we had been scared of her she burst out laughing.  She turned out to be one of the loveliest people we ever met.

The last example I offer of the bad face/good guy variety is a man who lives across the street from a woman who I do some part time work for.  He used to always insult the woman’s dilapidated looking mailbox. Also on one occasion he gave me a bad impression when I was bragging to him about the wonderful chiropractor I go to.  He sarcastically observed that the best chiropractor was “staying healthy.”  In the ensuing months I always shied away from this man but then due to our close proximity it became inevitable that we interact.  When he would joke about the old mailbox I would joke back instead of taking it to heart.  Gradually a friendship was forged.  I have learned over time that he endured some tough times during his working years.  I have also learned that he is actually a very nice guy.

This you can’t judge a book by its cover phenomenon in reading peoples’ faces works both ways though.

We knew this young boy years ago who had a very attractive mother.  We liked the mother then and still do.  However one day, the boy uttered a line that I will never forget. We told him how beautiful his mother was and he quipped “Oh sure, but behind all that pretty makeup she can be a real terror!”  Right then I realized the truth to that line which was the title of a successful television show.  Kids really do say the darndest things.     

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Problem Solving 101

Excuse my logic but if you are confounded by a seemingly insurmountable problem there is hope. 

One of my best friends at college who is today a very successful businessman (his sophisticated marketing ideas were even once mentioned in Time Magazine) had a method of solving problems that is downright ingenious.

He said that if he had trouble figuring out what to do about something, he closed his eyes and imagined that he was seated at the head of a long conference table.  Seated at each side of this table were experts in whatever field of endeavor his quandary fell under.  He would then ask the members of his imaginary think tank to suggest a course of action.

So let’s say for example that President Obama wanted to apply this methodology to solving our country’s economic woes.  He could sit himself down in the oval office and order all staff to leave.  Then he could close his eyes and picture seated around him economic luminaries past and present.  He would be surrounded by the likes of Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, John Maynard Keynes, Paul Krugman, Paul Volcker, John D. Rockefeller, Warren Buffett, J. Paul Getty, J.P. Morgan and Mickey Mouse.

Did I just add Mickey Mouse to that illustrious list? Just making sure you are paying attention.

Hmmm. What would Honest Abe had done?

 

This simple technique of problem solving has infinite possibilities.  Take a single guy having trouble scoring a hot girlfriend.  He could sit down, close his eyes and imagine seated around him a bevy of famous beautiful women.  He could ask each of them their favorite turn-on. Then he could apply the intelligence he gathered toward the attempt at securing a significant other.  Notice I didn’t name any of these beauties by name as I would hate to ruin my marriage. 

A comedian searching for good material could picture himself surrounded by Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, David Letterman, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin and so on.

So by now you get the picture.  This approach to solving dilemmas can be utilized to obtain the answers to almost any riddle known to mankind. 

I think the hipsters in today’s society have a nickname for a similar process. When someone is summoning the spirits of others, past or present, it is referred to as  “channeling.”  I remember hearing when Lady Gaga serenaded Bill Clinton last October at the “Decade of Difference,” concert celebrating Clinton’s Foundation, some observers commented that she was channeling Marilyn Monroe.

So happy channeling.  However, remember, don’t get too comfortable in the fantasy land that you create for yourself. 

You may oversleep dinner. 

 

 

Copyright 2012; Greg S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heroes and Goats and Double Standards

Excuse my logic but don’t some double standards just want to make you open up your living room window and shout out like Howard Beale did in the 1976 Movie Network “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?”

Admittedly this blog will be somewhat anecdotal, but hopefully it will make its point that we need as a people to apply the same standards for conduct and behavior to everyone regardless of their position in society. Otherwise we will continue to have a dichotomous world that allow reckless celebrities to get a couple of hours jail time for something as serious as DUI while average people who have overdue library books get almost the same or more jail time for a much lesser offense.

Some double standards I have seen played out over and over again are as follows:

A rich person who pinches his pennies is called a “frugal genius” while a poor person who does the same thing is just called “cheap.”  I myself was on the losing end of this double standard several years back while working as a factory laborer.  There was this older man who was going to retire and the staff was chipping in to buy him a retirement gift.  I was experiencing extremely hard times.  Also, I had only been working at this job for about a month and didn’t know this retiree all that well.

So when they passed the hat around the suggested donation was $10 but I politely indicated I could only afford $5.  The next day, I was working in the office section of the factory and I hear this machinist telling everyone that I am a cheapskate. This machinist was making almost triple of what I was earning and he only put in $10 himself, so I ask “who was the real cheapskate?”   And guess what? My boss, who was half my age always went around telling people what a genius this machinist was.

Another double standard along the same lines is that one person who is real aggressive at work or school is called “pushy” while another person exhibiting the very same behavior is called “driven.”  Yes, time for another anecdote, but I am happy to report that at least in this story, I was not the victim.  It happened during a practice session of our high school soccer team.  We were scrimmaging, which means we had a game going between two teams of players, all from our varsity squad.  There was this guy who was a starting fullback when we played actual games. The coach loved this guy big time.  Well a forward is dribbling the ball toward this fullback (the coach’s pet player), fakes him out and gets around him.  The fullback turns, grabs the forward’s jersey by the neck area and yanks him down to the ground!

All of us standing on the sidelines yelled out that this was a foul and shouldn’t be allowed.  In the coach’s eyes, his star fullback could never be wrong.  The coach told us to silence our criticism. He labeled the fullback’s cheating as “good aggressive play.”

If some other player, say a second stringer had done the same move, I guarantee this coach would have had him doing 100 pushups or running laps after practice. 

Then, there’s this double standard, maybe you’ve heard it while applying for a job. It is used quite often on inexperienced job seekers who haven’t yet learned the fine art of having quick comebacks ready for difficult questions or statements. The human resources person interviewing you will exclaim “you’re too experienced for the job. If you’ve ever had this happen, you probably shook your head in disbelief and swore your senses were playing tricks on you. It’s standard HR behavior but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. You need a job. He has a job but he tells you you’re overqualified.  After many a disheartening job interview where I heard this line of bull I often would ask myself “how can you ever be too experienced?”  But, you see, your experience will mandate their paying you more and the job search jungle is filled with booby traps such as this.  They’d rather get someone who is maybe not experienced enough but pay him half of what they would have to pay you or me.

Incidentally as most of us know, this same perverse logic is applied over and over again to older workers.  The older worker has years of knowhow and a wealth of on the job experience.  Yet if the company can find some young naïve person who is willing to work for less at the same job, the older worker is shown the door.

As I mentioned, searching for jobs necessitates a jungle warfare attitude.  A relative of mine had graduated from a very expensive school paid for mostly with student loans.  When this relative interviewed for a job that was paying $11 an hour, the manager asked sarcastically “why would a person like you who went to such and such a school costing $45,000 a year” need a job that only pays $11 an hour.  My relative was skilled at interviews and had the comeback right away. “It was all paid for with loans” she said.  I love it when someone can make a human resources person squirm.

And how’s this for human resources savagery?  A neighbor I know had worked more than 12 years for a company.  You would think corporate headhunters would value such employee loyalty. My neighbor explained to me that many corporate interviewers will turn that loyalty against the job seeker and suggest that they are too complacent.  The interviewer will suggest that the job candidate is too passive and as such not their kind of worker.

Does slow and steady always win the race?

The last double standard I would ask you to consider involves college educations. 

Many years ago, recently married, I had been out of work for a good six months. I just couldn’t land a job. I tried every way I could but couldn’t find work.  So my wife asked me to apply for food stamps.   Simple enough procedure I thought.  After several weeks, I finally got a face to face with a social worker.  She goes into a tirade on me exclaiming “you’re a college graduate!  You should have a job!  I can’t offer you any help.”  “Excuse me?” I asked incredulously. She repeated her ridiculous assertions.  I replied that if she had a job to offer I would consider taking it. That kind of shut her up, but in the end I didn’t get any food stamps.

In the end I concluded that there are people who out of fear or envy will try to belittle you for having graduated college.  In the 30 plus years I have been out of college I have seen many instances of people using my college education as ammunition to dis me. It is as if they want to show that they didn’t even have to go to college to be smarter than the guy who did. It has happened to me so many times that I am now familiar with it. Now when I see one of these types of persons leading down the path toward their ambush, I shrug it off and hearken back to the words of Bob Dylan. “Well I would not feel so all alone. Everybody must get stoned.”

Copyright 2009; Greg S.  

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