A Hard Lesson

Well, this has been a kind of stressful week-end, but it paid off in the end.  It gave me an opportunity to do some introspection and really think about what matters and what doesn’t.

After growing up surrounded by unkind, uncaring, hateful, hurtful people, I have managed to make a life for myself without those people in it.  I have been isolated from that kind of behavior (for the most part) and I had forgotten that those people existed.  I guess I got a little too comfortable, a little complacent and I allowed my guard to come down a bit too far.

I had forgotten what matters and what doesn’t and I guess I needed a little kick to remind myself.  There will always be people in this world who mean to do you harm.  You can’t avoid it.  You can only take care of yourself.

But now I remember what matters to me and what doesn’t.  Being kind to humanity.  Doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult.  Taking care of others.  Being honest and fair.  Those are the things that matter.

What doesn’t matter is people who will try to hurt you.  People who don’t respect you and keep their commitments to you.  People who think they have a right to impose themselves on you uninvited.  Those are things that don’t matter.

I care about nurturing and developing the friendships that I already have and developing new ones where the opportunity arises, with people who will show respect and courtesy toward others.  I care about doing the right thing and showing support for the right purposes and causes, things that will better the world.  I care about the health and well-being of the people in my life.   I care about making the world a better place.

I don’t care about the insults or opinions of small-minded, insecure people.  I don’t care about trying to get through to people who aren’t interested in the first place.  I don’t care about justifying myself to people  and I don’t care about people who would judge and condemn, especially ones who do not know about what they speak.

This is my life and my world and I’ll live in it the way I believe is right.  Others can come along, or they can follow their own path and leave me out of it.  But I will not be swayed toward other people’s paths again.  I will not stoop to their levels.  I will not allow the behavior of others to negatively influence me.

It’s too bad I had begun to forget these things and that the reminder had to be such a tough one, but I’m better now.  I know who I am.  I know what I stand for.  I know what matters.  I know what I believe and I won’t be swayed by the arrogance and ignorance of others.

Not The Only One

I read a post on another blog this morning that I thought bore some sharing.  The post is, at least in part, about the civil and economic unrest in Greece, which, to be honest, I’m not very well informed about, but more importantly to me, the post included this paragraph:

I did not like the word faggot used there. I don’t like it that it’s acceptable by somebody in the public eye to use words like that to berate others in the year 2012. I don’t like it that well-known people can go on TV and use this and other similar words without anyone complaining about it. I don’t like it that racist and homophobic language are equally acceptable. That people can feature in mainstream media, using words like faggot (poustis), sissy (aderfi), nigger (arapis) and ape (pithikos) to describe others. Whether it’s done in a serious or a ‘humorous’ way. I loathe that no one calls them out on it.

I say, here, here!  It’s time more people stood up to this!

The entire blog post can be read here.

The No Good, Very Bad, Terrible, Awful Night, That Turned Out Pretty Okay

Once I finally got out of the house yesterday, things went less than smoothly at first.  I started out in bad shape because the only thing I had to eat all day, up to then, was two pieces of toast with peanut butter and honey at about 11:30 in the morning.  I was pretty hungry by the time I left the house and my head was starting to hurt.  I sent Michelle a text to verify my suspicions, saying, “Would it be safe to assume that there won’t really be food for a while?”  Historically, I show up “on time” for these events and they’re still thinking about preparing to start getting ready to start making food.  It is what it is, and because I wasn’t feeling great I knew I had to take measures to accommodate that.  Michelle never answered my text but I took that as a yes.

I went to the Pet Store to get the cat food with little incident and I went from there to BevMo.  I know Monique, I know what she likes, and I knew that a “small” bottle of Patron tequila would make for a great gift.  The parking lot at the shopping center where the BevMo is located is way too small for the number and types of stores that are in it and people tend to be really selfish and rude there.  I was cut off several times just trying to get into the parking lot and into a space.

I left there and went around the corner to Target.  By that time, I was cranky and my head really hurt, so the first thing I did was go to the snack bar.  Only there were about 12 people in line and there was one employee behind the counter who was in no hurry to get anything done.  I walked away from the snack bar with a different plan.  I would buy a small Lunchable which would tide me over until I got to the party and food was ready.  I grabbed a cart and started rushing down the fist aisle of the store, but there were two individuals who were meandering along.  More than once they made like they were going to turn out from in front of me and as I’d move to go around them they would turn back out into the aisle.  Finally the guy pulled the girl aside and as I rushed past them, I heard him say in a disgruntled tone, “Let’s move so this guy can finally go around us.”  I sped on down the way, and around the corner to cut across the back aisle to the grocery department where I stopped to stock up on Diet Pepsi, both for home and for work (they had a good price on both, cans for home, bottles for work.)

Next I grabbed my Lunchable and headed over to Healthy & Beauty to get mouthwash and some pre-brush, whitening rinse (this stuff must work because every time I go to my dentist he asks me if I bleach my teeth.)  Then I headed over to the appliances for my “semi-significant (to me – and probably only to me) purchase.  I made up my mind that I was going to get a Keurig machine and I went to compare models and prices and determine which one to get.  No sooner did I stop in front of the machines than the two people from the first aisle came around the corner into the coffee maker aisle and the woman was loudly telling the man a story about a work conflict.  She was agitated just telling the story, and she used a number of curse words in the process of the telling.  They just stood in the aisle, about five feet from me as she told her friend her story, and she was so loud I couldn’t even think. So I just stood there, staring at the machines and waiting for them to get what they came for and leave.

Finally, she changed subjects and started talking about a coffee maker.  The guy said something about, “but it only makes one cup!”

She said, “Um, hello.  How many people live in my apartment?”

He said, “OK, so are you gonna get it?”

She answered, “No, I’m not gonna get it! I’m fucking broke!”

And then they walked away empty-handed, but as they did, I heard her say, “That dude is just standing there, staring at the coffee makers.”

Um, yeah!  ‘Cause I couldn’t hear myself think!!!

Finally, I decided which one I wanted and selected a box.  They have labels on the boxes saying when they were packed, which I assumed was relevant because they come with a sample pack of K-Cups so I wanted the freshest one.  I saw a box that said it was packed in January of 2012 so I grabbed that one.

The last thing I did before going to the check stand was look for a gift bag and tissue paper for Monique’s present and a card.

At last I made my way to the check stand.  My head was splitting, I was getting jittery and I was hungry.  Plus it was nearly 6:30 and while I knew the party wouldn’t be in full swing yet, it was supposed to have started at 5:30.  I had two gift cards in my wallet that I intended to use toward the coffee maker and the balance was going on my Target credit card (5% off with the card).  The other items I would purchase with my regular debit card.  The cashier rang up the coffee maker and it came up $15.00 more expensive than the tag on the shelf said.  He started to call for a price check and I glanced at the box again and realized I had put the wrong machine in my cart.  I wanted the one that makes three different size cups and I had the one that makes five different sizes.  I told him my mistake and asked if someone could go and get the right one.  They were maybe 30 feet away.  It shouldn’t have been a big issue.

The customer service manager came over and after telling her what I wanted she started calling into the radio for someone to bring up the right coffee maker, only she didn’t know what I was talking about, and whoever was on the other end of her radio didn’t know what I was talking about and I was getting flustered because I could feel that my blood sugar was getting low AND the cashier was doing a ridiculous job of bagging my items.  He rang up the birthday card and put it on the counter in front of me and then put the gift bag and tissue in a bag before lying the mouthwash and whitening rinse on top of them.  He wasn’t going to bag my six packs of bottles of Diet Pepsi until I asked him to do so,  but then he put the Lunchable into one of those bags while putting the two cold bottles of Diet Pepsi I bought, on the counter in front of me.  (I always show up at Michelle’s families house with my own beverages because I never know what they’re going to have.)

Finally, I told them to forget the coffee maker, there was just too much going on, and I proceeded to stand there and rebag my items as he was ringing them up.  After I paid for the stuff, I was heading away from the check-stand, very agitated over the experience and the Customer Service Manager, who was between there and the door, stopped me and she apologized for the confusion.  I pulled her aside and I said,”Actually I wanted to talk to you. I have to tell you, I’m a fan of Target.  I shop at Target all the time, and at a number of different stores depending on where I happen to be at the time.  This is the only store I’ve ever been to that consistently has a ridiculous line, in the snack bar, and one lone worker behind the counter taking their jolly sweet time.”  I then told her about the way the cashier was bagging my items and I told her, “I know he was disabled, I saw his crutch.  I’m not complaining that he didn’t move.  I’m not complaining that he was slow.  I get that, and it’s fine.  I’m complaining because he clearly doesn’t know how to bag stuff.  I was a cashier in high school and I was taught how to do this properly.”

She nodded her head and acknowledged what I was saying all along, and at that point she said, “I was too, and you’re right, he clearly needs some training.  I’ll talk to him.”

And it was at that point that I suddenly saw myself from the outside and realized what was happening.  I told her, “I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to be yelling at you,” (I wasn’t actually yelling) “I’m just running late, my blood sugar is low, which is why I bought the Lunchable in the first place.  I’m not normally like this, and I apologize.”  Then I said, “I actually do want the coffee maker.  Is it OK if I just leave my cart up here, I’ll go get the right one and just go through the express line?”

She said, “I understand.  I’ve had these crashes before, too.  Go sit down and eat your snack.  I’ll go get the coffee maker and bring it up to Guest Services for you.”

I must say that once I ate the Lunchable, I started to feel a little better, but what I really appreciated out of this exchange was, when I got to Guest Services to buy the coffee maker, she had told the cashier to give me 10% off.  I don’t particularly feel like I deserved the discount, but I was grateful none the less.

Finally, I got to Monique’s house for the party and the place was packed.  Music was blaring, people were shouting to be heard over the sound of the music and over the sound of other people shouting to be heard.  My head was still hurting a lot.  I was the grouch at the party.  I was torn.  I wanted to celebrate with my friends, but I also wanted to leave, but I also didn’t want to be the party-pooper who left.  Every where I stood, I was in someone’s way.  Finally, I sat on a stool and made up my mind not to move.  But then I took some Ibuprofen.  And then I ate some food.  And I had a drink.  And a friend stood there and talked to me.  And I started to feel better.

Not long after the cake was cut 2/3 of the people cleared out and it was just the core group.  I don’t know when it happened, but my headache was gone, my blood sugar had stabilized, my mood had improved…and I was having fun.

And then the most ordinary, amazing thing happened.  I had a lovely, involved, heart to heart conversation with one of the people there.  One of the extended family members, Amanda, who is eight years younger than I, (which means nothing now, but meant everything 14 years ago when I met her), has been in a relationship with her girlfriend for more than six years.   Amanda and I, talked about her relationship and her family and her experience of coming out to them.  We talked about their nebulous plans to go to New York, when the spirit moves them and the opportunity presents itself, so that they can get married.  We talked about the ludicrousness of the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal on a national level and the status of the Prop 8 case in the legal system.  And we talked about my family, and my experience and what things are like now.

And we connected, with no awkwardness, no discomfort, no nervousness, just open, honest, loving communication between two friends who really understood where the other was coming from.  And it was nice.

And I’m so glad I stayed.

Rides and Monkey Poop

“I’m in the process of getting over myself,” I told the small band of do-gooders sitting around me.

It was my weekly meeting of advisors for my Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) program and we were discussing deployment of our website.  This website isn’t a new idea, nor is it a new product; it’s just something that hasn’t been in our control and hasn’t been properly maintained

Years ago, I asked for access to the site so I could make sure the data relevant to my buildings was kept current.  I was told I would have it and then the matter died there with no fulfillment or follow through.  The site remained out of date and the person whose job it was to maintain it, the person who, coincidentally enough holds the title of “systems administrator”, couldn’t be bothered to keep up with it and wouldn’t post the updated information in a timely manner.  No one seemed to care about this, besides me… and my 230 “clients” who utilize the information that was chronically out of date.

My little band of helpers and I started looking for another way to make this information available.  My company has its own “Facebook” type site on the intranet and we set up a group for the BERT program, but the information we were discussing, that needed to be readily available and easy to find, would get lost on that site as newer items were added and pushed that information further down the page.  Not everyone on my council is as jaded as I am.  Some of them still hold the mistaken belief that things can be done properly around here.  They wanted me to ask for access again.  I explained to them that I had done so more than once and that the end result is always run-around and disappointment and it’s reached a point where no one wants to listen to me about it any longer.  The perception is that I’m the rabble-rouser, troublemaker and that the Systems Administrator is doing nothing wrong.  So some of the more optimistic participants of the group took it upon themselves to contact my boss’s boss on my behalf and request the access for me.

Somewhat to my surprise, no one got upset that it was requested.  No one came down on me for stirring things up, or for sicking my “underlings” on them.  A week or so later, I got a simple e-mail with a user name and password and a link to the administrative portion of the site, ironically hosted on WordPress.

On closer examination, however, I discovered that the site I had been given access to was an entirely new site.  The old site had not been on WordPress and the decision had been made to move everything over for easy of use.  As I perused the information that was available, I discovered that none of the properties that I work with were included in the site.  No pages even existed for my properties.  Nearly a week later, I got an e-mail from the Systems Administrator asking me to let him know when I had time to talk (on the phone) so he could show me how I could create the pages.

I discussed this with my manager and the conclusion that we agreed on (shocking, I know) was that it is the Systems Administrator’s job to build the site; the only thing I had ever wanted was the ability to keep the downloadable documents up to date.  My manager sent an e-mail to the Systems Administrator and CC’d me asking him to create the pages for our buildings so that I could update the documentation.  His response?  “The pages are created, Kevin just needs to copy and paste them from the other buildings.”  My manager didn’t respond and no additional action was taken until a couple of days ago when I sent him my own e-mail and copied my boss saying, “Can you tell me when the pages for my buildings will be created so that I can add the documents to them?”  His response, once again, was to tell me to let him know when I was available so he could tell me how I could create them.

Now, rationally speaking, I realize that it’s not going to be all that difficult for me create the pages and customize them to my buildings.  I realize that it will get the job done more quickly and my cohorts and I can get on with our project.  Ultimately, I understand that it’s the thing to do.  It makes more sense, I suppose, at least to most people, and it would be a lot easier on me, just to go ahead and do the work and get on with my life.  I get that… Really.

But the problem is, I can’t bring myself to do it, at least not yet.  I have such an egalitarian perspective on life that it stops me being able to shrug my shoulders and go on with the work.  I believe so strongly in right and wrong, fair play, that it hurts me to do something that I feel violates that sense.  I see it as a much bigger picture than just me getting my website built.  Here is a person who doesn’t do his job and pushes it off on other people.  A person whose customer service (and we are his customers) sucks.  He makes no effort to understand his customers’ problems, he doesn’t communicate his answers clearly and he doesn’t do what’s asked of him, by the customers he serves, in anything like a timely manner. 

And no one does anything about it!!!

Something needs to be done, and of course I realize, I’m not the one to do it.  No one will listen to me; I’m only one man.  Only then the thought comes to mind, “Martin Luther King, Jr. was only one man.”  Except, I guess he wasn’t only one man once he actually accomplished something.  He was a leader of many men and women who believed in his cause and followed his example.  Something I’m not going to be able to do here and in this situation.

I have yet to convince myself that my creating these web pages isn’t an endorsement of this persons behavior, and while this is a simple and small thing for me to do and only a small part of his job, it literally makes me ill and angry to consider doing it for him.  I mean, literally, I can feel tears burning behind my eyes just thinking about it.

How do I make this rational knowledge of simplifying my own existence translate into a psychological peace with performing the act?  I do not know!  Because it’s not fair!

K’s father has a saying, “A fair is a place you go to ride the rides and step in monkey poop.”  (Actually most of his dad-isms involved poop in one way or another.)

I wish I could figure out how to reconcile the knowledge of what has to be with my reality of its wrongness…

I’m still in the process of getting over myself.

Sopapillas and Pita Bread

I was going to write a riveting, brilliant, startling revelation of a post, today, about my improved emotional well-being and something that I’ve been giving a lot of though to recently.  It was going to be a amazing and you were going to love it.

But now I’m just pissed off and it’s all your fault.  Yours and yours and…  well, not yours.  You didn’t do it.

It’s all this bullshit I’m seeing everywhere I turn about the bills before the house and congress about censorship of the internet.  I’m just sick of it.

No!  You know what I’m sick of?  I’m sick of vigilante activism.  That’s what I’m sick of.  Occupy this.  Black out that.  Come on!  You want to educate people, then educate people, but this is ridiculous.

Last night I watched a really weird LGBT movie called “The Lost Coast”.  The movie was strange, but it had some really good moments in it.  Early on one of the characters picks up a photograph in another characters apartment and says, “Is this the lost coast?”  I didn’t even know the lost coast was a real place.  (Turns out it’s somewhere north of where I live, here in California.)  I did what I always do when I don’t know something.  I Googled it.  This was last night; about 9:00.  The first result, as is so often the case, was Wikipedia.  So I clicked on the link and the page loaded, and then just as I was starting to read about the lost coast, the screen went black and an annoying message popped up, whining at me about internet censorship and “Imagine a World
Without Free Knowledge”.  There was no way to acknowledge the message and move on.  Just, “nah-neh-nah-neh-nah-nah.  You can’t read my pages.”  Last night.  It annoyed me, but I found what I wanted to know elsewhere.

Today, as I’m reading through the blogs in my reader, I find post after post about these bills and how wretched and horrible and awful the bills are.  Now, I usually open the blogs and read them on people’s sites.  I’m not at all sure that reading in Google Reader counts toward people’s page views on their blog stats and while we like to pretend we’re cool and don’t care about such things, we’re lying.  We all care.  So I like to make sure it counts.  (This, by the way, is the reason you have to come to my blog to read the entire post… just in case you were wondering.)  Anyway, half of these posts have come through just fine in my reader and I could read the entire thing if I wanted, but when I clicked on the blogs themselves the blogs are blacked out “in protest”.  So, I can read teh whole damn post on Google Reader, but I can’t read it on your blogs and show you I’ve been there.  Vigilante Activism Fail!!!

It’s not that you wrote blog posts about it.  They’re your blogs.  You can write what you want.  Personally, I’m annoyed by the glut of posts on the subject, but at least by writing about the bills you’re making an effort to educate me.  It’s the “blacking out” of the pages “in protest” that’s got me pissed.  By the way, I haven’t read any of your anti-sopapilla bill blog posts.  I’ve even dropped a couple anti-pita bread bloggers from my line up.  Enough is enough!

I sent a link to a particularly funny lolcat to K this afternoon.  The lolcats did it right.  There’s a screen that pops up in front of the page and tells you to beware the bogey monster and then at the bottom it asks you  if you’d like to learn more.  You can click a “learn more” button and, imagine that, learn more.  Or you can click on the “no thanks” button and get on with your life.  K wouldn’t look at the lolcat because she wasn’t willing to click the “no thanks” button.  Her loss.

Look.  I get it.  Censorship is bad.  We don’t want these bills to pass and if someone presents me with an unoffensive petition to sign, I’ll sign it.  I sent the e-mails to my representatives.  I’ve done my part.  And the truth is, I don’t really understand what these bills are about.  What is internet piracy?  How are these bills supposed to make things better?  I. Don’t. Know.  What I do know is, blacking out or otherwise inconveniencing half of the internet, isn’t serving any purpose.  I guarantee you the talking heads in Washington, do not care that I couldn’t look up the lost coast last night.  The vast majority of them have not looked for a single website that happened to be part of this ridiculous protest.

IT.  DOES.  NOT.  WORK.

Dreaming

I work for a company that purports itself to be big on diversity.

Actually, I guess I shouldn’t say it that way.  We rank 90% on the Human Rights Campaign‘s 2012 Buying for Workplace Equality guide.  The company provides Domestic Partner benefits, financial benefits for adoption services.  We allowed same-sex couples to visit their spouses in the hospital before it was federally mandated.  Our physicians are trained and encouraged to respect other cultures and their alternative belief systems in regard to medical care.  Periodically, we are required to attend sensitivity and cultural diversity awareness training.  So, I guess they are pretty big on diversity.

It is for this reason, that I find it fascinating that I AM NOT OFF WORK TODAY.  What the hell, man!?!?  I think if the mail doesn’t run and the bank is closed and kids are out of school, I should not have to work either.  Whatever.

The truth is, I think the significance of this “holiday” is lost on a lot of people, these days anyway, and as the time goes on, it will be lost on more and more people.  Not because Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t matter.  Not because what he did for this country isn’t invaluable, but because as time goes on and we age, it’ll be harder and harder for the surviving members of our population to imagine what this country was like before MLK did his thing.

I remember learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. in school.  I remember the first time I heard the “I have a dream” speech:

I have a dream that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I looked around my classroom at the faces of the non-white boys and girls in my classroom and I thought, “how could it ever have been different.”  Certainly I was naive, but I couldn’t imagine a world where people were mistreated for their differences.  It’s funny how things change.

In my book, there’s a scene when Calvin (the lead character who is in no way based on my own existence and any similarities that may exist are entirely coincidental – *whistle, whistle, whistle*) has gone home to visit his family for Thanksgiving.  His sister Haley picks him up from the airport and as they are chatting on the way to their mother’s house, she tells him she’s dating a black man and “mom doesn’t know.”  It was something Calvin should not, and would not want to, tell their mother.

In reality, my sister did briefly date a black man in college and she never told my mother he was black, largely because of her reaction when our older brother dated a black woman when he was in college.  Our mother insisted, and for the most part, I really do believe, that she is not prejudice, that she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with interracial relationships, she would just rather her children not engage in them “because of the hardships you’ll endure because of them.”  The fact that my brother’s girlfriend was also, “a witch” and that her brother turned out to be gay (while attending a Christian University), were certainly not points in her favor…

I can’t help but wonder what my mother’s reaction would be if I ended up married to a black man.  Would that be two strikes against him, or has even she progressed enough not to care about race any longer.  The fact that he would be male, would be problem enough for her.

Anyway, a world where black people were not treated as a welcome and equal member of society was just unimaginable to me in my naive, teen years.  I didn’t think discrimination existed in this country any longer…  And then I realized I was gay and it was a whole new ballgame.  But that’s a different story.

I knew my commute would be light today and I was glad for that; I was running late yet again!  As I rounded the corner to the parking garage entrance I thought how nice it will be for the garage not to be so full for once.  Once again, naiveté rears its ugly head.  Nobody parks in this garage but employees of the company for which I work.  Today is not a holiday at the company for which I work.  The garage was as full as ever.

At lunch, I had two errands to run; buy cat food and pick up a library book that’s on hold for me at the branch by my house, four miles away.  I bought the cat food first, three miles in the opposite direction…

So like I was saying, if the mail doesn’t run and the bank is closed and kids are out of school and the library is closed, I should not have to work either.

Whatever.