Well, you’re no day at the beach either

Sometimes, you need a humorous, but truthful line to get a friend, acquaintance, colleague or relative off a rant about someone. I was out walking and I heard three women approaching me and one was on a proverbial role. I kept walking after smiles and hellos, as this was one conversation I did not want to hear or a be a part of. It got me thinking of something that can be said to stop the rant.

A line I used to use more often is to simply say, “Well, you’re no day at the beach either.” To me, this is a funny way of getting the person to realize he or she is also not perfect. If he or she is even more reflective, the thought that someone could be talking about him or her in the same manner, might bubble up.

In my previous post, I mentioned a colleague who listened to a new senior executive talk about every person who left the restaurant table at dinner. My colleague said he was scared to go to the restroom as he would be the next subject of discussion. Having met said senior executive, like me, she is no day at the beach, either.

These two walkers with the ranting walker were a captive audience. It would be hard to exit, unless they said something like “I need to run some.” At parties, the exiting of rant-filled conversations is an art. Once the rant starts, the listener (or I should say non-talker), is looking for that exit ramp, be it a person, drink or restroom break. The unlucky person who walks up to join the conversation, will usually be a convenient hand-off as you gracefully exit. The deft person might even pair the two together with a suggested theme.

Dr. Wayne Dyer speaks of “defending the absent” when someone is on a rant about another person. This may not be the course of action for everyone, but it certainly is a noble pursuit. Defend the person who is not there. I think the more common tactic is the exit ramp example, where you simply vote with your feet and leave the conversation.

But, if you are so inclined and need a one liner, the title above will serve you well. It makes the person think. Having been a manager of people in my career at some point, when subordinates rate their own performance, almost always, they rate themselves better than “meets expectations” or better than what the supervisors rate them. Yet, statistically if “meets expectations” is normative, then everyone cannot be better than meets expectations.

It is one explanation of why people rant. The ranter forgets he or she is not perfect and has made mistakes. So, a funny reminder will bring the person back to earth. While I try to be diplomatic, my poor wife hears my rants or comments more than anyone. So, when a relative or friend wants to discuss politics, she will look for the exit ramp if we go too long.

None of us are a day at the beach, me included. Even those PYTs that need not worry as much about how they look in a swim suit are not perfect. Real beauty is more than skin deep. We are all fixer uppers, so we should remember that before and when we rant.

Something to talk about

Any group of people, whether it is business, high school, church, or some other association, will have people that perpetuate the gossip and rumor mill. This attribute is as old as the hills. People are going to talk.

One of our favorite artists, country-blues singer and accomplished slide guitarist, Bonnie Raitt, had a huge hit about this very subject, “Something to Talk About.” Here is middle verse and the chorus to give you the gist of a co-worker slowly realizing that another co-worker seems to be as smitten as she is.

“I feel so foolish, I never noticed
You act so nervous, could you be fallin’ for me?
It took the rumor to make me wonder,
Now I’m convinced that I’m goin’ under.
Thinkin’ ’bout you every day,
Dreamin’ ’bout you every night.
I’m hopin’ that you feel the same way,
Now that we know it, let’s really show it darlin’.

Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
(Somethin’ to talk about)
A little mystery to figure out
(Somethin’ to talk about)
Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
How about love?”

I love this song as she turns the rumor mill on its head. The rumors about them “standing a little too close” made her think and realize that is exactly what they were doing. The video which aired is clever, with Dennis Quaid acting as the interested and interesting co-worker.

Rumors at work do fly. It is hard to follow the advice of Dr. Wayne Dyer and defend the absent. But, that is what we should do. Yet, I shared the story of how a colleague was in a group dinner with a new senior executive who talked about everyone when each left the table. My friend said he did not want to go to the restroom as she would talk about him. It is hard to defend the absent when you might be next.

It is also hard to date someone at work for this reason. Yet, with limited social time, it is not uncommon to meet you future spouse at work. My wife worked at a small company that sublet some of our office space. What tickled both of us is a colleague of mine took credit for introducing us, when that was not the case. She actually told my future wife I was dating someone, which was not true, so she almost waylaid our plans.

So, if you do date someone at work, keep the PDAs to a minimum. More importantly, be prepared to ignore what people are saying as it is none of their business. As a friend, who actually met her husband at work, told her high school students she counseled, “if you do not take offense, you are not offended. Don’t cede your power.”

So, if you give them something to talk about, be OK with being the subject matter.

Wednesday wanderings mid-October style

October is one beautiful month, which is ironic as its charm surrounds death. The beautiful leaves are making their final show of wonderful colors across the spectrum. Yet, they are just about to pass away and fall from the tree.

At the end of the month, we celebrate “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween” as it is better called which is the eve of “All Saints Day.” Per Wikipedia, “It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.”

Kids just recognize it as a time to dress up in costume and when people actually give you candy. How fun is that? I recall my oldest dressing up like a clown where we painted his face. He was so proud, but just in case you could not guess what he was, instead of saying “trick or treat,” he would say “I am a clown.”

We live in a young neighborhood (not due to us), so we get about 80 to 100 trick or treaters. We love the costumes, but one of my favorites is when the whole family dressed up as ‘The Incredibles” family of superheroes. Seeing Mom and Dad share in the fun with their two kids was fun.

By the way, one reason we get so many trick or treaters is our house is known as the “big candy bar house.” My wife will not shortchange these youngsters, so a full Hershey bar is the prize. Of course, we have to watch enterprising adolescents who like to come by more than once. I do want those bars gone, as we will eat them otherwise and don’t think someone in their 60s cannot get acne. God has a sense of humor, you know.

For those who are born in the first two-thirds of the month or the last part of September, you have the added benefit of being a Libra. Supposedly, Librans are well-balanced. It would be interesting to see if Librans have a higher percentage of independent voters than other Zodiac signs. I do think of the statue of Lady Justice, which the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” used as a fade out, when Librans come to mind. I used that movie, as of course, it is about death.

Happy October. Enjoy the leaves while on the tree. Jump in the piles when you rake them like you used to when little. And, trick or treat.

Things you should not do, but do anyway

I was thinking yesterday about a good friend who tried to make a comeback as a baseball pitcher from a shoulder injury. I volunteered to catch for him sans a catcher mask – at dusk. As the baseballs were whistling toward me at 85 miles per hour in the dimming skies, I was thinking how unwise this is. One tipped pitch off the catcher’s mitt would not end well with my face as the only backstop. Yet, there I was.

As I was trimming some tall bushes, the last one was too tall to get the upper portions even with my various ladders and long electric hedge clippers. As I was putting away everything, I decided to give it one more go. Mistake. The one thing in my favor was I planned what I would do if I felt the ladder being uncooperative. So, as the ladder went one way, I tossed the clippers the other way and fell feet first toward the grass. I survived with a jolt and later soreness, but the lack of wisdom was duly noted.

I have always been a climbing fool dating back to when I was young. Two of my children are the same way. In fact, our daughter was on the climbing team in college. Fences did not present as many obstacles to me, but there is one lesson to be learned. As I was climbing a seven foot high fence, I felt I could navigate the prickly fence wires that were pointing up above the bar for some security, instead of being rounded off as with more neighborly fences. When I got to the top, the bar of the fence came out of its hosel and broke free. One of my arms now has a ten inch scar due to the prickly wires from this high school incident over forty five years ago.

At my age, one thing is for certain. I have made my share of mistakes. And, I will try to avoid future ones, but I am sure I will slip up from time to time. Many of our mistakes are not physical in result, even though they started out with a less than stellar idea. The more common mistakes are saying things you should not or acting rashly when the better idea would have been to sleep on it or not to act.

A key lesson for all of us is just because you think it, does not mean you have to say it. Some of the best retorts are the ones that you swallow and do not speak. And, you would be wise in so doing. Not everything needs to be an argument. In fact, your opinion may not be wanted, only your listening. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.

As for the rash acting, the more important the decision, the better it is to wait, organize your thought process and garner input. One thing my wife and I do is delay a big decision until a few days or weeks pass. Should we move, should we try for baby, should one of us take that job, should we buy a new car, etc.? Try to avoid buying on emotion as that is what the sales person is wooing you to do.

With that said, some impulsive decisions just need to be governed by catch-all limits. Do not drive while intoxicated or let a friend drive such. Full stop. Do not have sex sans some means of birth control unless you are looking to have a child. Do not have sex if your partner says no, even if he, she or they seemed to be saying yes to that point. Do not take opioid pain killers unless you are in a real bad way pain wise and they have been prescribed – even then you may want to down two Tylenol or look to more herbal solutions so to speak.

And, do not get up on ladders when you are tired. If you ignore this suggestion, you may just well need those two Tylenol or one of those herbal solutions.

A man won’t be shot while doing the dishes (a reprise)

Staying married takes effort. The same could be said about any relationship. If you don’t work at it, it won’t last. The title is a funny, but true metaphor that will keep you married – if you do the dishes, even if only periodically, you at least will survive another day and not get shot. There are two messages in this saying – share the load and keep your sense of humor. Since we need a break these days, let me focus on the humor.

Comedian Tom Arnold had the funniest line which seems to apply to our household. When asked by the women on “The View” about how long does a physically romantic interlude last, he replied “thirty minutes.” When the women were surprised at his answer, he clarified, “yes, five  minutes of foreplay, five minutes of sex and twenty minutes to get all the pillows off the bed.” My wife and I roared with this answer as we have so many decorative pillows that take up more than 1/2 the bed.

Speaking of beds, in our house the last one up makes the bed. I sincerely try to make up the bed like my wife does, but apparently I fall short of perfection. My wife sighs and then pulls, smoothes and tugs to remedy my effort. My guess is my female readers who are or have been married are nodding yes as they read this. My wife tends to arise later, so it may this very reason. Or, it could be the first one up has to feed the cat and dog, make the coffee and get the paper.

There is one more chore with the cat, who we found out is diabetic last spring. He is doing well, but each morning and evening, we have to give the cat insulin. So, a common question in our house is strange, “Did you shoot the cat?” He will often come to us after eating and we will pet him, then give him his insulin. Yet, he will sometimes vamoose if he senses something is up or if the dog chases him away. Herding a cat is an art form.

The sense of humor thing keeps us honest. We often laugh at ourselves and feel open to teasing. Watching shows and movies are always interesting if they have a sad event. I will tear up with any scene where a parent/ child moment occurs over a tragedy or reunion. My wife will ball over any extended illness scene having lost her brother to Leukemia. So, we tend to tease each other about our sappiness. My wife likes to joke how I try to tactically wipe a tear away without her noticing, which I usually fail to achieve. I will asking “are you crying?” “No,” is often her answer through tears.

Finally, an unexpected hug, kiss, caress or a foot rub, will go a long way. The first three actions need not be long to share a moment of tenderness and can occur in the kitchen or hall. The foot rub will consume more time and usually be done while watching TV or reading. I firmly believe a torturer invented women’s high heel shoes. Mind you, both men and women like how they make a woman’s legs look, otherwise why would they wear them? But a day in those things will beg for some pampering of sore feet.

Share the load, laugh a lot. And, a well placed hug, kiss or caress never hurts. And, a foot rub will be added bliss.

Mayberry was a simpler place, but it does not tell the whole story

For those who recognize the town of Mayberry, it is an idyllic place that only exists in television reruns. “The Andy Griffith Show” was based in this fictional town along with an ensemble cast around its star who played the town sheriff. It is loosely based on Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, which is about one hour north of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, just inside the border with Virginia.

For those familiar with the show, there really is a Pilot Mountain, which is referenced in the show as Mount Pilot. It s a great hiking venue and one can easily picnic off its highest parking lot. Mount Airy has embraced Griffith’s fame and built a replica area of Mayberry to woo tourists who come in droves. They are longing for a simpler time and place, but the show glosses over so much.

This past Sunday, CBS Morning News did a piece on Mount Airy and Mayberry with Ted Koppel, one of its most acclaimed reporters. The report showed the use of a fleet of black and white police cars for the whole town. It showed a place you could get a pork chop sandwich, which was a show favorite of Andy and Barney’s, the humorous Deputy played by Don Knotts..

It was a good piece, but offered some interesting takeaways.

First, when one of the many tourists turned the question back on Koppel about what he thought of this idyllic place and time, Koppel noted that everyone was not able to enjoy this type of environment. African-Americans were not allowed to benefit as much from this type of town when it aired back in the early 1960s. And, returning Vietnam veterans were treated poorly. The tourist agreed with Koppel’s assessment, although he had not initially thought of it in that context.

Second, as for the African-American lack of opportunity, it was in evidence on the show, with only one speaking part for a black actor the entire series. And, of the many crowd scenes, only a handful at a time were African-American. When Koppel interviewed a black family who lived in Mount Airy, one said when she moved back in 1973, she still was not allowed to eat inside certain restaurants and had to get take out.

Third, when Koppel was riding a trolley around the contrived-for-tourists Mayberry, he took a poll of the political leanings. Of the twenty folks on the trolley, only two felt the 2020 election was fair and the rest thought the former president had won. Some even voiced the January 6 insurrection was staged by actors trying to hurt the former president and that the real violent insurrections were occurring in cities all over the country by the far left. One said she “loved Donald Trump.” They noted the news was biased against the former president and should not be heeded. One said he got his news from other sources, but did not want to mention them.

Now, I have always enjoyed “The Andy Griffith Show” and have even been to Mount Airy a few times before they built the Mayberry tourist attraction. But, another role that Griffith played reminds me of the trolley rider views. Griffith won acclaim for playing Lonesome Rhodes in “A Face in the Crowd.” The movie showed what can happen when a populist cult figure recognizes his own power to persuade, not unlike that of the former president. That is the character I want people to think about when they read the lies purveyed as truth.*

I do love small towns. My wife and I love to visit them and wander around. They are quaint and full of stories. But, they are imperfect just like any other place. They have biases, they have secrets, and they have painted over flaws. We should not forget that.

*Note: In the attached post called “Mama Guitar” by our blogging friend Resa, she has a link to the movie trailer about “A Face in the Crowd.”

Weekend warrior wisdom

Now that pro and college football (the American version) have started their new seasons, watching, betting, imbibing, overeating and playing by those who are less talented at the game will begin. Here are a few truisms of which to be mindful as we watch the games.

Monday comes early for Sunday drinkers watching football.

Fantasy footballers need to be wary of those who use multi-variant regression models to select their players. Bet what you can afford or don’t bet at all.

Tuesday comes early for Monday drinkers watching football.

A football is not round so it bounces in peculiar ways. Remember that when you wager.

Football players do not get that big and strong without chemical help.

The best of football helmets will not prevent the brain from rattling around in your head when hit on the field..

For every Tom Brady who plays that long, there are thousands of players who won’t make four years in a football career.

There are two halves to every football game. Do not celebrate victory before it occurs.

Finally, college success does not automatically translate into pro success – the pros are bigger and faster and the significant majority of college players from the bigger universities will not make it to the pros.

Enjoy the seasons. Don’t drink and drive. Wager wisely.

Dating dilemmas – a repeat performance

The following post was written about five years ago. I was inspired to repeat this post by our blogging friend Cindy who shared her setting up her daughter with a blind date, where the lack of follow-up frustrated the mother and daughter both.. A link to her blog is below.

Being a tall person, I have had my share of dates who were much shorter than me. I have even dated a few women who were under 5 feet tall. But, those height differences are very manageable and provide interesting stories. The dating dilemmas occur when something surprising happens.

Here are a few I encountered, some funny some not so.

Why must you be so rude? – the first example occurred when I took a date to Disneyworld for the day driving from my home 3 hours away. The dilemma is she was rude to other people, cutting lines, being curt, impatient, etc. I was captive while there, but could not wait for the date to end.

You want to go there again? – I dated someone for a couple of months, but I learned she liked going to the same two restaurants that her family went to. She was charming and nice, but after going to one place a half a dozen times and another more than a few, I was encouraging of other venues. That was not the reason our relationship waned, but I must confess not going back to those two restaurants ever again.

We really must pray before the meal – one of the funniest blind dates occurred when a friend set me up with a minister without telling me. I was not expecting the answer that she gave me when I asked what she did. She was a nice woman, but I was too immature to get past thinking it was a sin to imagine carnal knowledge with a minister.

Prom dates need to pace themselves – I think many of us have had prom dates where too much drinking occurred. But, our double date before the prom started consisted of far too many Screwdrivers. When we arrived first to the prom, my date waved with a big gesture to the other couple when they arrived. When she did she fell backwards and for some unknown reason, I was able to catch her with one arm, six inches from the ground and straighten her up. Talk about scared.

Did you like how I parked my car?  – when dating a college friend, I offended her when I suggested we use her car, so a friend could use mine. She broke our date after I arrived, so I tried to back down a long, hilly and angled driveway. I drove off into a rock garden and my car got stuck. My last sight of her was as she watched from a large window as her father towed my car off his rock garden. 

Where did that horse come from? – as I was sneaking out of my girlfriend’s parent’s house after she moved into their basement apartment, I was unaware her horse was in the field next to the driveway. At 3 am, while pitch black dark, as I edged toward my car, the horse snorted and scared the bejesus out of me. If a horse could laugh…

I guess my audition failed – this actually occurred with the above horse owner. We went to a community play where folded chairs were placed on raised platforms. When we returned from intermission, unbeknownst to me, one of my chair legs moved off the back of the platform. As I took a sip of wine, I noticed my date moving forward in slow motion. In actuality, I was falling and made a huge crash when I hit the floor on my chair. It was indeed funny and the only thing hurt was my ego.

I am sure my dates can share stories about me. It is all about perspective. When I look back at my dating before I met my wife, I wish I had been more mature on occasion. Tell me your funny or surprising date stories. I am sure you can top mine.

All my life – a recent movie worth a view

If you want a movie about love, friendship and life, a compelling movie from 2020 is called “All my life.” Going in, you know you are watching a movie that will lose one of its stars. That is how it is advertised. But, oh how they lived, loved and cherished their friends is what this movie is all about. Family can be the friends you savor, as much as blood relatives.

Here is the movie summary from IMDb, “Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau are a sweet, fun-loving, newly engaged couple whose whole life seems ahead of them. But when Sol is diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in December, their plans for a summer wedding become impossible. In a race against time, Jenn and Sol’s friends and family launch an online fundraiser to help the couple create their dream wedding in just two weeks. In the process, they unleash an outpouring of generosity and attention from people around the world who want to celebrate the power of love with them.”

The movie is based on a true story which we learn at the end, seeing the real people. The movie stars Jessica Rothe as Jenn and Harry Shum, Jr. as Sol. They make a cute and fun-loving couple who sweep us up in their journey. Seeing Jenn define the rules of the house when she invites Sol to live with her (and he is bartering in return) will make you smile. But, the best scene is the fun and inventive marriage proposal. It is like no other and is the best metaphor for the movie. An early important scene of their first date is cute as well, when they get momentarily lost from each other at a farmers’ market.

Yet, the movie is about friendship as much as love between two people. They adore their friends and the feelings are definitely returned. The friends do not take no for an answer and step up to make the wedding happen. The teasing between friends is believable and fun. The friends are played by Jay Pharaoh, Chrissie Fit, Ever Carradine, Keala Settle, Michael Massini, Jon Rudnitsky, et al. Jenn’s mother is played by Molly Hagen and her role is as much friend as mother as if Jenn is sharing her friends with her mother. It is directed by Marc Myers and written by Todd Rosenberg.

This movie got so-so ratings, but it charms you. The actors playing Jenn and Sol make you believe they are falling in love and are both pained by his fight to stay alive. They laugh, love, tease, fight, but mainly lift each other up making each better as a result. And, the friends make you believe they have been such for a long while. It is worth the view in spite of the critics’ ratings.

Sometimes, you just have to be more direct

When dealing with people who have a high sense of self worth, ranging from arrogance to narcissism, a common attribute is the “all about me” chip they carry around with them. This chip also precludes them from thinking they ever did anything wrong.

I have observed and dealt with a few narcissists in my career, but also many who carry this chip around. In my dealings with others I have tried to be at my diplomatic best. This especially comes in handy when you have to tell a client his or her idea lacks merit. But, what happens when you are dealing with someone who rarely, if ever, thinks he or she did something wrong?

One of our blogging friends Cynthia writes an excellent blog on PTSD and other issues related to dealing with narcissistic people. She offers first hand experience and supportive advice. I commented on a recent post the best way to deal with narcissists is to avoid or limit exposure to them. What makes this approach so valuable is narcissists fail to realize they are the lone constant in all of their negative interactions.

When you do dialogue with a narcissist or arrogant person, an extra dose of tolerance and diplomacy is required. To me, it is a truism the most intolerant of people require the most tolerance of others in dealing with them. But, when people show little acknowledgment or remorse of their shortcomings there are times when you just have to be more direct and dial down the dipllomacy.

When I raised concern with NC legislators about the unconstitutional and “Jim Crow” like nature of a drafted Voter ID bill before it was passed, the author of the legislation wrote me back and ripped me a new one and he did so again after I diplomatically rebutted. I showed them to an attorney friend and his response was it looks like your roles are reversed when reading the tenor of the emails. My final response to this legislator was simple – I am a 54 year-old white man who was raised in the south; you and I both know what this legislation is all about. It should be noted the law was later ruled unconstitutional.

I was dealing with one of the most overbearing leaders of a business unit in a company I worked with. His direct reports followed their leader and tended to be overbearing as well. So, when I interviewed him to get his thoughts on compensation for his staff, I knew I was in for an interesting interview. He held firmly to a practice called stretching out raises – i.e., when budgets are tight, lengthen the time between raises to eighteen or twenty-four months. He was quite vociferous that he could give them same value in raises that he would have given at twelve months. After several minutes of this diatribe, I said “you can If they are still here.” His business had a lot of turnover.

The above are two examples of push back. The common theme is I had done my homework and felt comfortable in offering a response. I knew the Voter ID law was unconstitutional, as the NC Attorney General had written a piece saying those very same words and why. I knew the business leader was experiencing high turnover as I had seen the data..

Yet, it is not that easy to push back, especially on an overbearing person who has trouble acknowledging his or her mistakes. I have used the example before of working with the youngest curmudgeon I have ever met. It was all about him and he would tell you so. When my wife and I invited my work friends to a party, he was fuming out loud to others for me to hear – “I don’t want to go to your stupid party.” My response was direct, “Then, don’t come.”

I will continue to try to wear my Harry Potter “diplomacy cloak” more often than not. Yet, there are times when the cloak needs to be set aside. Note, one needs not be rude to be direct. You do want the message heard or read. Yet, it helps to be armed with facts or a position of strength. As for my curmudgeon friend, I thought the party would be good for him, so when he rudely said he did not want to come, it was no bother and we had a good time without him.

Arrogant and narcissistic people tend to complain. Nothing or no one is ever good enough. Even those on their good side, should not get used to it, as they will at some point misstep in the eyes of the narcissist. That will not change. So, if pushback does not suit your style, the avoidance approach works well. A colleague asked why I did not eat lunch with a known narcissist in our office. My response was simple – “I don’t want to listen to him running people down.” Or, as my friend told me once he got to fifty, he realized he did not want to suffer fools anymore, so he avoided them whenever possible.