Moving Violations

I had an unusual experience on the road recently. Was driving along minding my own, when a large SUV flew out of a parking lot and cut me off, causing me to slam on my brakes, etc. Sadly, this is not the unusual part. As the SUV turned into the lane, they had to slam on THEIR brakes as there was a truck stopped in the lane to turn left. Not in the turn lane mind you, but the lane lane. Again, not the unusual part. The SUV driver, of course, availed themself of their horn. Once all was clear, we got to the next intersection, which has two left turn lanes, which allowed me to pull alongside the SUV. Rather than pull all the way forward, I stopped to express my displeasure with the driver. Again, sadly not unusual. I did not use hand gestures (ok, that IS unusual, but not my point), but simply mouthed the now-ubiquitous “REALLY?!?” Get this. The driver rolled down their window. And APOLOGIZED. No. Seriously. It happened. She made some gesticulations which translated that she was late getting back to work from her lunch and…APOLOGIZED again. I made gestures indicating acceptance of the apology and then…WE. BOTH. MOVED. ON. Crazy, huh?!?

There’s a lot to be said for an apology. If sincere, and I do believe the other driver was sincere, as was my acceptance, it does a lot to diffuse a situation. It also allows for that moving on process. Something that no one in Washington seems willing to do. Of course, it’s not just Washington, better scribes than I have described the me-first-gimme-gimmes in which an entire society is now entrenched. In the immortal words of Louise Sawyer, “you get what you settle for.” The chicanery in Washington is no more and no less than a reflection of the people who produce it. Uneducated voters produce uncouth representatives. And just to be clear, by uneducated, I mean about the candidates and the issues, not unschooled. Most voters FEEL so rushed that they will vote for the loudest ad or, worse yet, straight party line. I say FEEL rather than ARE, because it’s just that. We all still get twenty-four hours in each and everyday, but our choices in how we spend that time impose (sometimes) great restrictions.

This rushing has helped to create a society in which everyone feels that their time is more valuable than anyone else’s. We’ve all seen the results: whether it’s the person who cuts you off in traffic or the one who cuts in front of a long line with “I just have a question,” as though that is not the reason everyone else is in line. I’m not sure, but I almost feel as this may be some kind of competitive impulse. It seemed to arise around the same time that NASCAR became more than just a pastime for under-toothed, over-sauced rural enthusiasts. I’m not ready just yet, however, to blame Jeff Gordon for the downfall of American society as we know it. Kyle Busch, perhaps, but that’s another story…

So, regardless of how we got here, the question remains: how do we get back to civility? How do we culturally get back to a situation in which a heartfelt apology is a sign of strength, rather than weakness? Our friends from the East might have something to say about this (no, not NYC, THE East). There is a lot to be said for slowing down and living in the moment. Such as when one does receive an apology, don’t blow it off with a flippant “no problem” or worse yet, “whatevs”. Take the time to listen to the apology and actually accept it sincerely. In simplest terms, that’s called positive reinforcement. If we start sincerely accepting the apologies given, and actually allow the healing of egos that comes along with that acceptance, we may start to see more apologies. If one takes the time and effort to sincerely apologize, they become more mindful of their actions. One who is more mindful of their actions, is less likely to do something for which they need to apologize.

So try it. If someone gets mad at you for something you did, apologize. And mean it. See where that gets you. Perhaps it will get you to a conversation in which anger is diffused and true communication can occur. Something not possible with a middle finger or four letter words, no matter how good that might feel at the time…

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He Best Come on with It

I’m not one who generally likes to pile on, but I’m beginning to get the urge. Like many who feel we got stiffed after asking for our change, I would like some accountability. One of the reasons I don’t wish to pile on is that, even though I’ve never done the job personally, I imagine it’s a lot harder to do well than it looks. And the level of intractibility that has been shown by the opposition these last two and a half years surpasses anything that any President has had to face this side of Abraham Lincoln. One should also make allowances for the situation in which the new President found himself: two wars and a global economic meltdown in full swing.

As I am not one to pile on, neither am I one to suggest that the Dems run someone else to ‘shake Obama up’. Yes, in hindsight, there are a lot of decisions that could have been made differently. However, that doesn’t mean that we throw the baby out with the bath water. All a second candidate will shake up is the Democratic Party. We’ve seen what a fractured party looks like, it’s called the GOP.

This does not mean that President Obama gets a free pass, however. He needs to get moving, and he needs to do so BEFORE the election. If he waits until his second term to enact the change he promised, that makes him no better than the people he sought to replace. That makes him just another political hack whose only goal is reelection.

“We are all human. God created us from one dirt. Why can we not marry each other, or love each other?”

HALIMA MOHAMMEDI, an Afghan teenager whose love for another teenager, Rafi Mohammed, set off a riot by flouting their village’s tradition of arranged marriages.

“What we would ask is that the government should kill both of them.”

KHER MOHAMMED, her father.

From The New York Times, Sunday, 31 July 2011

Family Ties

Ordinary Amy

Amy Winehouse was a singular talent, or so we have been told repeatedly since the news of her death broke a few days ago. Talented? Certainly. Singular? Certainly not. There are other musical artists who speak from as dark a place as she did. There are others who, tragically, died young as well. (The internet is abuzz with all the bright lights who were extinguished at 27, go ahead, add her to the list, but NO, it’s not a government conspiracy…) Ms. Winehouse reportedly even died of the same disease that killed most of her fellow 27s. And that makes her anything BUT singular.

Most estimates put about 10% of the US population into the category of alcohol or drug dependent, and I believe it was quite evident to anyone with the barest knowledge of Ms. Winehouse that she shared this addiction. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I do know she was British). Reading public commentary, however, gives one a different impression. While many cite Winehouse’s addiction, few know quite what to make of it. Most seem to at least imply, if not outright state, that she chose to die in this way. It would appear that the general public knows more about celebrity lifestyles than they do common disease.

Make no mistake, addiction is a disease. Only someone who has never personally suffered addiction could say otherwise. NO ONE chooses addiction. It is a devastatingly insidious disease with no cure, and no absolute treatment. Yes, there is treatment, but it doesn’t always work. And the reason it doesn’t work isn’t a lack of effort or desire. Any addict can tell you, will tell you, how many times they’ve tried to quit. They can tell you all the different tactics they’ve tried. And failed. Twelve-Step programs are known for some success, but there are many who will tell you that they were only able to come to terms with their addictions once they gave up on a higher power and took responsibility for their own lives, as well as those who’ve stepped and stepped and never did get sober.

So if there is a lesson to be learned from Amy’s passing, it is this: Addiction kills. And more often than not, there is shit-all you can do about it. RIP, Amy. Peace.

–s

Bye Bye, Borders

There’s not too much to say about the demise of Borders that many of you haven’t already said. It was a wonderful place to work. Many wonderful memories and lifelong friends.
For quite a few of us, it was, literally, life-changing. Some of us discovered hidden talents and skills we may have never known we possessed. And some lucky few of us even had the outrageous fortune to meet the one with whom we choose to spend the rest of our lives.
While much can be said for how the company got to this point, there is no need. I know that for me personally, I am so much richer for my experiences and absolutely wealthy in my friends because of my decade there. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Much Love.
–s