“don’t look too closely”
My dad raised me on several precepts. One of them being, “If you wanna get a job done, you gotta do it yourself.” It’s probably why I always routinely score low on playing well with others.
The older I get, the more I realize he’s right. If I had to rely on other people for my livelihood, my well-being, a lousy Quarter-Pounder with cheese and a small Coke, processing the emissions test form and fee for my new car properly, finishing work on fixing up the backyard fence, watching my two-year-old son without incident for a measly hour and a half... I’d be in big trouble.
As a child growing up under my father’s strict Army upbringing, I also learned that when I say I’m sorry, I better mean I will try harder next time not to screw up again, none of this liberal saving face and making amends crap. I’m sorry is fine, but in the long run, it’s better backed up with positive action.
Two hours late to a scheduled event? I’m sorry, from now until the end of time, I’ll show up at least one hour before.
Forgot to take out the garbage last night? I’m sorry, I’ll take out the garbage every week for a year, and do the dishes, and fix breakfast every weekend, to make it up.
A tad neurotic, sure, but it sure beats mouthing the three empty words without anything to back them up.
My husband, Eddie, on the other hand, wasn’t born a Scorpio/Sagittarius, but a Libra, which means he’d rather do anything and everything by consensus, in tandem where two or more are gathered, as a part of a team.
Watching him out there alone, measuring, cutting wood slats, pounding nails into the gaps left by a guy we paid to put up new and improved fence posts in our backyard... is a sad, sorry sight. He has more friends than he can count, but whenever he needs help, real help, they’re conveniently absent. I can’t say the same for him; many a week, month, he routinely offers his services for their every whim, at his own family’s expense.
He did admit that, while he’d rather finish the fence with other guys chipping in for company (okay, one friend, Bryon did chip in once), he took longer, but darned if he didn’t do it more thoroughly. When the Sunday was through, my bruised, dirty, disheveled lonely little Libra man felt quiet fulfillment, and I, enormous pride.
That sole act of completion aside, all of last week, we suffered at the inept hands of others.
Eddie threw down a half-opened envelope of a statement and his checks, clearly upset and fed up with the moron on the phone just a few days earlier who swore to him that he needn’t mail in the car emissions testing form along with his payment. He followed orders, and got a delay of payment in return. Later, he called these people back, pointing out their error and suggesting they personally drive over to his house to process a completed emissions test. “I could be stopped by the police at any moment, because you bozos can’t get your act together, even though I technically paid on time.”
“So, what happened?”
“You mean, even though it’s their fault, they’re not holding themselves accountable, plus, you have to physically drive over there to pay in person now?”
Remember the fence? Two previous carpenters, friends of musician friends, have bailed on Eddie, the last one, a teenager, took off for summer vacation before finishing the project we’d already paid for. (Eddie even played a little baseball with him and some neighbor kids during a break.) There’s a pile of rotting fence posts in the middle of our backyard, gathering weeds and spiders, since June. Now, we’ve been waiting for a new crew to show up to lay concrete down at the base, for a deck, after already giving us an estimate (at 9 in the evening, three hours late), and waiting and waiting. They promised to come one Monday afternoon, nothing. They promised to come again, several days later, still nothing. They’re supposed to be here today, as I’m typing this.
It happens all the time online. Posters promise to e-mail me a recipe, weeks pass, no recipe. My e-mails to others go unanswered, often permanently. Friends flake out on me at the last minute. One of ‘em has a tendency to inconveniently forget details like a change of venue or time for get-togethers, leaving me hanging.
A neighbor, Christina down the street, and I discussed this. She’d shared her nightmare with two health insurance companies overbilling her for several doctor visits due to allergy flare-ups. At one point, a clerk based in Oregon hung up on her mid-conversation. “I couldn’t believe it. I needed to make a doctor’s appointment for the nervous breakdown.” She then proceeded to detail the lack of a work ethic amongst today’s youngsters, who think nothing of heading to the beach or the mall instead of showing up for their first jobs. “They’ll show up the next day, like it’s nothing, without letting their bosses know beforehand what’s going on.”
All of the above falls under the header – zero integrity. In my world, your word is as good as a signed, ironclad contract witnessed by lawyers and a notary public. If I tell you I will do something, you can bet I will do it. I don’t care if I have to skip lunch, crap in my pants, crawl out from under the covers of my sick bed (or hospital bed), stay up two nights in a row, bunk at the office, been there, done that and that and that, whatever it takes, I will get that job done and fulfill my promise.
It’s not just how I was raised. It’s who I am, part of what stands me out and in good stead. It’s not very popular or glamorous, but then I’ll leave that aesthetic stuff to my brother and idiots of his ilk who are still on the streets looking for the next hand-out, after-hours rave and thrill of the minute, while their ghetto roof falls in on their empty, decaying insides.
Keeping my word is a thankless job, for the most part. Nobody notices during the happy times, least not to pay me for my invaluable, tenacious, deadline-meeting services. But in a crunch? Come one and all to Carol Banks Weber, she’ll do the grunt work, clean the toilet, put up with our trash.
If I’d been the emissions testing clerk on the other line and told Eddie one thing, while the company policy dictated something else, I’d have been fired on the spot for inconveniencing a customer, publicly humiliated and made to feel less than ¼ of a human being, and the customer would’ve had me over there personally seeing to it that the forms were processed on the spot before I had to clean his toilet.
But that’s me.
This talk of human waste reminds me of a tendency in dreams, which I sort of carry over into my real, waking life.
If I’m at all lucid in those dreams, I try to avoid staring at a particular object, or being for too long, because soon, that object or being shape-shifts into a nightmarish monster. A road becomes a flood, the flood an ocean, inside the ocean a multitude of multi-colored fish, the fish piranha, prehistoric creatures, the water a polluted acidic orange... My husband turns into Damian Lewis, then Richard Simmons, then Cindi Rinehart, bald, then Satan with gout...
It’s just like the fragile relationships we form with people, over business or pleasure. Most seem harmless enough, even friendly. Just when I start talking myself into believing they can be trusted to do their job, represent themselves honestly, their word is their bond... I look closer and find a fence post missing, several nails sticking out the other side.
... or nobody at all to help me when I need to get a task accomplished.
After years and years of this conditioning, I involuntarily stare at the ground while I walk, gaze just past their faces into the distance when they talk, nod appropriately, quietly pretend to take them at face value, while I quietly go about backing up my files, so to speak.
Autism? Nah. Just ... have you ever seen Satan with gout?
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