Don't become a razor when standing at the edge
I hurled an echo down a hall,
bouncing and bruising
of none at all.
Now, who will answer?
I did something incredibly empty last week. It was neither intentional nor unintentional. Cruelty often comes packaged that way.
I could blame the usual suspects. A hot day. Had to be two places
at once, that sort of stuff.
They won't mask the fact that I just blew it. Common courtesy and
maturity abandoned me as I came up against a Dilbert situation.
The popular business comic strip character is the latter day Franz
Kafka, a blithe corporate spirit caught up in the labyrinth of
I have conditioned myself to rage against the machine which
dehumanizes. I was disappointed to find that I can still lose my own
humanity in expressing that criticism.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been doing business with some
good people at a very large institution. Their organization is so hidebound
that in order for them to mail you something from Las Vegas, they must make
a request to have it sent from Arizona.
Somewhere around 101 sultry degrees late one afternoon, I got a
call from a long-suffering Dilbertite at this particular place.
She proudly reported having in her possession the piece of hardware
she had worked so diligently to acquire for me.
Did she have a manual on how to install and use it?
No. That would be mailed from Arizona to Las Vegas at some
But I needed it in Reno. Today!
I lost perspective that I was dealing with a very conscientious
person doing her best to work within strictures set by a behemoth
institution which makes inflexible rules designed to maximize profits and
I behaved immaturely and rudely. When I called back a few minutes
later to apologize for my shortness, she had left her office for a few days
She undoubtedly needed them in no small measure because of people
When she gets back, she will receive this column, a formal letter
of apology and flowers from the loud lout who hurt her feelings.
I felt like hell the rest of that day and went to bed without even
the cold comfort that I had done something to right an unnecessary wrong.
The very next day, I was sent a couple of reminders about where
such incivility can lead. The Daily Sparks Tribune reported a story about a
young man's family suing a local finance company alleged to have sent thugs
to repossess his car.
The lawsuit charges that the lenders dispatched a couple of armed
storm troopers in full body armor to their debtor's place of employment.
The jerks drew their guns and said they had an arrest warrant, the lawsuit
asserts. The 24 year-old and his co-workers were terrorized.
The storm troopers threatened both the young man and his girlfriend
with arrest, the lawsuit alleges, further noting that the thugs also went
to the young man's home and made similar intimations to his family before
being thrown out.
"That afternoon," Tribune reporter Willie Albright wrote, "while
driving (the car in question) at a high rate of speed, (the young man) took
his life with a shotgun. The car was destroyed."
Who will answer?
In Gardnerville, 60 miles south of here, something eerily similar
happened about six weeks ago. The Associated Press reported the suicide of
another fine young man, age 13.
His sin was apparently being born a shy person. His fellow students
wrote in his yearbook that he should stand up for himself more.
His family said he "was not equipped to handle the harassment he
endured at school. He had a difficult time making friends and liked to
spend time on his own. He always was a very introspective child who loved
to read and write, creating stories and plays."
His mother said "he wouldn't tell on anybody, but a lot of kids
knew what was going on."
His father noted that "some kids can't handle the teasing and the
name-calling...I wish the other students could see how they treat the other
kids - the loners who don't fit as well."
The Gardnerville survivors went public hoping to extract some good
out of needless tragedy. The dead boy's sister "hopes counselors, teachers
and students will keep a protective eye out for kids like (her brother) who
make easy targets."
For both families, the wounds will never heal, the questions will
Who will answer?
"The world as we know it will never be the same," said the 13
year-old's mom. "I'm sure (he) wouldn't want us to go through this pain. I
don't think when kids are considering this, they see the devastation they
So therein lies this week's lesson from this poor practitioner of
the civilized arts. Don't follow my example. You might not luck out like I
Someone wiser than me apologized on my behalf when the woman I
slighted delivered the product complete with the missing instruction
I will get the chance to say I'm sorry. Others in this story will not.
On any given day, you might be tested in just such a way. Before
walking over the edge of unkindness, take a breath. Step back. Smile. Try
to make common cause with the person at hand.
Don't place her or him on the receiving end of unfriendly fire when
totally undeserved. Inquire as to what you might do to help the situation.
That's called maturity. Humanity. Civility.
Common kindness and politeness.
Unwind and be kind.
Try it sometime.
Be well. Raise hell.