Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Winners

I need something quite a lot. And there's someone in my life who is in a position to provide it to me with zero trouble, expense, or sacrifice.

If you could blink or wipe your nose or say "Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers!" and appreciably help another human being, presumably you'd do it. Hell, I've made greater effort and sacrifice to help people more meagerly, but that doesn't count. I'm talking about no-skin/no-sweat assistance. Save a puppy via a finger snap. Cure cancer with a coin toss.

If I ask for it, she won't refuse me outright. But she will subject me to a long interrogation about potential blowback and risk on her end (there's obviously none). She will take time to consider the matter, and, as she does, I'll be at her disposal for various requests, plus a generous flow of nonsense talk, since we're now buddies. Finally, she may well say "no". Or else she'll say "yes" and soon screw it all up via stupidity, incompetence, or clever effort to turn it into something even better. I can't even begin to list the potential snafus. This is simply not fated to happen, so I won't even mention it. Involving her in anything leads unavoidably to pain and despair. Even something so easy and so urgent.
This is the sort of absolutist, cocksure statement that would have offended my eight-year-old self. When I was just a child - six or seven or seven-and-a-half years old - I was absolutist and cocksure about people. Nasty people were nasty and dumb people were dumb. Show me either behavior and I'd dismiss you as incorrigible. But then, as a more worldly eight-year-old, I had a wiser and more nuanced view. No one's all one thing! There are shades of grey! Heck, I myself might seem nasty or dumb at any given time. We must be more forgiving and less judgemental. No one is perfect, but nobody's incorrigible, either.

By age 42 (after managing a million people on the Internet), I'd reverted to my original perspective. Fuck-ups fuck up, period. They just do. Malevolent people don't errantly stumble into malevolence; it's their framing. Same for selfish people. It's truly black and white. There are no shades of grey.
A friend was incredulous. Why on earth wouldn't I ask this person to do this unbelievably easy thing that would have such tremendous impact on my life?

I explained to him that there are people who are responsive. If you need something, they will help if convenient. They have situational awareness and a can-do attitude. At least some part of their focus goes to obliging small needs arising around them. It's not generosity, per se. There may be very tight limits on what they're willing to lose to help you to win. But you can certainly borrow their rake, and they'll drive you if you're going their way, and if they're throwing it out anyway, of course you can have it, duh! To some limited degree they're there for other people. But this person, I explained to my friend, simply isn't one of those people.

She is the type of person who removes every last nickel from her car's change drawer before handing it off to the carwash guy - god forbid someone should steal 35¢ - when, of course, no worker would ever steal change because that's the prime thing you don't do if you want to keep your job in the car wash...so, facing like a .1% chance of losing 35¢, she eliminates the risk via 50¢ worth of inconvenience, scooping the mound of change into her overstuffed pocket, scuffing up her iPhone, and then forgetting to replace it so a few days later she finds herself at a parking meter or toll booth for which she has no quarters.

Such blinkered, selfish, tight, grasping, difficult people think they're strategic. They feel smart. They're on the fast track to victory, while slovenly dopes like me let the carwash guys steal my change. That's where slackness gets you!

Oddly, these victory-minded people never seem to win. It's obvious to everyone but them. They go to their graves clutching their bottle caps and Hershey's kisses; so occupied with defending their cheap dog toys that they let decades go by without taking a single step forward.

I once observed that control freaks are seldom worthy of the control they demand. There's something about incompetence that compels control. It reminds me of how this person never seems to come out ahead, even though she's never once failed to put herself first. All that calculation and selfishness and pain infliction...for what???


I don't mind being cut off by BMWs, but I can go into a blind fury when it's someone driving an old terrible car.

The predatory BMW driver has made a life choice at great moral, social and spiritual peril. But at least he has something to show for it. He has his pyrrhic victory.

But if you're driving a 1986 Ford Escort belching black smoke and you don't give a crap about anyone but yourself, why haven't you noticed that your predatory selfishness isn't working??? You're paying all the rich guy costs with none of the reward! You just scared the bejesus out of me and made me crush my brakes so you could ply the high-handed ruthlessness which bought you that sweet $800 ride? Really?

I can grok the notion of disregarding the needs of others so you can concentrate on WINNING. But if it's not working, what's the point? Screwing the world to gain advantage is competition. Screwing the world for kicks is sadism. It's a whole other thing. A much worse thing.

I once drove a 1986 Ford Escort belching black smoke, usually en route to a gig playing swinging music, or trying some other tribe's cuisine. I was having more fun and a richer life experience than most drivers ensconsed in their Beemers, so I felt no shame whatsoever. What's more, I enjoyed the perqs of non-predation. Victorious in my poverty and intact in my morality: win-win!

Assholes who cut you off in cheap cars? Lose-lose!


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