I am privileged

Saturday, 1 July 2017 10:41 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"It Was Sarcasm. I Won't Do It Again."*

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I was just taking the privilege quiz only I had to stop because statement two made me laugh uncontrollably.

Statement two is: "I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color."

The correct response is, "I don't know! I didn't ask!"

Because there were these girls, see, these black girls, who would circle me, back me into a corner and play the "let's pretend to be friends with this loser, then mock her when she falls for it" game. Were they doing it because I was white or because everybody else did it? Hell, it was a game the white girls played, why shouldn't they play it too? Or maybe it was my stuck-up, smarter-than-everybody else aura. (Fuck it, I was smarter than most of them, but I wasn't stuck-up, I was terrified and weird.)

This is not a situation where you can say, "Excuse me, but why are you doing this? I might need to know later." Mostly you can't do that because they won't tell you; they're busy pretending to like you and they'll deny they're doing anything at all but being friendly.

Do I sound paranoid?

I don't know why, when I was in the fourth grade, every time I went out for recess a little black girl in a lower grade—second? Third? Again, I didn't ask. It didn't seem appropriate, or particularly important at the time—I didn't ask why she came over and kicked me. Not just once; she'd spend the whole recess kicking me, if she wasn't stopped and I had no idea how to stop her. She was smaller than me—I was tall back then, and older. (Older than her; I wasn't older than I am now. That would make no sense at all.)

I have only the vaguest memories of this and they might not be mine. My mother worked in the school library and saw this happening from the window. The school administration wouldn't do anything about it because, apparently, part of reparations included little black girls being allowed to kick random white girls with no explanation. (I don't recall it hurting; what I recall is being utterly baffled.) My mother finally came out and dragged her away from me. I don't know if it happened again. I have blocked out practically all of that year of school, which you can maybe see why.

These incidents led to me being afraid of black people.

Mind you, I was already afraid of people in general—from the third grade on I was bullied by first white girls, then white boys as well. The incidents with the black girls prefriending me (Look! I made new word! It means: that thing people—usually girls—do when they pretend to be your friend so they can later mock you in a more personal way [because you've told them your secrets, or even just your likes and dislikes] and add how stupid you were for believing them).

Where was I? Oh, yes, that incident didn't happen until the eighth grade. In the meantime I had a lot of the same treatment from the white girls, but there was a big difference: I knew those girls! I'd been going to school with them since first grade, I'd been friends with them. (Why that changed, what happened exactly, I don't know. But being hurt by people you know makes more sense than being hurt by strangers. There's logic to it, it's not just chaotic. It's horrible, but it's less scary.) I didn't even know these black girls; I couldn't figure out what I could have done to make them want to hurt me.

There were no cultural differences between me and the white girls, nothing of any significance; that could not be said of me and the black girls. (It's really culture that causes misunderstandings, not race.) I seemed not to be able to talk to anyone without saying something wrong (smarter, stuck-up) and if I couldn't do it in a culture I understood, what chance did I have in one I knew nothing about?

I think that's when I started to freeze. Don't move, don't make eye contact, don't speak, just wait until they get bored and leave. Because running wasn't an option, and neither was fighting back. I couldn't even be rude, even though everything I said was interpreted as rudeness anyway, stuck-upness, superiority.

I think of myself as having a lot of privilege because I came from people who read a lot and thought outside themselves. With a high school education, I can talk to people and have them think I went to college. But I'm still mostly scared all the time because I do not understand other people at all, and that target feels like it's still on my back.


*John Dortmunder

This is my life

Friday, 2 December 2016 05:15 pm
carose59: adulthood (without being supervised)
"Well, A Person Who Thinks He Has Walls Is Infinitely More Interesting Than One Who Does."*

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Two weeks ago, I finally got around to seeing a lawyer to deal with the house. I called and left a message, he called back, and we made an appointment.

I had gotten his name from the AFSCME website (that's the union I belong to, and union members get a discount). His address was listed as being on Alabama Street.

I saw that he had his own website, so I thought I'd check it out—I like to get my information from as close to the source as possible. On his website, his address was listed as being on Market Street.

So the day of the appointment, I drove downtown, parked, and walked over to the address on Market. I went to sign in and found someone had spilled coffee all over the sign-in sheet. I found this by sticking my hand in it. They'd also spilled it all over the lobby and there was a trail of it going to one of the elevators. Right about then someone who apparently worked there showed up, noticed the coffee, and went to get it cleaned up. I went upstairs and washed my hands in the ladies' room.

It was an interesting building. Built in 1955 (according to the cornerstone), it had been renovated and decorated with non-fuctioning clocks. I've never seen so many clocks with the wrong time on them. It was, as I say, interesting.

I waited until ten—my appointment time—nervous because there was no-one to check-in with and I couldn't figure out where his office was. I played out the worst-case scenario: I didn't get to see the lawyer today and had to come back. Oh, no! The world would come to an end. Or, I'd just have to come back at a different time. Anyway, at ten I called and left a message saying who I was, what time it was, and where I was, and that if either the time or place were wrong, I'd really appreciate him calling me back.

In a few minutes he called back. Right time, wrong place. He'd moved to an office on—you guessed it—Market. I told him I'd gotten the address from his own website, and he was quite embarrassed. He asked if I'd like to meet him at the City Market—a block away from where I was—and get some food. I thought that sounded good, so that's what we did.

We talked about the whole thing—which is really just probate vs no probate, depending on the value of the estate. His wife is in real estate and said the house looked to be between forty and sixty thousand dollars; fifty is the cut-off for not having to go through probate, and he said that with me being an only child (meaning nobody contesting my inheritance), we could squeeze by with the house being worth under fifty. I told him that the house was built just after WWII and the plumbing and electric has never been updated, and he laughed. "Definitely under fifty then," he said.

He outlined what he was going to do and I gave him a check for a thousand dollars, but I should be getting money back. It's all really easy.

I'm really glad to be getting this taken care of, but I'm particularly glad that I was able to handle the whole wrong-place thing so calmly. It was a little adventure. I got to see a cool building.


*Lillian Carlson
carose59: my mother's family (it seems to absolve us)
I Couldn't Go To A Queer Halloween Party Once Because The Only Rule Was You Couldn't Come In Costume And Darling, I Had Nothing To Wear.*

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I've written this never-ending series of Wiseguy stories called Roadhouse Blues. I sort of thought I was finished a few years ago, but other stories popped up and I wrote them and did nothing with them (except the one I wrote for Christy; I showed it to her. Considering the number of stories I have that I wrote for/dedicated to her, Christy telling me she didn't think I was her audience is abso-fucking-lutely bizarre.)

Anyway, I'm writing on them again for reasons. But I'm breaking all the characters and at three of them are having meltdowns and I'm crying. This is effect and cause; I'm doing this because I need to cry and I'm a lot Irish and crying over imaginary people is what we do.

(I once wrote a story I only worked on when I was depressed or having PMS. And one I finished right after Pat died. You could wipe out a whole dealers' room of fans with those two stories.)

And in two days it's Thanksgiving and I've been invited by my cousin.

Pros:

1. I love my family.
2. The food will be good.
3. There might be a few moments of feeling like I belong.
4. It will make them happy. I guess. *shrug* They invited me.


Cons:

1. It will take four hours I could use for writing.
2. It will be loud and I will come home with a headache.
3. I will feel alienated and alone.
4. There will probably be a political argument which will leave me feeling even more alienated and alone. Unless I keep my mouth shut, in which case everybody will agree.

What I get when I see my family is sarcasm and whimsy. It's the language we all share; we're good at silly.

But it's like a garnish. Would you order an expensive dinner just for the garnish? (I might, because I'm like that, and if I had a use for the rest of the meal, like giving it away.)

It makes me so sad that it's this hard, that I do not feel a part of my family.

When my cousin in Texas wrote me that he had been thinking of coming to Indianapolis to look at train stuff (don't ask) (but now he wasn't because he was punishing us for something—again, don't ask), I wrote back and told him I'd be happy to go with him to look at train stuff.

He said he didn't know I was interested in trains.

I'm not. Except for liking to listen to them, I have no interest in trains. I'm interested in him.

I didn't tell him that because he wouldn't understand it!

And so it goes. I'm supposed to be interested in their lives when they're not a bit interested in mine. I'm endlessly weird, and as such, a source of amusement. I cause endless trouble by not enjoying my role as prop in the latest holiday special, sitting on the sofa and pretending everything is fine when nobody is talking to me (except my one cousin's husband who sees me as prey and wants to argue politics. It's fun. Fun. The destruction of our country is fun).

I want to say no and I want to be honest but I don't want to hurt them (well, yes, I do, but I also don't). I want them to actually be able to see me and that will never, ever happen and I need to stop wanting it but I don't know how.

And even if I tried to be honest, how many words do you think I'd get out? How many of my meaningless, incomprehensible words is anyone willing to listen to? I've written almost seven hundred right here. Nobody's going to listen to seven hundred words. Maybe I could pare it down to four.

I won't be happy no matter what I do, but staying home is a more productive use of my time. Sonny's having some serious PTSD, and Vinnie's throwing up from stress, and I don't even know what happened to Roger. It would be more fun to stay home and untangle those tangles and watch Humphrey Bogart. And I can make my own damn food.

(I did buy food. I decided to make smoked sausage and carrots and potatoes and onion and cabbage. I'm partial to red potatoes—I like the ones that are so small, you can hold two or three in your hand at a time. So I picked out a bag of small red potatoes. And I thought I'd get red cabbage instead of green, for no particular reason. And then, of course, when it was time to get the onions, I got red ones. I don't know if you've ever cooked with red onions, but they turn a sort of pale mauve, and from what I've read, so does red cabbage. I should have a really interesting-looking dinner. And while my family might find this funny, it would be in a despairing sort of way. Pat would find it hilarious. She'd hunt me down some red carrots, without me even asking.)


*Aaron Raz Link
carose59: my mother's family (it seems to absolve us)
"No, I Try Not To Have Any Ideas. They Only Lead To Complications."*

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I think the thing that drives me crazy about right wingers is that you can't even ask them questions about what they believe or why. You're immediately shut down—usually with vicious insults. Since I don't understand anybody, I spend a lot of time trying to explore different ideas. Why asking a question is seen as an attack, I don't know.

(If you think I'm not serious about this, you have no idea how many hours I've listened to talk radio so I'd know exactly what I was talking about, so I'd know exactly what people were hearing. It turned my stomach, but I listened. Maybe that's one reason I get so angry with people who want to shut me up—I've done my damn homework, I've listened to those wretched men, just so I can have an intelligent conversation with you and now you're telling me to shut up.)

It's probably my whole not-being-believed-when-I'm-most-sincere syndrome.** I have gotten in more trouble for asking honest questions--people always think I'm being a smart ass. (Except when I am being a smart ass; that's when people take me seriously.) It makes me not want to ask questions. It makes me not trust people. When it happens, I just want to disengage, just—fine, apparently I can't talk to you so I'll go away. And please don't pretend things are fine now because they're not. They're really not. I just don't need more people in my life who want me to shut up. I have more than enough of those and I've never been any good at it. There are books I can't read because the need to answer back is too strong.

I quit talking to my cousin Alan because I refused to be cruel to him and he wouldn't stop being cruel to me. (I value myself to much to turn myself into something I despise if there's a way to avoid it.) He denied everything—he wasn't being cruel, I was too sensitive, it was just a joke, his reality was the real thing and I was just wrong, wrong, wrong. He thought mocking him was somehow acceptable, no matter how much I asked him to stop, and he hurt me so much, I became afraid of him. I know he doesn't accept this, but it's the truth. I sincerely thought about banning him from my mother's funeral, I wanted to see him so little.

I didn't. I pretended it was OK. Well, I was numb.

I know, I keep writing about this. I know it doesn't sound like anything, but the betrayal was profound. And last night something else happened with another relative.


*Dr. Johnny Fever
**I once tried to post something frivolous on a Starsky & Hutch mailing list. My post never came through and never came through and never came through. I contacted the owner of the list to ask if there was some reason I was blocked and she said no, I should try again. So I did—a couple of times. Nothing. Contacted the owner again. She said there was no problem with the list.

So I came up with a different email—same name, only hotmail. And the post went through! So I figured it was just AOL and thought no more about it.

Until the owner sent me a furious email about me being sneaky and going around her. I told her I was just trying to solve the email problem, since apparently AOL was the issue.

That was when she told me how stupid I was not to realize of course I was blocked! (I was stupid for not knowing she was lying to me.) And how dare I try to trick her like this?! (She'd flat-out lied to me twice, but I—using an identical screen name—had been trying to trick her. That annoyed me just because I'd have to be pretty damn stupid to try to trick her using the same name. I might be clueless about what other people are thinking, but I'm not stupid!)

So it is me. I get that. I just don't get why.
carose59: death (a scientific fact)
"A Disagreement In My Family Involves Restraining Orders, And Bloodshed."*

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This morning I got an email from my cousin in Texas. He had found out my mother had died while he was doing some genealogy stuff online. He didn't find out shortly after it happened because I didn't have his phone number. He didn't find out from the card I sent him because I didn't have his new address. And this is somehow my fault and I didn't behave properly when his mother died (when he wrote and told me although I never heard from him) and he's not sure he wants to come visit because he doesn't think anyone cares about seeing him.

I wish he would come, but I don't particularly want to see him. The rest of the family seemed to enjoy him. I got tired of the long silences after I spoke, as though he was trying to figure out what I was talking about and why I was wasting his time. I think I'm too much of a Kiesel to fit with the Donahues, and I don't even know any Kiesels.**

As I was writing this, I thought of something that happened many years ago, when my father was still alive. My step-cousin, Steve, was inexplicably angry at my parents about something, and one thing he said was that nobody ever treated them like they were Kiesels, that they weren't invited to family gatherings.

Afterward, when my mother told me about this, I said, "You should have told him that being excluded and ignored is being treated like a Kiesel! He was being treated exactly like a Kiesel." That is not an exaggeration. My grandmother kept the family entertaining segregated. We were invited over when my father's father's family was in town. My father's brother was invited for actual fun party-type things--and for all I know, he was the only one invited. My mother and I were once excluded from a family reunion.

I could stretch a point and understand my mother, since she's only a Kiesel by marriage (although my grandmother was going and she, too, was only by marriage), but me? And I look like my father! Who looked like his father! What the hell?

I was in high school when the family reunion occurred, or just graduated, and I didn't particularly want to go. And I still find it all amusing. But it is telling that there is family on both sides that feels like they're being excluded, that they think they're being treated differently when what they're complaining about is being treated the same. This is what my whole family is like. It isn't any better on the inside than the outside because there doesn't seem to be any actual inside. No wonder I became a professional outsider.


*Joe Morelli
**That isn't strictly true. I have a cousin, Patty, who is my father's brother's daughter. I sent her a note when my mother died (pretty much the same note I sent my cousin Jeff) and found a message from her stepbrother—or maybe ex-stepbrother, since her father divorced his mother—in the mailbox last Friday. So I called and got condolences from him and I called to see how she was.

Patty was always slow, but I'm thinking years of antipsychotics have done a number on her. She didn't seem to know why I had called. It was hard to talk to her on a number of levels. (She's about ten years older than me I am, but even when I was in grade school, I had to slow way, way down for her.) I worry about her.
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"If I Am To Stand By The Door And Attack People As They Leave, How Will He Eat?"*

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Sometime last autumn, I got a phone call from my mother as I was driving home from work. It was about a young guy who had come to the door wanting to do yard work. There was some confusion about whether or not I had talked to him—I didn't remember talking to him, but I don't remember a lot of things—and later my mother became convinced that he'd misrepresented himself. I'm on the fence about this because you simply could not trust my mother's interpretation of anything she heard. She was also very unclear about whether she wanted me to hire him to do something, and if so what. I ended up paying him some unremembered amount to cut back some branches and haul them away. That was the deal.

He cut back the branches.

He did not haul them away, not all of them.

Later, he called asking for more work. I reminded him about the branches. He told me he'd take care of them.

He called again, telling me he'd be coming over to pick up the branches. He didn't.

He called again—these calls took place days or weeks apart—again looking for work. I reminded him about the branches again. He assured me he'd take care of them.

Winter came. He came back. That day I wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone about anything, so I just said there was nothing I needed done and I got in my car and drove away. There was no mention of the branches, which were probably covered with snow.

A week or so ago, he came back again, looking for money—I mean, work. I laughed at him.

I told him he hadn't finished the last job I paid him for, and I certainly wasn't hiring him for another one until he did. He then made the mistake of telling me I didn't have to be a bitch.

"Really? You think not wanting to give you more money when you didn't complete the last job I paid you for is being a bitch? I didn't demand the money back. I didn't take you to court. I didn't call and harass you. I simply said I didn't want to hire you again. Your standards for bitchiness are pretty damn high."

When I get like this, I sound like my maternal grandmother. I become concise, articulate, mocking, and coldly logical. I'm scary. He backed down. I should have reminded him about the branches!

"How many times? I reminded you the first time you called looking for work again. You spontaneously called and said you were going to come pick them up—but apparently forgot, which makes me wonder how you get anything accomplished. You called again, and again I reminded you. Is this how you always do business, you only do work you're reminded of over and over and over again? I am not your mother. If you can't be a responsible adult, that's your problem, but I'm not paying you for it. Now don't come back here."

He apologized, but as he was walking away (and I was going back inside) I heard him mutter something. I was back outside like a shot. "What did you say?"

I scared the crap out of him. I don't know what he'd said, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the thank you he claimed he'd said.

I told Patrick about it later, adding that right after somebody dies is a really bad time to piss me off. I'm in a nihilistic mood and don't care what bridges I burn.


*Fritz Brenner
carose59: MKK (richer than i you can never be)
When Cryptography Is Outlawed, Bayl Bhgynjf Jvyy Unir Cevinpl.*

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My mother is getting speech therapy.

Yesterday she said "no" and "zipper."

The "no" was in answer to a question. I think the "zipper" was just to show that she could say it. I'm all in favor of them increasing the number of words she can say, but I wish they'd focus on the ones she really needs. None of her clothes have zippers, so saying zipper doesn't seem like a high priority to me.

They're also working on her writing. From what I could tell, she's been practicing her maiden name, and her twin brother's name. Since her legal name is now Kiesel, and since my uncle is now dead, again, I'm thinking this isn't the most productive use of her time. Of course, it could be what she's choosing to write, and maybe there's a message in there, only I don't have a secret decoder ring.

Talking to her is making me crazy. I can't understand anything she says, and she's been pulling that cat trick of staring over my head like something is about to land on me. It makes me nervous. I was looking around, but I've stopped doing that. Now I just look down and wait for her to look at me again.

For all I know she's seeing dead people. Before the stroke, my father was talking to her. Last I heard, he wanted a bed and new clothes. I told her he wasn't getting any new clothes, he was dead and he didn't need them.

This voice-hearing was about her deafness and her solitude. When you can't hear, your brain will make up stuff to entertain you. Why her brain chose my father complaining, I don't know. Before that it was a noise that wasn't there, and before that it was me arguing with an unknown man, and before that, it was me singing.

And if this sounds like she was losing her mind, kinda-sorta. We're crazy in my family, but we're also very grounded. At one point she told me if I was going to pray for her, I should pray to St. Joan of Arc because she heard voices, too. Nobody who talks like that about the unreal voices they hear is really crazy. It's possible to believe and disbelieve simultaneously, but it will never make you happy.


When I go to visit, I sit in a room with two TVs going, and a conversation behind a curtain, loud to be heard over the TVs, and sounds in the hallway, while my mother mumbles at me. Even if there were words strung together in actual sentences, I'd be having trouble following her—I've always had trouble with multiple simultaneous conversations. But this is like some terrible game: I've always felt inadequate, like I wasn't doing well enough, wasn't trying hard enough. Now it's marathon How Inadequate Are You?, where I spend eternities getting it wrong, having nothing to say, being helpless, drowning, wishing I were someplace else, wishing I could go to sleep, wishing I were dead. I just keep saying I'm sorry.

It doesn't help.

I wish we could be wordless and primal, just sit holding hands and being together. But my mother has things to say.


I got a call from a person the activities lady at the rehab center. She wanted to know what my mother enjoyed doing.

Well, she liked to read, but I have no idea if she still can. The last book I gave her, she snuggled with. She watched TV, but she can't really hear, so the volume level needed for her to know what's going on is likely to make her roommate deaf. She liked talking to people, but she can't make words; she liked keeping a diary, but she can't write. What the hell do you want from me?

I didn't say that. I think I whimpered helplessly.

The woman asked if she like to go outside and play games.

I think those were supposed to be two separate ideas, but I had to suppress the urge to say, "Yes! Tag and hopscotch are her favorite games!" I said I think she'd like to go outside, now that it's gotten really warm, but that I didn't know about games.

I told her if my mother wasn't interested in doing something, she was quite capable of making her disinclination known, and we agreed to use that guideline. And I sat and trembled for half an hour.

I don't know. I don't have any answers. I'm so tired I feel like I'm going to die, and the last time I felt like this, Pat died. So I'm not in very good shape.


*Bumper sticker
carose59: fandom (the lunatic fringe begins here)
[Originally posted elsewhere June 24, 2009]

There's a lot of stuff about warnings going on on http://community.livejournal.com/metafandom/, and I felt the need to throw myself into the pyre.

I am not your safe place.

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I've been opposed to warnings, ratings, what-have-you since they first started showing up on fan fiction. If I wanted readers starting out with the information that Starsky was going to be killed in my story, I'd start the story with something like, "The bullets tore through Starsky's chest, tearing his heart into pieces no surgeon could ever have put back together, even if there had been a surgeon there in the parking lot of the BCPD."

Not a bad opening sentence. But if I'm saving that information for later, chances are I don't want you to see it coming.

I've never written a rape story, and I probably never will. But if I did, again, I wouldn't warn for it. I don't warn for anything, except that you shouldn't drink anything while you're reading my stories. I cant to the funny side, and people have been known to choke or spray liquids out their noses reading my stories. I'll warn for that. I post in my own space, and if you come into my space to read my stories, you do so at your own risk. You can consider that a warning, if you want. But telling me what I should and should not do in my own space is presumptuous. If you don't like the way I do things, don't come here. Lose readers? Why should I care?

I've been reading various essays by people who have had seriously bad things happen to them, and who have triggers they don't want set off while reading fan fiction. And I can understand how they feel.

What I don't understand is where anybody got the idea that fandom as a whole was one big safe place.

If you and I are friends--actual friends--and are out someplace together and you're going to the restroom, you're likely to leave your purse with me. (And you're likely to tell me not to let anyone take your purse, something I find hilarious, because really, is that instruction necessary? But we all seem to do it.)

Even if we've only known each other a few hours, you might feel comfortable enough to leave your purse with me, particularly if we're at a con. It's a fan place, and relative strangers appear closer than they might actually be.

But if we were both in a movie theatre to see the new Star Trek movie, would you hand me your purse to look after just because we're both people who like Star Trek? Even if I was wearing a Star Fleet uniform and Vulcan ears?

I'm guessing the answer is no. God, I'm hoping the answer is no. I worry about anyone who would entrust their purse to someone on the basis of a shared interest in a particular fandom.

And I worry even more about someone who would entrust their mental health to someone based on that same criteria. If you don't know me, what makes you think I'm safe?

I've had it beaten into my head repeatedly that readers owe nothing to writers. I, as a writer, am either writing for myself alone, or I'm not a real writer. If I'm writing in the hopes of opening a two-way communication with the readers, too bad for me. If, in this so-called gifting society, I'm foolish enough to think someone might feel the societal pressure to say thank you--well, I can think again, because there is no such pressure. All the pressure is on the writer to shut up unless she's writing fan fiction. Talking about a need not to feel she's throwing her words into a vacuum is whiny and removes her title of "real writer." Writers have no right to expect anything.

Yet somehow readers expect writers to do lots of things. Spell-check, fact-check, write characters in-character.* Post in a way that's convenient for each reader. And make sure that nothing in the story comes as a nasty surprise to the reader. Because fandom is a safe place, and it's up to us writers to insure that safety.

I don't know why.

I've warned friends off certain stories I've written. I haven't done this because fandom is so warm and fuzzy, I've done it because they were friends, and I knew their tastes. But it is not my responsibility to protect strangers who might be emotionally upset from the stories I write. It's not any writer's responsibility. We are, after all, writing only for ourselves. So our sole duty is to write the story we're trying to tell as well as we possibly can. I'm creating a piece of literature. The reader doesn't enter into it.

Fandom can either be a two-way street, where readers make an effort to get to know writers and develop a relationship where they have a reason to assume there is some concern for them personally, or it can continue to be this one-way street, where writers provide free stories and readers take them without feeling any obligation to the writers. But a one-way street does only go one way. If the reader has no obligation to the writer, the writer has just as little obligation to the reader. And you can't compare fan fiction to books or movies or any other professionally produced mode of story-telling where there are book jackets or reviews to, because readers aren't paying writers. (And professional writers don't write their own book jackets or reviews anyway.) Readers aren't paying them for the stories, they aren't paying them for the synopses they want, or the ratings, or the warnings.

There's a call for a standard of behavior for writers, but--

I was going to say, there isn't one for readers, but the first part of that sentence is wrong. There are calls for two standards of behavior for writers. We're to write selflessly, expecting nothing in return, and we're to make sure that our stories carry proper warnings. Where is the call for a standard of response? Why is it whenever the subject of feedback is brought up, the consensus is that readers owe writers no consideration?

Well, sowing no consideration will reap you no consideration.

My trigger is being ignored. It's knowing that people want my stories but they don't want me, that except as a story-producer, I'm of no value whatsoever. It's being told by third parties that my stories are being discussed, but the people doing the discussing being unable to send me an email saying--anything. You want to talk meltdown? It sends me right back to grade school, where I lived like Carrie, only without the psychokinesis. And when I've spoken up--or have seen others speak up--the response is always that we're making too much of this, that we're whiners, that hey, *shrug* this is fandom, what do you expect?


I don't expect anything anymore. I do my own thing, in my own space.


*I'm actually in favor of spell- and fact-checking, and writing characters in character, and I try very hard to get that right. I do it for the same reason I try to be sure my hair is brushed and my slip isn't showing, because not doing it reflects badly on me.

The story of a story

Sunday, 12 June 2016 02:31 pm
carose59: fandom (the lunatic fringe begins here)
It's One Thing To Drive People Crazy. It's Another To Make Them Feel Ashamed Of It."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

[This is the story of how I wrote my most disturbing story, A View to a Kill.. I'll be referencing details from both Starsky & Hutch and Wiseguy, and I'm not going to try to annotate so this makes sense to those of you who don't watch the shows; it would be cost-prohibitive in terms of time.  Annotations are easy; gracefully written annotations are hard.]

One March morning in 2004—the year Pat died—I was IMing with a Starsky & Hutch fan named Giovanna. (At the time I thought she was a friend, but that turned out not to be true, and I'm now unwilling to write that she was.)

I don't know how the subject of Starsky dying of his gunshot wounds in Sweet Revenge (the final S&H episode) came up, but it did, and that led to the question What would Hutch do? The answer we came up with was, he'd hire someone to kill Gunther.  He'd want to do it himself, but if a first attempt failed, it would be impossible to get close to Gunther again.  And who better to hire than Sonny Steelgrave?

The set-up was, Hutch was in New York for Starsky's funeral.  He gets lost on the way to the airport and ends up in Atlantic City.  It's right at the beginning of the first episode, Sonny's name is in all the headlines.  Sonny's found out Vinnie's a fed, but he can't get rid of him because if anybody finds out he hired a fed, he's dead.  But we postulated that there had been territorial wars between the mob and Gunther.  If Sonny took out Gunther, he could take over his territory, and the number one priority of the mob is making money.  You earn, you can get by with an awful lot. So Hutch and Sonny agree to exchange murders.

I was so jazzed by this idea, I immediately went on break with a pad of paper and a pen and wrote the first two thousand words.

It was so much fun to write this crazy, improbable story.

I'm not sure how much I wrote to begin with, beyond that initial two thousand words.  Giovanna told me about scenes she was going to write and I wrote other stuff.  I stopped writing because Giovanna didn't send me any of what she said she was writing and I became hopelessly confused about pretty much everything, particularly the storyline and who was supposed to be writing what.

And pretty soon it didn't matter because Pat died and I had other things to think about.

Late that summer, I was casting around for something to write and I thought of this story.  My mood was dark and angry and dangerous, and this story fit it perfectly.  I contacted Giovanna, and this time she actually sent me stuff. We talked and we wrote, and then it came down to what it always seemed to whenever I collaborated with anyone: me finishing the story.  That's not a complaint; it's just how things have worked out.  It might just be that I get so excited by story ideas, I get greedy and want to do the whole thing.

I vividly remember the day I finished it. It was a gorgeous autumn day. I emailed the document to Giovanna and she called me while I was out for a walk.  I was giddy and scared—this story was incendiary.  We had killed Starsky, then we'd had Hutch kill Frank as well as Vinnie, and in the end we killed Hutch. I do remember how  delirious and sick the idea made me. It was a scary, awful, perfect idea, the kind of thing that could get a writer lynched in SH fandom. I had a couple of friends I bored with my worry over the possible repercussions.

We came up with a pseudonym and I created a hotmail account to use to Flamingo for one of her Dangerous zines. I didn't want anybody to know I'd written it, at least until the shockwaves had passed.


I don't remember what happened after that, except for two things: Flamingo accepted the story and Giovanna started doing something odd: from the moment I finished the story disowned it.  She invariably referred to it not as our story, but as my story.  I thought she was being modest—I was really stupid and very isolated.  I kept correcting her, saying that she'd done as much writing on it as I had, and that was true.  But it got wearing, what felt like giving constant reassurance, so I started treating it like a verbal tick and politely ignored it.

I’m 99.9% sure that Flamingo didn’t know we’d written it, not when she accepted it. In October, I went to SHareCon, and while I was there, she asked me to read over this story she’d gotten. She said this story wasn’t dark, it was ultraviolet. She was really crazy about it, but she wasn't that familiar with Wiseguy and she needed a Wiseguy fan to read it over.  She asked if I would do it.  I said yes.

She never sent it to me.

I found out later Giovanna had given the story in an incomplete form to a mutual acquaintance, and she had showed it to Flamingo.

But before that, there was the edit.

The zine was coming out in April, and by March I hadn’t gotten the story back for editting. So I wrote Flamingo asked about it, and was sent an edit. Most of it was no problem, but one question was about the ending—the original ending—which Giovanna had written. I couldn't answer the question. I couldn't get a hold of Giovanna to get an answer from her. She hadn’t spoken to me since Christmas, for reasons I still don’t know. I finally left her a message saying that I was going to make the suggested change because I didn't know what else to do.

From practically the moment it was finished, she had been talking about the story as my story rather than our story, & it felt very weird, that she suddenly wasn’t taking any responsibility for it. It would have been one thing if it was a normal story, but this is an incendiary device. I was really scared about publishing it, even under the pseud.

We had a weird conversation during which she kept insisting it was my story, mine and mine alone, she had not written any of it. (Though, oddly, she refused to say in so many words that she hadn't written any of it.  I felt like I was being set up for something.)

So I said I’d be editting it.

Before I did that, I wrote to Flamingo, to let her know what was going on.  I came out as the writer, which was no surprise to her, but her reaction shocked me.  This was how I found out that Giovanna had given the story to someone else—Flamingo said she’d been told I sent the story to the mutual acquaintance, but that wasn't true. As far as I knew, only five people knew about this story: Giovanna, me, Pat (who was dead), and the two friends I'd been whining to, and neither of them even know the person who showed the story to Flamingo.  I was expected not to remember who I'd shown the story to, but when you're that afraid, you're very careful.

Flamingo didn’t seem to want me to rewrite it, but I refused to publish something I hadn’t written, and by the way, fuck Giovanna.  If she wanted her writing published, she shouldn't have disowned it.

I spend the next two days rewriting. I removed practically everything I was sure was hers and rewrote it.

It was a relief on a couple of levels.  It was cathartic to rid myself of those vestiges of Giovanna, to trash her work.  And it was lovely to get rid of her ugly, horrible words.

I kept the title because I didn't have one.

I came up with a new pseud, one that reflected how I felt about the whole thing.

And in lieu of a writer's credit for whatever residue of Giovanna might be left on the story, I put in a dedication: for that lovely March day.

And that was it.


Later, I asked Flamingo to tell me what had happened. I'd been screwed over by at least two people who had called themselves my friends and I wanted—I guess I wanted to know how stupid I'd been. She told me that it was so long ago, she didn't remember. She further told me that it wasn't important. My experience has been that other people's violations are never important, and I wasn't important to Flamingo anyway.


*(Citation Lost)

The last of May

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 11:13 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"Forget Enemies; The Guy Didn't Have Friends!"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I've written about this before, but now I have a TV show to use to illustrate my point!

Growing up, I watched The Andy Griffith Show. By the time I was a teenager, I'd developed an aversion to it, and when Pat and I got together, it was something we talked about. (We talked about a lot of TV shows, it was one of the things we had in common. She thought Andy was a terrible father, but that's not what I'm here to write about.)

My aversion to the show started with a dislike of Barney. I didn't find him funny. Like Ted Baxter, he was incompetent and arrogant, but he was presented in such a way that I understood I was expected to like him. It left me frustrated with the people who made the show.

But as I got older, I realized the one I really, really disliked was Andy.

Sure, Andy seems like a nice guy. He's the opposite of Barney: competent and self-effacing. While we're supposed to like Barney because he's funny, we're supposed to like Andy because he's a good guy.

Only he's not.

Andy uses his knowledge of Barney's flaws to ridicule him. I don't like Barney, so I don't want to spend time with him, but Barney is supposed to be Andy's best friend. I don't like Barney, but I wouldn't treat him the way Andy does.

The basic set-up of a "Barney acts like an idiot" episode is: Barney gets himself in trouble and Andy rides to the rescue. What we're supposed to take from this is what a great friend Andy is, helping out his good friend.

That is not the message I get. What I get is, this is a guy who will only be nice to you when you're in trouble.

Which is where we get to my weird philosophy.

It has been my experience that most people will be kind to you when things are going wrong. If I walked into the grocery crying, strangers would ask if I was all right, and some of them would listen while I rambled about my mother and how lost I feel.

What's hard to come by is a friend who will listen with interest when you talk about some obscure thing that you just love.

After Pat died, there was no shortage of people who were more than willing to sympathize, but finding someone who just wanted to be my friend and have fun with me was nearly impossible. I got sympathy cards and flowers from people who wouldn't talk to me for two minutes unless I was crying and going on about missing Pat. I actually got a card from someone who had told me that my bad housekeeping was killing Pat. (I was afraid to open it; I was expecting her to tell me I'd murdered Pat. But, no.)

What I craved was some way of getting out of my own head, someone to play with, but apparently that wasn't allowed. Or I wasn't fun enough. Or something.

And it'll happen again. My mother will die, and people who don't want me in their lives will kindly send me their condolences. What the fuck do I want with their condolences? Am I crazy, or is this just cruel?


*Phil Guardino

First Saturday in May

Saturday, 7 May 2016 04:21 pm
carose59: amusements (a medley of extemporanea)
"He's One Of The Few Scientists In The World Who Can't Subtract."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I just finished watching a documentary on the Beatles post-breakup. It's called "The Beatles: Parting Ways." It was mostly OK—very balanced, pretty dull if you already know all this stuff.

That's not a complaint. You're waiting for the complaint, aren't you? Good, because there is one, or rather, a cry of bafflement.

I understand they couldn't get rights to any of the Beatles' music--I'm being generous and assuming this. And I understand they undoubtedly wanted some music in their movie. But what in the name of God could have made them choose The Animals' We Gotta Get Out of This Place? I admit, I'm not the crazy about the song, but that's really not the point.

The point is, couldn't they just get some cheap ambient music? Because playing a song by a contemporary of the Beatles makes me wonder if they were all that clear about who the Beatles were. Also, since the tone of the whole thing seemed to be directed at an audience whose knowledge of the Beatles consists of hearing some songs on the radio, knowing John Lennon is dead (though possibly not knowing there's any connection between John and the Beatles), and having seen some of A Hard Day's Night one Saturday afternoon (but not knowing what it was). This is an audience who is very likely not to know that what they're hearing is not, in fact, a Beatles' song.

I think a documentary should, at the very least, not confuse and mislead its audience.

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I thought that was going to be the most interesting thing to happen to me today, but that was before the phone call.

It was a withheld number, but I was bored, so I answered it. It was a man who asked me if I had a computer. I asked him what his name was and why he had a withheld number. This startled him. He told me his name (which I promptly forgot), then asked me again if I had a computer. I said yes in a decidedly mocking tone that he ignored. Then he asked me the last time I surfed the web. I told him last night, and he told me that he was a computer expert, and that my computer had downloaded something that was very dangerous.

I said it was very peculiar, the information he had and the information he didn't have. He had my phone number, but he didn't know whether I had a computer or whether I'd been online, but he did know that I'd downloaded something dangerous, and how did he explain that?

And that was when he said the best thing I've heard in I-don't-know-how-long. He told me had permission from the internet to call me—

I interrupted him. "Did you say you have permission from the internet?" I really thought I must have heard wrong.

"Yes, permission from the internet," he continued, as though this was actually something that made sense, "to contact you—"

"Permission from the internet." It was too hilarious not to say again.

Unfortunately, that was when my mother called, so I had to go. I wouldn't have had him much longer anyway, since I was going to ask him just how the internet contacted him to give him permission and who exactly he worked for.

Maybe he works for the internet.


*Sabrina Stuart
carose59: health matters (an intuition of mortality)
"Well, Perhaps You Should Consider That Your Delusion Is That You're Not Delusional."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

On April eleventh, a woman From Alere came out and showed me how to stick my mother's finger and test her Coumadin level. She was very nice and held my hand, which was a mistake. I didn't get the hang of it, but I didn't know it at the time.

The next Monday, I went over to test my mother again. Only I kept getting error codes. I stabbed my mother several times, wasted several of what I had been assured were expensive test strips, and upset the hell out of myself. I didn't get a reading, and finally I went home.

I went back over the next day and did the same thing. I used up six weeks' worth of strips in two days.

I got a call from Alere, asking why I hadn't called in the results. My answer was that I hadn't gotten a reading, that I was having a lot of trouble. The woman I spoke to asked me to elaborate on this, and almost immediately I found out that either she was confused or I had been trained wrong. I was assured that she would talk me through the procedure, and all I could think was, how can I hold the phone and do this at the same time?

(Of course I could use the speaker phone, but that's where my stress level is now. And it wouldn't work anyway, because telling my mother that I was talking on the phone getting instructions would not be enough to shut her up so I could concentrate and hear somebody else talking. She wouldn't stop talking when the first woman was there training me.)

Anyway, I didn't do anything at all except duck their calls.

Until yesterday, when I decided to answer.

I talked to another very nice woman, and I explained everything. I told her my problem was twofold: I can't see what I'm doing, and I can't feel it. I stick her and the blood starts, but I can't see where it's coming from. And since I can't feel it, I just don't know what I'm doing. Oh, and my mother doesn't help.

She isn't unco-operative, but she won't move closer to me, just holds her hand out to a point where I can barely reach it.

And I told her that I'd been avoiding their calls because I cannot do this, and while I have no problem telling them I can't do it, I wasn't up for arguing with someone about how incompetent I am, trying to convince them I'm incompetent. Bad enough to be incompetent without having to argue someone into believing me. Not that they ever believe you, they just think you're a quitter. Anyone can do this, anyone. If you can't do it, it's because you're not trying.

The woman was very nice and said she understood and didn't believe me. And I had to argue with her about it.

Then we moved to the second part of my pathetic life, the part where I have no friends or family who could do this instead of me.

Well, I don't. I can't even imagine who I would ask to come over every week to do this.

The woman was very insistent about all this, and when I said that maybe we just needed to have somebody come and do the testing, she said that was an option, but it would be expensive.

Of course, Alere isn't in the business of sending out nurses, they're in the business of selling home health supplies. So I don't particularly trust what she has to say on the subject.

And now I have to call somebody.


*Dr. Lance Sweets
**Alere Inc. is a global diagnostic device and service provider.
carose59: work (rather be doing something else)
There Are 350 Varieties Of Shark, Not Counting Loan And Pool.*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Before I continue the riveting account of how I help keep the wheels of the library turning, I want to fine-tune some of what you already know.

The tote tags—three-by-five cards with agency stickers, used to denote where a particular box of books is going—are divvied up into five index card file boxes. I talked about how the number and order of these cards is determined by the distribution list, and the list is determined by the size and needs of the library branches. I had been fiddling with the number of cards for some time. My goal was that when I replenished the boxes it would be because they were all running low. The small branches normally only get one box a day; the medium-sized branches get one or two; the big branches get two, sometimes three, maybe even four.

When we left off, they had just changed the list again. This presented a problem. Well, two problems. The first was, they moved some of the medium-sized branches near the top of the list. The second was that two days a week, Central was not number one.

This meant that I had to rearrange the boxes, which was no big deal. It further meant that I had to make divider cards for Central, which was also no big deal. But I decided it wasn't worth the time and supplies to make divider cards for the three days Central's cards would be at the front. It seemed silly.

However, some unnamed person in our department was apparently disturbed by this lack of consistency. I can understand that; odd things disturb us all. Or maybe they really couldn't figure out that the tags marked CEN were Central tags without a divider marked CEN in front of them. I know people like that. Either way, one day I noticed that Central dividers had been created for the three days Central was number one in the rotation.

That was annoying but not actually a problem The problem was with the other two days. The first two branches were medium-sized with a medium number of cards, but because they were higher up on the list, they were getting more material. They were running out of tags faster on those two days.

Adjustments were needed.

Before I go on, let me say this. You might be thinking, well, why not just put in some more cards? How hard is that? Well, it's not hard at all, but here's the thing—the things, because there's more than one.

Back in the old days, when we ran off catalogue cards for the card files, I got to where, if I needed to run fifty cards, I could open a package of a hundred and divide it in half perfectly. I knew the feel of them. I can't do this with these cards because they're not all the same weight. A hundred orange cards doesn't feel the same as a hundred pink cards. So there's that.

Add to that that I'm just truly horrible at estimating, so knowing how many cards to put in—without counting them—is something that makes my brain hurt.

And add to that—well, let's talk about the cards.

When I took this particular chore, there weren't enough cards to fill the boxes. The system was new, it was mostly theoretical. I spent three days sorting, counting, and making cards. Fourteen thousand fifty (14,050) cards (in old numbers) are required to fill the boxes. The branches are supposed to send them back, but not all of them do. And for a while there were issues with Shipping and Receiving returning them when they ended up back there. It's a small, stupid, tedious job without which the distribution of new material screeches to a halt.

Before I can refill the boxes, I have to sort and count the cards that have come back. There are never enough to just pull out the remainders and replace them with a whole new pack. Instead I can do that with about three boxes, then take the what I've gotten from those and make up enough for the last two. Making more cards doesn't help; they don't come back.

I was still watching the way the cards were being used, trying to find a system. While I was doing this, someone in the department came along, made up cards on their own (not following the arcane code), didn't count a damn thing, and over-filled the boxes. (One reason I had immediately reduced the number of cards in the boxes was that they were filled so full, it was impossible to flip through them to take out what was needed. I was later told that the original numbers were determined by "how many cards would fit" in the box. How many fit depends how you define fitting. If we were selling boxes of cards, I'd say filling them tight is a good thing. But if your goal is making them easy to use, there has to be some give. I gave the boxes give.)

I was annoyed by this. After I straightened out the mess, I took all the supplies to my desk. Before that they'd been housed in a cubicle used for various tasks we don't do often enough to make it worthwhile for everybody to keep the supplies at their desks. I decided if someone wanted to meddle in a job that had been assigned to me, they would have to invade my cubicle to do it.

I didn't come up with a solution, but it didn't matter because they changed the distribution list again.

Stay tuned.


*L. M. Boyd
carose59: dreams (whose mind watches itself)
"On The Way Out Here, They Sit Back And Enjoy The Ride. They Talk To Me. Sometimes We Stop And Watch The Sunsets And Look At The Birds Flying. Sometimes We Stop And Watch The Birds When There Ain't No Birds . . . And Look At The Sunsets When It's Raining. We Have A Swell Time."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Pat and I were living in the last place we lived before we moved into my grandmother's house (where she died and I still live) and we were the same ages we were then (late twenties/early thirties). We had a van and there was something wrong with it—something that kept changing.

A young guy who had been going around offering to mow lawns said he could fix it. He seemed pleasant enough, but somehow how I could see that he was secretly making fun of us and wasn't trustworthy. This was an ability that I had gotten from Shirley Jackson, and throughout the dream I kept thinking that she must have been depressed from a very early age, being able to tell what people were really thinking.

Still, we let him fix the van, and he did get it running. There was all this stuff with him showing us things we should know—like how to tell if we had flat tire. That part really annoyed me; I told him I'd changed a flat tire before, I certainly knew what one looked like. But he kept going on about how helpless women are in the world. By this time Pat was getting pissed off with him, too.

Then we got in the van with some friends of his. It was very confusing; we were in our van, with him driving, with his van following—apparently not driven by anyone. We were supposed to be taking him back to where his van was, which I suddenly realized was stupid since it was right there behind us.

Just as I noticed this, he and his friends were gone, into their own van, driving in a different direction. We were in Garfield Park in a van that was moving but nobody was driving. Pat and I were both (quite reasonably) freaked out about this, though it somehow confirmed what I'd known about the lawn mowing guy. Then I climbed into the driver's seat and put my foot on the brakes. The van didn't respond right away, which is apparently normal when it's been driving itself for a while, but after a while I got it under control.

I asked Pat why we didn't just go home, and she said we had been on our way to my cousin Darby's, but it was starting to get dark now and maybe we should go home.

We were moving into a different apartment, one on the south side. I said that it seemed very strange to be moving to the south side; the farthest south we'd ever lived was Washington Street and I wasn't used to facing south. (Washington Street is US 40, and it's the street that bisects Indianapolis into north and south. We lived on the north side of Washington—clearly not very far south at all.) But we weren't in Indianapolis, we were in Brooklyn, in the Bay Ridge area on the Belt Parkway, only I could see the Indianapolis skyline in the distance. But none of this was upsetting. It was a cool blue and pink summer evening with dusk setting in and we were very happy.


*E. J. Lofgren
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"Workers In One Office Were Asked To Determine Whether A Banana On A Desk Was An 'Active Banana'—Which Would Be Eaten Immediately—Or An 'Inactive Banana'—Which Is One That Should Be Put Away In A Drawer."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

If I'm required to answer factual questions with multiple choice answers, I expect those questions to make sense. If they're multiple choice questions, I expect those choices to be relevant to the question, and one of them to at least come close to being accurate.

This is a question I have to answer to get a health screening to get a lower rate on my health insurance (that lived in the house that Jack built!):


Have you ever had any other condition?

Never
In the past
Have Currently / Not Being Treated
Have Currently / Taking Medication
Have Currently / Under Doctor's Care



Have I ever had any other condition? What?

How could the answer to this question possibly be of use to anyone ever? It tells them nothing about me, and if you got a bunch of them in a group, it wouldn't tell them anything about their customers in general. "Why, yes, I had another condition, for which I'm under a doctor's care. But I won't be telling you what it is, ha ha ha ha ha!"

Or what if I've had more than one condition, with different answers? What the fuck is this nonsense? In my head, I keep hearing myself say, "No, I've never had any other condition," in a tone dripping with sarcasm, but that won't translate to the radio button response. I find myself unable to answer because the responses are all wrong because the question makes no sense! And I'm supposed to trust these people with my health care!

I find this insanely stressful. I even called to complain about it. The woman I spoke to admitted that the question seemed pointless. I feel like a Vulcan living on a planet ruled by Pakleds!**

I sort of hung up on her. We were reaching the "Is there anything else I can do for you/thank you for calling/if you have any other questions or concerns" part of the conversation, and I'm sick of the. So before she could start I said, "Thank you for calling me back. Goodbye!" I sound like my mother, only she only does that with family and I would only do it with strangers.

Medical questions are bad enough without being obscure and pointless. Just filling out a medical questionnaire can bring me to tears over all the bad decisions I can't quit making. Who are the people who write these things, and why are they making more money than me?


*Peter Sagal
**In case you don't know, Pakleds are a very, very stupid race who stole some kind of weapon on Star Trek: Next Generation. After they threatened to use this weapon, Picard tricked them out of it. Throughout the episode they kept bragging about how smart they were, but once they'd lost the weapon, they said, "We are not smart." Pat and I found this so hilarious, it became the thing we said when either of us made a mistake. "I've misplace the car keys. I am not smart."
carose59: friendships gone wrong (and my poetry to protect me)
I'm Shorter Than People Think I Am. I'm Not Actually Any Shorter Than I Am, But I Am Shorter Than People Think I Am.*

-:- -:- -:- -:-


Let me tell you a story.

Many years ago, I had a couple of friends: Killa and Ninon. We used to spend time on IM, talking and having a good time. I was having a good time anyway; what do I know about what anyone else was feeling?

After a while, we drifted apart.

Well. Things with Ninon got strange and sad and we stopped being friends.

Things with Killa . . . I still don't think I know. All I could ever put together was that on her top ten list of favorite people . . . I was number eleven or twelve. She liked me a lot, but not enough to spend time on because there were people in line ahead of me.**

What can you do? What can you ever do?

But one conversation we had has stuck with me all this time. Killa told me that one of the problems was that when we were IMing, I would try to keep her from signing off when she needed to.

I didn't say anything.

There wasn't anything to say. It wasn't true.

It was Ninon who would try to pressure Killa to stay. Part of it was that Ninon was convinced Killa's husband was abusing her emotionally and she was trying to keep her in a "safe" place. I didn't think too much of Killa's husband either***, but that was her business. She was an adult and she hadn't asked for help.

I had been so happy then. I'd loved those talks and I used to save them, thinking I would go back and read them over. After that conversation, I did go back, just to be sure, and I was right. So I could even have proved that it, but it wouldn't have changed anything. People decide who you are and that's it. That's who you are.

And if I'd shown her the IMs, I would just have been an obsessive who saved these conversations for years just to prove I was right. You can't win. So, like I say, I didn't say anything. But I knew everything was over, and it was.


*Bob Newhart
**It was a relief, really. Because having a friend tell you they like you, they really like you, only they're just always too busy to spend time with you is like having an affair with a married man. You keep hoping someday you'll get to be a real person in their life, but you never do. It wastes so much of your time and energy, and it's a cruel and cowardly way to treat someone.
***I've had a couple of friends who have done this same thing: talking about their husbands in a way that makes them sound awful. They say they love their husbands, but the only stories they tell are about how badly they're being treated. It leads one not to think well of these un-met husbands.
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"Look, Look, Look, Next Time I'm Apologizing To Somebody And I Have To Spell Something Out In Rose Petals, I'm Taking My Business Elsewhere, OK, Buddy?"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I use a CPAP. Every three months they contact me and ask if I need any new supplies (masks, tubes, things like that). Last November I changed the kind of mask I use. In February I got the email and responded that yes, I did need a new mask.

When it arrived, it was the old kind. I wasn't in desperate need, and getting this straightened out required the dread talking to people thing, so I only called a couple of weeks ago.

But nothing got straightened out because their computer was down. I was told to call back in not more than an hour. I found this a little strange—the not-more-than-an-hour part—but I did. The computer was still down. This was a Friday. I was instructed to call back Monday.

Well, that didn't happen because Mondays are long days for me and I don't get home until nearly five. Tuesdays are the same. I have no explanation what was wrong with Wednesday or Thursday, but I managed to call back on Friday.

I was told that a pre-paid shipping label would be sent out, and when they received the incorrect mask, they'd send the correct one. I said fine. We hung up.

When I got home from work yesterday, there was a UPS delivery failure sticker on my door. They had been there to pick up the mask.

First, the woman I spoke to told me I'd be mailing it back. Second, their idea of how fast the mail is is either forty years old or insanely optimistic. I talked to them Friday afternoon and they thought something mailed after that would have reached me not just by Monday, but by Monday-before-I-left-for-work, which means Saturday.

I wasn't going to just write the name of the company on the package and leave it for UPS, so this morning I called to find out what was going on, which led to some unpleasantness. The woman I spoke to told me they never use the post office. I'm assuming she meant to move supplies from one place to another, since they most definitely didn't use UPS to bring me the tag. Then she said some partial sentences that seemed to add up to this method of picking up the package had failed and they'd have to go to plan B. Plan B was me bringing the mask to them.

They're not in Indianapolis, they're north of Indianapolis in Fishers, and since I'm having trouble getting to the mall, driving to Fishers is not something I'm able to do right now. I'm also not much interested in correcting their mistakes at my time and expense.

Alternately, they could send a technician to my house and we could just swap masks. Both of those options were offered the first time around, and I turned them both down.

The woman I was speaking to told me that the technician could be there in three to five business days and I didn't have to be there. Anyone in my household would be fine. I said my cat doesn't answer the door.

I've had this experience before and I always find it baffling and infuriating: every time I would start to speak, the CSR would start talking. If I was quiet, so was she. It's very weird. It's like the last thing they want is to hear what you have to say.

I finally said, "Dammit, will you just be quiet long enough for me to finish a sentence?" and she hung up on me.

So I called back and asked to speak to whoever was in charge. Two hours and two more phone calls later, I got to. (I had left a message, but of course had not gotten a call back.)

The charming supervisor I spoke to listened to my tale of woe and said nothing. I waited in the silence and then she said that she was reading the notes in my file, to find out what had happened.

I did not say, "I just told you what happened," although I wanted to. This is something else I've experienced before, being subtly accused of lying, although in this case I think she meant she wanted to see what the problem was and just phrased it badly.

She was very gracious. She said that because of the problems I'd had, they would send somebody out on whatever day was convenient for me.

I still find this weird. It's like they don't really trust any mode of shipping, or because they screwed up one UPS pick up, they could never again trust them to do anything. It's not like we're talking gold bullion here; it's a bunch of overpriced plastic.

So I asked what was wrong with UPS. They weren't even the ones who had made the mistake, that was her department, and UPS's turnaround time had been really great. Actually send me the label this time and we're in business.

Strangely, strangely, she didn't seem to like this idea, but she agreed. She also said what should have been said when I called on Friday: that they would ship the correct mask today even though they didn't have the incorrect one back yet. Seriously, I'm getting billed for it, so if I don't return it it's my problem. This we-don't-trust-you behavior is ridiculous, and it's insulting coming from a company that's now screwed up repeatedly.

I wanted to be snarky, but I wasn't because I was getting what I wanted. That is one thing I know how to do: win without screwing it up for myself.


*Eric R. Lawson
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"Oh, No, I Haven't Seen Anyone For Years."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Saying anything out loud to anyone has begun to lead, invariably, to anxiety and self-recriminations. No matter how mild the encounter, the odds of my walking away from it feeling like something other than a failure are slim to minuscule. I always say the wrong thing, even if only by saying too much.

I'm not interesting.

I can see the interest die in people's eyes practically the moment I open my mouth. But sometimes the urge to connect is too strong and I ramble on for seconds at a time, pouring out what are supposed to be amusing words, thoughts, ideas.

What comes out instead is rambly disjointedness.

I work well only in support, in being interested in what other people have to say. My interests are weird, esoteric, or old and passé. We've all moved on, I hear people thinking. Nobody cares about that anymore, so even the height of eloquence and wit are tedious and irritating.

Recently I reached out to a former friend. I'd been thinking about her and having . . . I don't know. Not premonitions. Strong thoughts. I wanted to check. (Two friends have died without me knowing about it, so I'm a little sensitive on the subject now.) So I wrote.

And she wrote, said she was fine, asked how I was.

I should have known better, but I answered. Used words. Spoke of myself.

I won't hear from her again.

A weekly phone call from a friend has come to mean an afternoon of tears. I shouldn't have spoken so much. What was I thinking? I try to talk only about the things that are interesting, but what would those be? My life is not interesting; my interests are not interesting. I'm looking for a way to tell her I can't do this anymore, a way that tells her how grateful I am for her forbearance and that I enjoy listening to her, but I'm afraid: afraid of hurting her and afraid of crying. I don't know what to do.


*Venus Flytrap
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"So This Is The Guy Who Finally Brought A Successful Version Of The Mafia To L. A."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Last autumn, sometime before my mother had her stroke, a guy came around wanting to do yard work. I was on my way home when she called me and there was much confusion, at least on my part. I wanted him to deal with the branches that overhang the sidewalk and could cause problems for people walking by, people who might complain to the city. She wanted them to deal with some bushes that annoyed her to look at. These priorities make me crazy because of course if somebody complained to the city, who do you think would have to deal with it?

Anyway, he cut down some stuff and he was very charming and I hate talking to people. And of course he was lying to me and of course he didn't take away the stuff he cut down the way he said he would. The object of the game is to get as much money as possible for the least amount of work. And he wanted more money than what my mother said he wanted, but you know, I never have the faintest idea who to believe in these situations. Really I didn't believe either of them, I just told him not to do the stuff she couldn't pay for and hoped everybody would leave me alone.

(Of course I had to explain this repeatedly to my mother.)

Then he came back a couple of days later wanting to do more work and I told him that we could talk about it after he took away the stuff he left behind and he said he'd come back get it.

Of course he didn't.

Then he called a few days after that to tell me he was coming to get the stuff. I wanted to ask him why the hell he was calling to tell me he was doing the thing he was already supposed to have done, but instead I said that was fine.

Of course he never came and did anything.

Then I didn't hear from him the rest of the winter and life was good on the not dealing with people front.

And then, of course, he came back the other day.

Now here's the other problem. I don't see very well. I stress out when strangers show up. And he's a young guy with a passing resemblance to my godson, so when he showed up the other day, for a few seconds I was off-scale** happy because I thought it was Steve. This is really stupid because nobody in my family is ever going to just show up to see me. So I go from stressed at strange car to off-scale happy about Steve to oh, fuck, it's this guy. This doesn't help in my dealing with people skills.

He tells me he was hoping to see me again, that he drives past the house to see if my car is here.

This is not a good thing to tell a person who has agoraphobia because her house has been broken into repeatedly. But of course I smile and am friendly.

Again he wants to do work.

I should have told him that he still hadn't dealt with what he left behind before. But the best way to get rid of someone is smile and be pleasant and say no. So I was pleasant and said no.

Of course he'll be coming back. I can hardly wait.



*Will Pope
**Many years ago Pat and I went to a talk Kurt Vonnegut gave. Among other things, he talked about the rhythms and patterns of stories, and one of the things he said was about how, when Romeo and Juliet fell in love, they experienced off-scale happiness. Pat and I were both taken with this phrase and it became part of our language. This is one of the main things I love about Pat.

Money matters

Saturday, 12 March 2016 06:39 pm
carose59: money (what it don't get i can't use)
"Four Fifteen. Not Four, Not Four Thirty, But Four Fifteen. Hm. She Thinks To Intimidate Me By The Use Of Quarter Hours?"*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

Whenever I find myself in a quandary—which is far more often than I like—the first thing I think of is Robert Benchley's book My Ten Years in a Quandary, and How They Grew and I wonder if I ever read it. Then I think of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and I wonder if that's what I read when I was in San Antonio when I was thirteen, because I certainly read something like that and I'm sure it wasn't Mary Poppins. Well, reasonably sure. And then I think of the interlocking watermarks on my aunt's dining room table and wonder what book that came from and how that one series of Agatha Christie books had marks that looked like interlocking watermarks on the covers, and usually by that time I've forgotten what the problem was and I'm thinking about something else, which might have something to do with why I so seldom accomplish anything.

The latest quandary is what to do about my bank. I've been a member of this credit union for a really long time and I'm mostly happy with them except that they've started charging fees for things and also giving credits for things and it all pretty much comes out even, but it's annoying. It's particularly annoying that they're calling the credits fees; there's a reward fee for direct deposit. This makes me want to slap someone, preferably whoever came up with this remarkably stupid term.

I could deal with the fees. I could deal with the stupid terminology. What I can't deal with is the password bullshit.

This is what I know about online passwords: long and strange and filled with symbols is better. For this reason, I have a system for creating passwords. These are my credit union's criteria for passwords: Your password must meet the following criteria: not contain your user ID | be at least 8 characters | be no more than 12 characters | not be consecutive numbers or letters (for example 1234 or abcde) | not be numbers or letters in a series (for example 11111 or aaaaa) | not contain your SSN | not contain your phone number | not contain your name | the password cannot be recently used | not contain the word 'password' | not contain the word 'Fiserv' | not contain special characters other than '! # $ * ? @ . - _' | contain at least 3 of the following character types - uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters '! # $ * ? @ . - _' |

I can work with this, except for the insane twelve character limit and the limit on special characters. These rules are counter-intuitive. For over two years I've been unable to come up with a secure password I can remember.

So here's what happens when I go to pay my bills: I go to balance my checkbook and I can't remember my password. I tell the website I can't remember my password and because I'm on a Mac, it gives me an error message. Then I have to call and get my password reset. This can take several days, depending on when I start the process. I've gotten to where I dread paying bills and very often they're late and I'm stressed out and anxious about it all the time.

So now I'm trying to figure out what to do. I've tried talking to them about it at the credit union but they treat me as though I'm mentally unbalanced, and by the time I'm talking to them, I usually am fragile and emotionally unsound with frustration. Apparently I'm the only one who has this problem

So what else is new?


*Miss Jean Brodie

July 2017

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