Touching A Land Mine With A Barge Pole

Also known as ignoring the warning bells and the voices in your head.

We have all done it at some stage of our lives, but I address myself to those who have not quite reached that stage. Unlike Wells Fargo, this stage doesn’t have a guard with a shotgun on the front seat.

We will all encounter situations where there is a little internal voice – or a faint hint – that tells us to back away. To avoid engaging. To be quiet and do it quickly. If we are intelligent, we listen to those voices. There may also be tiny silver bells, or submarine diving klaxons. In any case they invite us to heed and hold off. And how often have we ignored them…and ploughed ahead to disaster.

I can think of a dozen times when discretion would have been the better part of valour and disinterest the better part of friendship. Yet I only acceded to the call of wisdom in half of the cases – and got 6 bruises for the other half. I’ve lost money, friends, reputation, goods, and self-esteem by barging wildly into situations that needed me to be somewhere else.

This was bad news for me over the years, but fortunately each mental scar has the decency to throb in wet weather and remind me of itself – and I have gotten old enough to take lessons from my own past. I may not remember dates of battles won, but I do remember defeats. Each one has helped me far more than the victories.

I recently had an opportunity to step into the breach and ” do the right thing ” and cover myself with self-love…and I looked at the ceiling and walked on by. I also deliberately avoided doing bad things to good people and/or becoming a living saint. And I think I shall be much happier in all cases for it. I know how quickly good works can turn into bad times.

Land mines blast far further than barge poles can reach.

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” How Do You Know That I Don’t Know What You Ought To Know That I Found Out? “

” There. Hah ! You can’t answer that, can you? ”

Well, no I can’t. I don’t even understand the question, let alone any answer. I lost traction at the second ” Don’t ” and slid off the road. As it is, I don’t think I’ll get back up – just let me lie here for a awhile.

This sort of rhetoric is all too common in the criminal worlds of marriage, CNN news reports, and Senate Enquiries. It starts off with the determination to accuse, then confuse, and then finishes by refusing to be defused. It’s like a German bomb at the bottom of the garden – you know it’s deadly and you don’t want to go anywhere near it – but the privy is right next door and eventually you’re going to have to pee…

As a younger person I was fearful – and when I was a student, a junior practitioner, or a shop employee, I always felt at such a social disadvantage that any sort of bullying like this always succeeded. I was always flustered. I was always defensive. I played right into the hands and wandered right across the sights of anyone who wanted to set one of these things up.

Now I am older, retired, and irresponsible. You may think that I should have phrased that last bit differently – that I should have written something about having fewer responsibilities. Possibly. That, too, But I’ll stick with irresponsible because I know me very well.

However you phrase it, I am a different creature. I still fluster, but only in traffic jams, and even then not so much. I have traded defensiveness for offensiveness and find I like it far better. And if you essay to bully me I regard it as an invitation to a fine day’s sport. I am retired and I can play all day.

I also have the advantage that I laugh at myself and suggest to others that they do so as well. This removes the weapon of scorn from the bully’s hand. I am financially independent, which takes the whip away from the boss. I’ve done my time on the gurney and the operating table and have lost a lot of fear of the physical thereby. And I have all day to play.

Ask me a bullying question, Mr. De Mille. I’m ready for my close-up…

You Can’t Say That!

But I did say it

” But you are not allowed to say that! That is not acceptable! You are not allowed to have those opinions! We forbid it! ”

We? Who is this ” we ” that you write about?

”  Me and all the other the moral people! The people who are caring and sensible and good and right and virtuous! The people who demand that you toe the line and conform to our moral standards and only print our opinion! ”

So no other opinion is permitted?

” No! We are a free country and you are free to think as we do or suffer our displeasure! ”

Do you always speak in exclamation marks?

” Yes! We are never wrong! “

Cynical? Naw – Don’t Trust Myself That Much…

I have been accused of cynicism and irony.

The persons who said this were probably hoping I’d offer them a bribe to change their minds. I would be happy to send them a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates for their opinion – It has opened my eyes to the value of mistrust and suspicion.

Of course there are others who see this philosophy as detrimental – who cry that all men are brothers and all women are sisters. Take a look at a family that is composed of brothers and sisters and count the bruises, scars, and other souvenirs. You don’t get that as an only child. if you want to be savage you have to go away from the cozy hearth and the bosom of the family. Strangers are your only legitimate targets and the world only has 9 billion of them left.

As far as the irony, I do think I may have been a little indiscrete with that. I have laughed where I should have cried and pointed out follies that others wished to be hidden. It has made me enemies, though not the sort of quality fiends that I really want. Mostly just people who snarl at me in passing. Some, of course, adopt the sensible course of putting on stern disapproving looks or blank RBF looks. There is little one can say to them, though there is a great deal that can be written about them. I tend to do this on the doors of lavatory stalls. With pictures.

Cynicism has saved me a great deal of money in the past, and as internet promotions ramp up, I’m looking to it as a real shield. Of course I disbelieve anything that comes over the telephone these days, particularly if it is spoken in a Peter Sellers accent…but I am also binning any number of contacts that urge me to do things on email or Facebook. When you close down the latter the air clears remarkably.

 

What Do You Do When…

  • When Facebook is not an option: When you have committed yourself to a month of no FB to see what the effect on your life will be.
  • When you do not want the latest toy that your toy retailer has put out on the shelf because your current toy is working just fine.
  • When the motion pictures on offer at your local cinema are too juvenile for words or too politically correct to stomach.
  • When every new trendy drink costs $ 20 and every new trendy food in the restaurant costs $ 50.

Answer? You blink twice, knock the water out of your ears, and come to your senses.

  • Firstly, you do things that do not involve Facebook. Hobbies, for instance. Or reading. Or writing. Or visiting friends. Or going for little trips. The things you did before you first bought one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s nickel bags.

You’ll have time for things that you ran out of time for prior to Facebook eating your day hollow. Or to put it in another way, you can call into a bar for a drink and walk out again or you can live in a bar and venture out for brief periods. Same bar, different life.

  • If you are playing with your toys so hard that the wheels fall off and all the paint is gone, you may need to get new ones at regular intervals. If you are not, the old ones can serve a great deal more time than you’d think. The money you save using the old ones can be put to other uses.
  • A motion picture is someone with millions of dollars in the bank telling you a story for ninety minutes while you sit in the dark and cringe at the price of a chocolate ice cream. The story may be well worth the telling and well worth the seeing  – if the story teller and the tale are good. If they are new, they gain a whole dimension.

If the tale is not new – if it’s a re-hash of something you saw in a comic book in 1957 – or if it’s so puerile as to suggest a Little Golden Book worth $ 4,000,000, you are perfectly justified in giving it a bye rather than a buy. With ninety extra minutes and the price of the ticket and the chocolate ice cream in your pocket you can immerse yourself in the best of new or classic literature and feel a lot more adult for it.

  • At the end of spending from $ 70 to $ 120 at dinner time you are entitled to feel both full and foolish – but in some cases you’ll only get the latter. Some restaurants do, indeed, see you coming. And then they see you off.

You need not spend that much to feed yourself, either at home or on your travels. You need not eat badly, unless you’ve fetched up at a country town that has nothing on offer at all except a blood pit pub. If you’re going to be on the road, take an emergency pack of beer, soup, crackers, sausage, and cheese, and  even if the town has closed for the night you should be able to go to bed fed. If you are in a strange city look for a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Greek restaurant and eat what they cook.

If you are at home, consider the advantages you have – your own pantry, your own icebox, your own cellar. Your own expertise at preparing something that you like. Your own schedule. Do not sacrifice these for those fast-food lights winking down the road.

For Goodness Sake, Just Write A Weblog Column Already…

And the goodness may be your own peace of mind.

One day recently I made a bad purchase – for a small price. Neither the seller nor I were aware of a defect in a product that rendered it valueless. There was no chance of recompense from a supplier or maker – they were unknown and far away. The only saving grace about the whole thing was the low price of the article – it was not worth raising a stink about it to anyone.

But it was worth writing a weblog column about – tying in memories of cheap goods from Hong Kong that plagued us in the 1950’s and contrasting that with the generally high standard of production from China these days. Didn’t put the coin back in my pocket, but did keep the thing in perspective – and the release of steam meant that the rest of the boiler remained calm.

The weblog column is much maligned as too petty for real writers to bother with – and too common for real readers to look at. Bit of elitism there, but it doesn’t touch the real benefit that writing one may give; the opportunity to vent a grievance or order your mind when no-one else will listen. If I were a single person without family or friends – which I thank the Lord is not the case – I would regard the humble blog as a lifeline to sanity.

As it is, I have looked at sanity and decided that I didn’t need it all that much.

When They Ask You To Play ” Misty “

Yet again.

You may never be in this position, Clint, and good luck to you. but if you ever do find yourself listening to that phone call or reading that email…

  • Immediately remove yourself from all social media. Cancel your subscription to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other electronic conduit.
  • Clean out all traces of the correspondence that have accumulated. This may involve burning old letters tied with blue ribbons, deleting files, throwing everything into the ” secure trash disposal ” icon, or any other means necessary to clear the table.
  • Consider reducing your computer and hard drive to atoms by strapping it onto a North Korean nuclear device and poking Kim in the back with a stick. As alternatives you can do much the same with an oxy-acetylene torch or by wrapping the computer with a sock and putting a matching pair into the dryer. With any luck the offending one will disappear into the sock void and never be seen again
  • Contact your local network news agency and confess to something. Make it something juicy – it need not be a true confession to an actual crime or sin, as long as it is going to be chortle-worthy on the 6:00 news. Make yourself a neon-lit, steam-powered, toxic social pariah. That usually stops most pests.
  • Send a price list for misty-playing. I usually ask $ 30 an hour and in the cases where I suspect the bill wouldn’t be paid, I demand cash in advance. You’d be surprised how often a business-like approach to this sort of thing sorts out the cheapjacks.
  •  Move away. Away away. Go interstate or overseas.
  • Take holy orders. Tuck yourself into whichever superstition seems most likely to provide protection against unbelievers.
  • Come out of the closet. Or go back into the closet. Buy an closet at IKEA and spend the weekend putting it together. Buy an secondhand closet from someone who has come out of it and no longer needs it. If you do, inspect it beforehand for moths or worse.
  • Just play Misty.