May 18, 2007

You Really Don't Want to Piss Me Off Right Now (Final Version: May 19, 2007)

I've spent this week, and particularly, today beyond irritated at the oblivious idiocy of others. This doesn't mean I was doing everything right. I wasn't. I was just trying to put one foot ahead of the other. But I witnessed certain behaviors that made me wonder whether the perpetrators of said behavior suffered from Asberger's syndrome, some form of autism, or simply were incapable of viewing things from other people's perspectives. Most of the actions I observed, I observed in public, on the Metro. I also observed some behavior at various professional-type environments including my office (which I am not describing, but it added to my general irritability and intolerance at the present), a professional society to which I belong, at a professional's office, and at a charity where I volunteer. To my immense gratification and happiness I observed none of this behavior while at TigerGrrl's school (chaperoning a field trip) or within my apartment complex, so the really important areas for me remained, how shall I put this: asshole free. But for now, a bit of whinge ongoing. You might want to go away now and come back when I'm more tolerant of human foibles.

Now, a number of these perspectives conflict with one another, but that's part of what I am talking (well, writing, really) about.

Complaint Une: Just being plain old selfish (as well as deeply unprofessional, and possibly commiting malpractice or even treason, but I think those things go along with the selfishness). I have seen this happen many times. It's mostly men. Middle-aged white men wearing suits. Sometimes it's women, sometimes it's teenagers, and sometimes it's men of other races, but the vast majority of times it's middle-aged white men wearing suits and carrying briefcases or laptops.

As you may or may not know, Washington, DC has a lovely and now heavily used subway system called the Metro, the subway cars of which have more seats per car than most other subway systems. Here's what the objects of my ire do: they sit down on a two-seat seat on Metro during rush hour and place their things on the other seat. Or they sit in the outside seat, blocking access to the window seat. Sometimes they even do this in the handicapped seats. Often, they are lawyers or government officials. How do I know? I can read what they are working on. For the lawyers, it is often a document marked, in bold: Confidential -- Attorney-Client Privilege or Confidential -- Attorney Work Product. For the government workers, occasionally (not as often as the lawyers, sometimes the document is just bureaucratic gobbledegook with no secrecy or confidentiality markings) the document is marked Confidential or, more rarely, Secret.*

I always ask them to move their stuff and sit next to them. They inevitably have their legs spread and are taking up more than half the seat. I may nudge or elbow them. If I'm feeling really obnoxious, I ask them about the subject matter of their privileged, confidential, or secret document. They always look offended. One guy even said, "Can't you see that you shouldn't be reading that?" My response: "I think you're the one who's failing in your obligations here, n'est-ce-pas?"**

For once and for all, for the love of squirrels and cuddly bunnies and the American way, keep your privileged, confidential, or secret documents in your briefcases when you are out in public! Why is that a tough one? Anything you don't want other people to know? Don't put it out where they can see or hear it. Also, don't hog the goddamn Metro seat: if you didn't try to, I wouldn't sit next to you and try and elbow you. I really don't want to be anywhere near you. The coveted seat next to you really is the last seat most people want.

By the way, one guy who does this (hogs the seat by taking the outside seat and by reading confidential-marked documents in public) is some sort of a suit for a transportation-related agency I can identify and I know his name. How do I know? I can read his ID badge***. I don't think that's the company policy or anything. I think the man I have observed is just an over-entitled selfish jerk (hereinafter: "OESJ"). Next time OESJ does this, I'm printing his name and agency here and ccing his identity (and the nature of the confidential work that I had the opportunity to read but virtuously *cough* did not -- other than the subject line, of course) to the head of the agency, its P.R. department, and an appropriate news media outlet. I'll desribe him, anyway. Short (maybe 5'6"), red-haired, brown-eyed, bearded, not at all attractive, relatively in shape, and takes up a lot of space for a teeny-tiny person (maybe that's his point). I've seen OESJ twice on the Red Line, both times taking up two seats and reading confidential documents in plain view.

Complaint Deux: "Oh what a victim I am. Not that I did anything about it." I don't know why this behavior pattern irks me so, but I've seen too much of it of late. I can't describe the thing that set me off today without risking identifying myself more than I want to, but I have a perfect analogy in some past complaints about behavior on mass transit in the Washington Post.

As stated above in Complaint Une, the Metro has beaucoup de seats, including specially marked handicapped seats near the doors for the elderly and disabled. The big "I'm a victim" complaint is this: a handicapped or pregnant or elderly person gets on the train and no-one stands to offer one of the handicapped seats.

Now, I agree, that's bad. One should stand and offer a seat to someone who needs it more, especially if one is sitting in the handicapped seat. However, people on the subway are busy, preoccupied, not making eye contact, listening to Ipods, engrossed in books and otherwise not paying attention to others. Rather than write a letter to the editor about the inconsiderate yahoos who won't stand for a disabled person (or pregnant woman or whoever), why not give them the benefit of the doubt? Say "Excuse me, but I really need to sit down" or something like that. I rarely had to say that when I was pregnant -- I simply waddled my massive belly over to the victim of choice and that person would rise like the sun -- but I never had to say it twice. I also never had to complain about people being so selfish. I would assume that those who didn't rise were just not paying attention. Confronted with my massively pregnant self, they would do the instant calculation of Do-I-Want-To-Keep-Sitting-More-Than-I-Want-To-Risk-Her-Water-Breaking and they would give me the seat. I would thank them, and they could think they were being selfless. Go them! I don't understand nursing a grievance about ill-treatment one could have avoided. Most people like to think of themselves as kind to others (even if they really aren't) -- give them a chance to deceive themselves further.

Complaint Trois: Turf Protection. I intellectually understand turf protection, but it can get ridiculous. When resources are scarce (and getting scarcer) you do not win points by insisting that nothing in your budget is touchable. I'm having to trim some programs, volunteer-wise, which is no news flash to anyone in the organization. There are numerous ways to do it, and I'm focussing on administrative crapola rather than actual services that benefit people.

You'd think the ability to send intra-city packages by courier was as essential as oxygen. Let's think about this for a second, and just imagine that whatever my volunteer activity and organization is, it provides real value to real people and that couriers carrying board minutes around town do nothing to provide that value. Easy to imagine, no? If it were a soup kitchen, would these same bozos argue that one should cut the food served but still send around operating minutes by courier? Pisses me off.

Complaint Quatre: Assuming other people's availability. On one of my volunteer activities, I have one nice but clueless man who really thinks resources and people grow on trees. He can waste enormous amounts of volunteer time. I'm in charge of coordinating resources for one project, which means assigning volunteers to various tasks. Tasks are supposed to come to me, and I farm them out. This man invariably can't fill out a volunteer requisition form and wait for a task to be assigned (trust me, his tasks aren't that urgent). He just grabs someone and puts them to work, derailing everyone else's schedules. I had three other people horrendously inconvenienced (with real deadlines that had to be changed) because this man grabbed my best volunteer who was working on these three important projects and told her his stuff needed to be done now. Of course, no one else's work was as important as his.

Except in the scheme of things, his project was small potatoes, and the two of the other three projects were quite important and the third, while not quite so important, was more important than his.

Now he feels important, and everyone else's work is screwed up. I allowed myself to be less than congenial when I explained to him the funding we might lose as a result of a proposal failing to meet deadline (we met the deadline because I worked on it after the kids went to bed this week, doing the work the volunteer would have done).

This man gets away with this because he is congenial and pleasant, but he wastes everyone's time, including his own. He apologized, but he will do this again. I'm bumping him off the fundraising committee, that's for damn sure. Have I mentioned how much I hate committee work?

And yet, getting this mad about all this obnoxious/selfish/whiny/stupid behavior is also a waste and a form of the "Geez, I'm a victim too" mentality and whining on my part. People are naturally self-centered. The best managers of people and effective individuals work around people to get them to do good or great things. I'm sure I can figure that out and not let obnoxious/selfish/whiny/stupid people ("OSWSP" for the future) get to me.

*Only once, and good citizen that I am, I allowed myself only enough of a glance to determine the overall subject matter (enough to ask the feckless asshole a question about it) without gaining comprehension of the actual discussion therein.

**No, I didn't really say n'est-ce-pas. That would be pretentious. I'm rephrasing. I'm irked.

***No use hiding it now, bucko, I've committed your name and employer to memory, even if I haven't revealed either (yet). Think NTSB, TRB, DOT, or something like that.


Benedict 16th said...

You sound like you really are from New York.

Oh who has a high FSH with corresponding low progesteron and estrogen

Ow ow ow - stop hitting me!!!!!!


Foilwoman said...

The fact that I am actually premenstrual and you've diagnosed it sight unseen, from the antipodes, means that only the distance spares you from my wrath. Don't worry. I'll take it out on someone else.

And I think women in this condition are only half as hormonally addled as men are all the time. Or something like that. Correct me if you dare.

Benedict 16th said...

Mea Culpa!

Quid Pro Quo

Why don't men get menopausal?
They are stuck in adolescence!

Why do men have a hole at the end of their penis?
So they can think open-mindedly.

What do you call a woman that works like a man?
Lazy or unambitious

Did you hear about the baby born with both sexes?
It had a penis and a brain!

How many men does it take to make popcorn?
Four, one to hold the pot, and three to act macho and shake the stove.

How many men does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Only one, (men are good at screwing things up!)

What's the best way to force a man to do sit-ups?
Put the remote control at his feet.

What's a man's idea of helping with the housework?
Lifting his legs so you can vacuum.

Why is psychoanalysis a lot quicker for men than for women?
When it's time to go back to his childhood, he's already there.

Ever notice how so many of women's problems can be traced to the male gender?
MENstruation, MENopause, MENtal breakdown, GUYnecology, HIMmorrhoids...

Why do men name their penises?
Because they don't like the idea of having a stranger make 90% of their decisions.

Men are like toilets. Either vacant, engaged, or full of crap.

Foilwoman said...

Your eminence: Obviously, I can only agree. Let me note that in my annoyance at men in Washington, DC (although some women as well) ignoring confidentiality because . . . well, who knows why (there's no excuse), not one such man was reading anything medically confidential. No HIPAA privacy requirements were broken, while I was watching anyway. Although that might just be because the doctors here are way to important to ride the Metro and are driving around in their SUVs, despoiling the planet instead of their patients' privacy. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, for now (i.e., the ibuprophen has really kicked in nicely now).

Benedict 16th said...

Only the senior doctors SUV (consultants and private specialists) all the others and junior doctors are doing back-to-back 36 hour rotations, moonlighting^ (or if on night shift then sunlighting) or going to their 9 to 5 job before 7 and not leaving until about 8. This usually lasts until they realise they are not going to save the world*. Also they have to drive SUVs or the great unwashed might actually try and may eye contact or something else equally unhygienic...***

So next time in the Metro, look for someone in an unironed shirt, (to work, they are going to wear scrubs anyway) messy or damp hair, but basically clean. Or with a 36 hour growth**, with a haunted look on their face (I am visualising BJ now) and a caffeine induced tremor.


^ to pay off the $250 000 to $500 000 accumulated student loan debt.

*some of course never realise this and either end up working in the downtown clinic, or somewhere in Guatemala.

** Females included, as they are probably going through the testosterone samples at work....

*** The one exception to this is Dr Mustard, known to BJ and myself, whose SUV is basically one big doctor's bag (He lives in a remote area with a population of only a couple of thousand)

Lia said...

Lavatory Lady,

I am falling out of my chair reading your blog. It is so on time as I have seen this behavior nearly everywhere. How the hell can our Nation's capital or personal information be secure when folks read Confidential/Secret information on the Metro!? It's ridiculous...also I thought it was for transportation to work, not an actual office! Great Post.

Foilwoman said...

Lia: Really, everytime I see people do that, I get pissed off. It doesn't happen every day, but it does happen once a month or so. Often enough that I wonder if these clearly college-educated (and possibly law-school educated or other avanced-educated, which is an insult to education everywhere) nitwits know how to look of "confidential" in the dictionary. Ugh. And thank you. Visit again.