In The Context Of Me

I’ve probably mentioned that I hang around this website called Fantasy Faction, loitering with the other bad seeds, discussing our fantasy and science-fiction literature and shunning the non-believers.  Being of the nerdy persuasion and having had access to the internet since I was young, I’ve spent a lot of time on message boards over the years.  I was even some sort of administrator type person for a video game politics forum a few years back.  We sent flowers and a nice letter to Jack Thompson, who proceeded to continue being a crazy person.

I’m big on etiquette and manners, though I often choose to ignore them in favor of sounding good.  I also dislike drama, though often find myself at the center of it and I’m known for hyperbole.  Still, I’ve learned a few things, like not being a troll, not starting pointless flame wars, how to ignore people who just want attention and how to avoid being a smug douche.  When confronted with those types of people, I usually just ignore the thread or write around them.  When I respond, I try to avoid doing it directly.  This may seem passive-aggressive, but its more for the sanctity of my sanity.

That being said, there is this guy that makes me crazy.  I ignored, thinking perhaps I was over-sensitive.  Then I noticed other people being irritated by him.  And still others.  I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of why.  His posts come off as both smug and defensive, as if you could some how forget how he is the Font of Knowledge for the Universe, so he will prove it to you anyways.  But, while annoying, the guy can occasionally muster a good point.  Hard to see through the piles of bullshit yet to be raked, but those good points are there.  I don’t want to silence the guy, because maybe someone doesn’t like my voice or opinion and I don’t want them to silence me.

We all go through life viewing things from our own unique perspective, filtered by our experiences and opinions.  We interpret the world through a context of ourselves.  The Context of Me involves minimizing my external stress factors, because I do a good enough job making myself crazy that I don’t often want or need help.

The Context of Annoying Forum Guy is that everything is self-referential.  He is the guy who always has to reference his own opinions while giving you his opinions.  He’s the guy that makes everything about his Epic Novel Which Has Been Read By Acclaimed Author You’ve Never Heard Of.  He’s the guy that will give you all the crunchy numbers and statistics to prove that he is in fact right, but when you poke a hole in his logic, will then shun the non-believer.  He is the sort of asshole who probably doesn’t mean to be, but just can’t shift his perception of the world past his own bloated ego.  On better days, I chuckle and ignore.  On the worst days, I find myself contemplating technology that will allow me to physically pimpslap someone through the internet.

Yet I am still only perceiving these actions through my own filters.  One of those old adages, those ones your parents or grandparents tell you when attempting to appear wise, has stuck with me.  That which we dislike in others is a reflection of what we dislike in ourselves.  These are the traits we attempt to avoid, be it for moral reasons or because we are ashamed of our own bad habits.

I’m going to keep Annoying Forum Guy anonymous for a few reasons.  The first is that I don’t point fingers, because I don’t want somebody pointing back at me.  Goes against the whole ‘no drama’ policy I’m trying to establish.  Keep the action and intrigue to the novels, people.  The second reason is that Annoying Forum Guy’s name doesn’t matter.  You don’t know my particular case, but if you’ve spent any time on message boards or comment sections on the internet, you know Annoying Forum Guy or some other incarnation.  And thirdly, I have a moral message for you.  And you’ve read this far, so you may as well keep going.

It comes down to fairness, respect and integrity.  Words that often get chucked in with honor and out with the trash.  It comes down to being an adult and treating others the way you’d like to be treated.  Being both empathetic and sympathetic, while still maintaining a low tolerance for petty bullshit.  Love thy neighbor.  Some other tiresome cliche.

I’ll wind down my rant now.  I mentioned above that I’ve been on Fantasy Faction, writing some articles on some stuff.  My latest can be read here.  Progress has been made on the Western, though not as much as I’d like.  I have a handful of drafts started for blog posts, but I can’t bring myself to finish them.  I’ll try and throw another short story up here later this week, for your viewing pleasure.

In the meantime, be nice to each other.  And remember:  Arguing on the internet solves nothing.  It only makes you look dumb.

Life be not so short but that there is always time for courtesy. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can’t have two sets of manners, two social codes – one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must be the same to all people. ”
– Lillian Eichler Watson

Yesterday I was on the bus on my way home from work, by itself a common occurrence.  This particular instance I was on the phone with my mother, and the bus was a little crowded.  I also had my messenger bag full of dirty uniforms from work, so it may have been a bit bulky, but I do my best keep it out of the way.  Commuting on public transportation is tedious and full of thousands of miniscule annoyances, but ones that we try to navigate with some manner of grace and aplomb.  There is a code of etiquette, one that applies to all interactions with other people.

So here I am, minding my own business, glad to be off of work for the day and having a pleasant conversation with my mother.  As a brief aside, to lend context, I love talking to my mom.  We have a great relationship, and when I was still living in Chicago I used to go visit frequently.  Now that I live on the other side of the country, it’s harder to go for a visit.  And because my mother has a very busy life teaching and raising my two brothers, she doesn’t get a lot of time to chat.  I steal time with her whenever I can.  So imagine that I’m a little pissed, getting interrupted over some rude bullshit.

I’m talking to my mom and I hear this girl behind me start running off at the mouth.  She says that she is going to open my bag if I don’t get it out of her way.  Hearing this, I turn around and give her the steeliest glare I can muster.  I’d like to think that I have a very good angry face, but this was too no avail against the tide of ignorance.  The girl (along with a handful of her teenage friends) goes off, telling me to turn back around before she kicks my ass.  I curtly ask her to be quiet, since I’m on the phone.  My mother tells me not to be rude, and I explain that the situation warranted the response.  And then tell her I’ll call her back.  Meanwhile, the idiot child is continuing to spew forth vitriol, saying that she doesn’t “give a fuck” if I’m on the phone.  And while I restrained myself, I so very much wanted to backhand that foul mouth.

But I was raised better than that.  I was raised to act decently towards other people, regardless of how I felt.  There is that golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”  In layman’s, if you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them.  Sure the bus was crowded, and we were all crammed.  I’m sorry my bag was in the way.  But you would do better to politely ask me to get it out of your way, than to go off with a bang.  I’m usually only polite until provoked.  But I was also aware of my surroundings.  I know that arguing with an ignorant teenager on the bus is futile, something that will only serve to cause needless aggravation.  I also know from experience that keeping my mouth shut will keep me out of trouble.

When did manners fall by the wayside?  I was raised to believe in kindness, honor and integrity as essential values.  Add to that a lengthy career in the food service industry and I have learned that it pays to be nice.  If this girl had politely asked me to move my bag, I would’ve done just that and apologized to her.  We all would have felt warm and fuzzy.  Now I’m sure she didn’t lose any sleep over her outburst, and it was probably long forgotten.  But what happened to please and thank you?  What happened to peace and common decency?

And then there are the people that listen to their music over the speakers of their phone on the bus.  Why?  Can’t afford headphones?  Maybe if you got a job, instead of thugging around San Francisco Centre you’d be better off.  There are more.  There are countless things that irritate me, and I’m sure that through the course of this blog I’ll remember a few of them.  For now though, feel free to weigh in on the subject of good manners in public.  I welcome your comments.  And remember parents, don’t let your kids grow up to be ignorant dipshits.

Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.  ~Abel Stevens