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We’ve all read and heard quite a bit about ‘customer dis-service.’ We’ve all encountered it — that moment, when you’re staring at the clerk, thinking, “You are not helping me, and I’m imagining you spontaneously combusting right now. That is, now, the only outcome that will appease me — you, in flames.”

It’s hard to keep your cool when you’re on that side of the counter (henceforth deemed ‘consumer-ville’), hoping against hope, that the person standing there will not only be able to help you, but be able to do it quickly and with almost no hiccup in the exchange.

What we should hope, I’ve discovered, is that they care about helping you. If they don’t, things can become pretty bleak pretty quickly. Yeah, we’ve all been there. In fact, we populate Consumer-ville. And we need to recognize that there is a certain amount of blame that the denizens of Consumer-ville should shoulder when pondering the widespread ‘customer dis-service’ phenomenon. (No one wants to hear this, but it’s true, and I’ll get to that in a minute).

Another thing I’ve heard and read a lot about is the ranting and raging that some customer service folks feel driven to spew endlessly onto chatboards and other internet forums. Most of the time, you can suss out just what kind of service professional they are in the first few sentences…and most of the time, they are the kind of people I wouldn’t want to face across the counter – the kind of folks who figure that they simply aren’t being paid enough to care about helping you, or doing their jobs well (much less with a smile).

That being said, there’s a large margin of those in Consumer-ville who’ve been to the other side — who’ve worked as Customer Service Representatives, and who have a bit of an inside track as far as how the whole shindig shakes down. In the spirit of camaraderie and shared experience, I submit this — The Customer Service Representative Bill of Rights

I have the right to expect to be treated as though I exist. When I greet you, and you remain mute, I must assume one of two things: you are rude and elitist OR you are deaf. It’s pretty easy to determine which with a simple test: repeat the greeting MORE LOUDLY and with FEELING!

I have the right to be treated ‘in kind.’ This means, that when I greet you in a cheery and delighted fashion after spending enough hours on my feet that they’ve gone past aching into a kind of persistent and dull throbbing that I’m sure will cripple me, and after having spoken with dozens to hundreds of other virtual strangers all day long…I expect to be greeted in at least a polite manner. Don’t spread your negative vibes — I’m flinging them off from all sides, all day, every day.

I have the right to be approached with reason and reasonableness. I, likely, did not cause your problem. I know that, you know that. I also know that I am the ‘face’ of the company. Know in return, that my face is the one that will be able to help you. Abuse me, and I’ll be far less likely to care what becomes of you.

I have the right to educate you about our policies, our website, our products — it is, in fact, my job. So, when you ask me a question, let me answer you. Don’t interrupt repeatedly, assuming that you know how it all works. Honestly, very few of you do.

I have the right to duck behind those policies, because that is also my job. I cannot effect sweeping changes in company policy — casting aspersions about my parentage and/or character as a result of not getting your way due to a stated company policy I did nothing to effect will not motivate me to do whatever I can for you. It will motivate me to discreetly flip you off behind the counter.

I have the right to be allowed to perform my duties with reasonable haste. Your lack of preparedness does not constitute my emergency. Huffing and puffing in line, making a scene, and/or pressuring me explicitly or implicitly to move faster than the speed of light will not make me faster — it will probably make me nervous, and will increase your chances of having a delay when my nervousness causes me to make an entirely preventable mistake.

I have the right to your attention as I devote my attention to helping you. Hang up the cellphone, silence the children (as best you can — more leeway is allowed on that, since children don’t come with mute buttons), turn away from the friend you came with, and talk to me (the person to whom you’ve come for assistance). If your issue is likely to take a bit of time to resolve, plan to come without the kids, if you can. I’ll entertain them as best I can, but I will be hampered by this little thing called ‘my job.’

I have the right to be fallible (a.k.a. human). People make mistakes. When you repeat the same actions time after time, all day long, I can guarantee you that there will be mistakes tossed into the mix. Be patient — I’ll be more motivated to resolve them quickly and in your benefit, if I can.

I have the right to fill this position. I was hired for a reason, and they kept me on for a reason — because I fulfill or exceed company expectations. Please do not think that you know more about how to perform the functions of my position than I do. I will do everything that I can to help you, but you need to get out of the way so that I can do it.

I have the right to bail on an interaction when it becomes apparent that the only word which will get and hold your attention and appease you is the word ‘Manager.’ As in: “Let me call my manager over (since you won’t listen to anyone but them, even though they will repeat to you what I’ve just said four times, and I will have to stand at their shoulder and watch you calmly accept it from them even though you put me through the wringer).”

I have the right to recognize that when you approach the counter with no intention of being helped, or appeased, that I will be unable to help or appease you. This is what’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” You drive over to the store, expecting to be displeased. I, being a reasonably intelligent human being, note the distinct and immovable symptoms of this, and I do my job to the letter, and nothing more. You do, indeed, leave displeased.

WHEW! Well, that being said, I also have to say I LOVE PEOPLE! They interest me, they intrigue me, they amuse me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t take jobs that required me to help them and talk to them all day long! Let me help you! I am happy to see you, I am happy to help you, I am happy to exceed your expectations… if you let me.

Looking back, I’ve noticed that most of my jobs were either mostly or somewhat service-based. These are not observations that sprang, unbidden, to mind after the past few weeks. These are things I’ve thought about, and talked to friends about for years. I also recognize that these stated behaviors belong to a minority of the populace. Very few people are truly craptastic. Confused, upset, disgruntled, yes — but not innately so.

You want to know the sad thing? This entire blog post could be boiled down to one simple statement: Treat others as you would like to be treated. So simple. So timeless. And so seldom incorporated.


I’ve always been intensely curious about people. What makes them tick, why do they think the way they do, why do they make the choices they make, why do they behave the way they do? Being a good observer of life and human nature is essential to being a good writer, and I know this.

So, why do I have such a hard time shutting up?

I remember a point in college when I realized that I really needed to work on my listening skills — not in the conventional way, or for conventional reasons, perhaps, but the need was there all the same. I was sitting in Critical Approaches to Literature (a course taught by one of the most intelligent women I know). Many of the selected readings for this class had me limping mentally by the end of them — and there was one in particular (by Foucault) that I remember almost succeeded in conquering me, but before I succumbed to frustrated tears, I muscled through. And decided that I wasn’t sure whether I liked Foucault at all — talk about spending ten-dollar words like they’re pennies!

I showed up to class each day, entirely uncertain about my understanding of the readings, but willing to throw my hat in the ring, and offer my best answers. I am unafraid of being wrong — when you’re brave enough to raise your hand and offer your honest opinion, you’ll find out quickly enough whether you’ve got it or not. And if you’re wrong, then you’re wrong, and someone tells you what’s right. I’ve always figured that was pretty much the fastest route to figuring out whether I was on track or way off the beaten path.

This professor, after three classes, refused to call on me. She told me why — because she knew I knew what I was talking about, that I was doing the readings, and that she really needed the others to talk. It was a sign of her courage as an instructor that she was willing to stand at the front of the room and wait them out — it starts to feel really hot up there if no one’s raising their hand — and I’ve been the fallback answer girl for almost every single teacher I’ve ever had, so this was new.

I knew what she was driving at, and why she was doing it — I didn’t feel cheated, because she’d explained her reasoning to me. I don’t know if she realizes that I learned something very important that semester, something that wasn’t on the syllabus: How to shut up.

I’ll tell ya, it wasn’t easy, sitting there class after class, waiting painfully for others to reluctantly raise their hands with all the enthusiasm of someone volunteering for Chinese water torture. Especially when I was sitting there on my hands to keep them from springing, unbidden, into the air.

So, I learned some things. That what I have to say about something is what I already know. That sure, I can volunteer what’s in my heart or on my mind to push others into volunteering what they think or feel, but I also take a chance of intimidating them out of saying something that way. I learned to listen. To value what other people think, in a way that I hadn’t really done before. (I thought I had, but that was a great big fib).

When I started teaching, I had to stretch this newfound ability further. Not everyone pounces to answer a question, or tromps assuredly forward to volunteer their opinion. You have to wait (hard, hard, hard for me). And wait. And give them time to think about what they think. And then hope that they will honor themselves enough, and feel safe enough to volunteer it.

I am not saying I’ve mastered the fine and subtle art of being a good listener, but I’m working on it every day. I catch myself babbling when I’m with friends, and I mentally wrangle myself into a modicum of silence. Because I really do want to hear what they have to say, what they feel, what they think. And when I’m talking, I’m not listening. And I’ve walked away from enough get togethers with people I love thinking, “Crap. I’ve gone and done it again. I wanted to know what she thought about _________ and I didn’t shut up long enough to find out.” You can’t get those moments back, and opportunities don’t always come around a second time, and I don’t like walking away feeling as though I didn’t offer opportunities to share with me. Because, truly, I really do want to know.

I love the way that the Universe (God) works. There are no mistakes, no coincidences — only opportunities to choose. A few weeks ago, Annette (a lovely woman whose joyful spirit is a clever cover for a philosophical mind and mystical soul) said something in one of the Reiki Shares that got me thinking, and stuck with me. That prayer is like talking to God, and meditation is like listening.

I’ve been chewing on that thought ever since. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, saying a lot of prayers. But all of that’s talking, not listening. And I’m realizing that learning how to meditate, how to open up space to receive the answers to those questions is really just another round of me sitting on my metaphorical hands and remembering to be more interested in what God has to say than in what I have to say.

Today started off just fine — peachy, even. It kept up that way for most of the day — we were nice and busy at work (which is just how I like it). And then, I got a message telling me that the brakes on my fiance’s car finally went all the way out.


So, after working nine hours, I drove from New Berlin to Wauwatosa in rush hour traffic (an hour), and then got in the car with no brakes (perilous) and drove it from Wauwatosa to the East side of Milwaukee with the hazards flashing, going twenty miles an hour, prayin’, and using the E-brake to stop the blasted thing (actually = another hour, but felt like an eternity).

In between all the driving, I made phone call after phone call, trying to work it all out and coordinate and shuffle cars around. Then, my sister and my niece (who happened to be going down there tonight anyhow) took me with them so that I could borrow her car for my fiance to use for the next two days.

The ice over my impending pity-party was paper-thin, and I could feel my skates sinking through as I trudged along beside my sister and my niece as they ran errands. I was tired, and feeling outright bitchy and despondent — but swallowing it in front of my niece.

And then, we stopped at JoAnn Fabrics, and Abby started trying on all the scary masks she could find, and going on and on about Halloween and how she just loved it, and how ‘skellikans’ (skeletons) are her favorite. How can you sink into a pity-party for one, when there’s an impromptu party waiting around every corner with this kid around?

I laughed, and laughed. There’s nothing to be done about the blasted car tonight any more — I’ve done what I can, and being in a crap mood doesn’t fix anything. Funny how it takes a three year old to make a thirty(something) year old see the simple truth.

My niece, Abby, as the Batman. Maybe I should ask to borrow the Batmobile? (PS - I was wearing one, too 🙂

Dublin Doorways

In 2003, I went to Ireland for three and a half weeks over the Winterim through a program offered by Mount Mary College. We had to choose one of three courses to take during our stay — I chose Irish Literature, no surprise there. I’d have taken theoretical mathematics and failed it miserably if it meant I could go to Ireland (thank God it didn’t come to that).

I had wanted to go to the British Isles ever since I could remember. And at the start of the semester, I walked into school, and saw the flier taped to the wall: Winterim in Ireland. My heart absolutely stopped. I marched straight down to the office and made an appointment to find out just what I needed to do to get there. They only had two spaces left, and they needed a deposit today in order to hold my place. I wrote a check, asking that he give it a day or two for the deposit I’d need to rush home and make to clear in my account.

I didn’t discuss it with my parents. I didn’t consult my then-husband. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I just did it.

The Liffey River, Dublin

I think now and then about all the what if’s — what if I hadn’t had that overage check from tuition socked away in my underwear drawer? What if I’d consulted my parents/then-husband and they’d tried to talk me out of it? What if I hadn’t seen that flier? What if I had and the trip had already been filled? But that didn’t happen.

What did happen was that I told my friend Char V. about the trip, and she signed up. We went together on an adventure that cemented a friendship into a sisterhood. I fought a little bit with both of my parents about going so far away — something they didn’t really like, because they didn’t really understand my need to do it. And then I went out and got my passport. I fought with my then-husband, knee-deep in the ashes of our failing marriage, a day before I left to go, after no protest from him whatsoever for four months. And then, at one in the morning, he helped me finish packing.

Ate, drank, and laughed here.

I cannot describe to you what it felt like for me to just go off and decide this, to follow through with it, despite all of the opposition. I’d been such a good daughter, and such a good wife. Always looking to please others. Making this decision, and going through with it was the first hammer-blow to the chains I’d bound myself with. I left here a girl, and came back a different woman.

The moment we landed in Dublin, we boarded a bus that would take us to our lodgings for the first week. There was something flapping wildly in my chest — which I thought then was just a reaction to the way that the busdriver was navigating the busy streets of Dublin (he, and everyone else I saw, drove as though they were driving a tank at breakneck speeds on open roads…even when they weren’t).

Discovered silence and sanctity here. (Glendalough)

That feeling wasn’t a result of being imperiled by a rogue busdriver. It wasn’t nerves, or fear. It was the most powerful sensation of coming home that I’d ever had in my entire life – to a place I’d only ever been in my dreams.

The moment we got our room assignment and toted (by hand) our incredibly heavy bags up the two flights of narrow stairs, I grabbed Char’s hand and said, “Let’s go!” To which she replied, “Where?” Anywhere! I wanted my feet on the ground. I wanted to smell the air. I wanted to stand there, knowing I was in Ireland, feeling the fluttery joy of homecoming in my chest.

At a holy well in the mountains near Derry, after our bus almost went over the side of the mountain.

From that first foray, through the entire trip, I struggled to swallow that feeling. I couldn’t understand it. I’d grown up in Wisconsin. I felt at home at my parents’ house. I loved it there. In the intervening years I’ve learned that some things aren’t meant to be understood. They’re only meant to be felt or experienced, without attaching reason to them.

The president of the college — a woman who I had a bit of hero-worship for – had married an Irishman, and used those contacts to craft a truly incomparable journey for us. At one point, she told me that I looked like I’d been born there, I fit in so well. I’d seen that myself — no one knew I wasn’t Irish until I opened my mouth and my Midwestern accent flowed out, exposing me.

Early morning walk around Inch Island, near Derry. Even in January, it was still so green.

I savored each minute. I took 33 rolls of film. I went to every single talk and presentation we were offered, and went along on misadventures with our smaller group of cronies every night. I barely slept – I didn’t want to miss a minute of it.

And there are times now, here, when I walk out the door and something about the day triggers a deep and inconsolable sense of loss and homesickness. Something about the moisture in the air, or the freshness of the breeze, or the quality of light shining through overcast skies. And I could just weep.

Char & I huddling under about the 13th umbrella we bought. They don't stand up well in the wind.

I don’t though. I swallow that longing, and store it away. Because I know that someday, I’ll go back. Someday, I will stand on the shores of the home of my heart, and feel that fullness again. Someday, I will stand on a bridge spanning the Liffey, and look around at the low buildings that feel so familiar and know that they’re mine. Mine, whether I’m there on the Liffey, or here in Wisconsin longing for them.

I was feeling nostalgic today. Something about the way the air’s so fresh coming in our apartment windows. Enjoy the pictures. And wish me luck on, someday, getting back home.

One of Ireland's many secrets hidden in plain sight.

Image courtesy Brene Brown, Ph.D. & Ordinary Courage

Hello world! I got the best surprise today! I had a wretched day — well, to be more precise, the day itself didn’t do anything, exactly. More accurately, I somehow found myself in a real stinker of a funk, and no matter how I tried to logic myself out of it, I was stuck in ….. a ‘mood.’ It did not help things when I overheard another driver disparage my driving skills and malign my character by comparing me to a female dog (I had a little vision of leaping from the car like a cheetah and going crazy on him. I restrained myself. Barely.) It was, all in all, a not-great day. Bleargh.

I annoyed myself, in fact.

And then, after a day of labor, and laundry, and lament… there it was. Just lying there, waiting for me. A box from In the lobby under the mailboxes. With my name on it. (There is really nothing better, unless it’s from Barnes & Noble — then it’s just as good. *smile*).

The best part of it? I won the book through a contest on one of my favorite blogs — Ordinary Courage — by a phenomenal woman — Brene Brown. That’s partly what made it special — I never win anything, and I won this. More though, it felt like a present, like a gift.

And the appropriate thing to do when you recieve a gift is to thank the giver. Thank you, Brene Brown, for choosing my TGIF that day. I own your books, and I’ve read and reread your books, and am walking down a path that leads away from the futile quest for perfection (in part, because of you). Thank you for putting into words the niggling thoughts and dastardly patterns that swirl us down a purposeless path seeking perfection — you have a way of putting things that speaks to me where I am (and hits my ego where it lives).

Another appropriate thing to do? To recommend, heartily, to all I know, that which I’ve appreciated: Go check out her blog and her message.

And Dr. Brown — thank you. You had no way of knowing it, but today was the best day to get that gift in the mail! I’m sitting down and cracking it open as soon as this is posted!

My present: Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts

Hindsight provides new eyes. (Wayne W. Dyer)

One of my greatest downfalls has ever and always been being too future-oriented. In plain-speak, I think way too much about tomorrow, and not enough about where the heck I am right now, this minute. I’ve been making some headway on that lately, and it feels good.

I’ve been doing the ‘work’ of changing that way of thinking, and being consistent in it — when I catch myself in the act of robbing the joy of the moment in thought and deep contemplation of how much further I need to go, I take a breath. And then another. And I think, “You will not pass this way again, Carolyn. Enjoy the scenery. Smell the roses. Savor the moment.” And like a dreamer pulling away from the lingering tendrils of the dream, I look around and discover that right where I am, now, in that moment, is beautiful. Precious.

It’s funny how I always seem to end up saying to someone else just what I need to hear most. Tonight I facilitated another awesome Reiki Share (that’s not me tooting my own horn — it’s me touting the benefits of Reiki Share *smile*). At the conclusion, we were all talking to a newer traveler about her impatience to get somewhere else on her path.

I turned to her, and seeing myself, I told her that I did truly know exactly how that felt. But having trudged a bit longer, I’d discovered something. That, yes, we do continue to long for some greener pasture, some benchmark that we set for ourselves, no matter how stringently we attempt to live in the moment. That’s part of being human — the desire for more, to be more, to have more, to grow more, to feel more.

But that there would come a point for her, when she’d reached her own self-imposed benchmark and looked backward. That someday, she would look back at this self, this now self, and she would be nearly unrecognizable to who she had striven to become, who she had become. And that even though in the doing it felt like it was taking forever, it would happen in a blink of an eye. A moment.

I am my own worst critic — like most people. I am my own nasty whip-wielding slave-driver — like most people. But I had that moment, and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. I had that moment, where I looked backward down the path I’d been walking and saw myself at the start of the journey, and felt who I was at this point in the journey. And the self I sprung from felt like a fond stranger.

Meeting myself this way, through time and distance, had an unexpected effect. It let me relax. I could finally look at myself and realize that all of that change and growth happened, and I almost didn’t know it. All that way traveled, and me so intent on where I had yet to go, that I didn’t even see how far I’d come, how much I’d changed.

It made me think about all the selves I’ve had. It made me think about myself at, say, nineteen. (I’ve gotten a new perspective on the nineteen-year-old lately, since I’ve been working with some of them, and the proximity has driven home a few interesting lessons about the gifts of time, age, and challenge.) At nineteen, I had the temerity, the naiveté, and the rose-colored glasses to see the world as this big realm of possibility. Overwhelming, boundless possibility.

In some ways, I still do. But the naiveté has been tempered with wisdom, and the temerity with patience and compassion. I’ve traded in the rose-colored glasses for something with a little clearer outlook, and find that I like the view just fine.

The biggest gift? Knowing myself. Knowing myself so, so much better and deeper than I ever could at nineteen. Loving myself enough to stand up for myself in the way that almost none of us can manage to do well or consistently at nineteen. Respecting myself. Having compassion for myself.

Knowing that it starts right there, with me. I didn’t know that at nineteen — that before you strap on that cape and well-meaning smile, and set forth to save the world from itself, you’d better have saved yourself first.

Walking the path of mastery isn’t for the timid. Not if they want to stay timid. For every flat, even stretch of smooth sailing, there are periods of rocky, uphill climbs. Parts where you fall. Times when you crawl. And the whole time, you’re being given a gift — the one you asked for. To be made new. To be formed by life so that you can shape your life.

I’ve got a lot of affection for that wide-eyed gal I was. I love her to pieces. She was so full of illusion and romance, strutting along with a swing in her step and a chip on her shoulder. A saunter and a smile and the godawful hubris to think that she knew so darn much about so darn much.

Without her, I wouldn’t be standing here, right where I am now. And I love now. I love the possibilities I see from this vantage point, which that girl could hardly have dreamed of. I love that instead of thinking I know so much about so much, I realize how little I do know. That I can accept that it isn’t always necessary to know.

Looking back helped me embrace my now, which in turn, will make my future a whole lot brighter. Funny that it seems to have to work that way.

I love trivia. Love it. Love. It. I always have. Doesn’t mean that I am a fabulous Trivial Pursuit player, though. I take in all sorts of things, but the things that stick are the ones that capture my imagination. I suppose that we’re all a bit like that. I figured that I’d share some of my favorite bits of this ‘n that which have been embedded in my psyche over the years.

Did you know that a group of ravens is called an unkindness? As in, “Hey Jim, look over there — it’s an unkindness of ravens.” Now, that is way more romantic than a ‘flock’ of ravens, or a bunch of ravens.

Did you know that due to the unique protein structure of black widow venom, you can only receive the antivenom once in your lifetime? Eek. Makes you wanna tap your shoes out before you put them on, doesn’t it?

Did you know that the female armadillo has the ability to hold the male’s sperm in her body in reserve for up to two years, so that she can decide when the time is best to be pregnant? And, did you know that armadillos give birth to identical quadruplets each and every time they are pregnant? Wild stuff, hey?

Did you know that there are certain ant colonies that cultivate aphids much in the same way that we farm cows? They move them from place to place and keep them with the colony, milking them for the nectar that they secrete.

Did you know that you aren’t supposed to smile in your passport photo? When you do, it changes the shape of your eyes and the government wants to see your unadulterated eye shape in case you become an international art thief.

Did you know that the roots of black walnut trees secrete a toxin called juglone that has the ability to kill surrounding plant life? Plants are fascinating — and they’ve been waging chemical warfare on one another well before we ever thought to. Interestingly, this toxin can also be harmful to animals and humans.

Mmmm…delish — I just love tasty little bites of info. These taste-treats for my brain are one of my favorite parts of being human — all that stuff to capture the imagination. Enjoy — and share some with me!!

I live in a 29-unit apartment building in downtown Waukesha. The tenants who live here cover a pretty wide swath of the variety possible in the human family. I love our apartment, I love the location, I love the atmosphere of the old building we live in.

What I do not love is that I am noticing a disturbing trend happening here. On several occasions, I’ve noticed bags or boxes of garbage appearing in our hallways. Usually they disappear in a timely fashion — as though just placed outside the door in preparation for removal to the dumpsters outside. That is fine — I’d prefer that the bags containing the refuse of my fellow tenants’ lives be kept within the sanctum of their own living space and not shared with the rest of us, but if they’re taking it right down, it’s not a huge issue.

What is more disturbing is the appearance of several collections of, well, junk in the hallways. This time, another concerned tenant wrote signs that said, “Please take your trash to the dumpster or put it back in your apartment” and placed them on the junk piles. I thought that this was a positive move. The junk piles remained there for two weeks (I was kind of conducting an experiment — I’ve toted other people’s stuff out before). I wanted to see how long these piles would sit there, note attached, before someone did something about it.

Today, I got my answer. On my way out to run errands, I ran into another tenant who said, “Have you seen the stairs?” I said that I hadn’t, and she went on to tell me that it looked as though someone had a temper tantrum.

Someone had taken a box of the junk — containing Christmas decorations — and THROWN it down the stairwell. It covered the entire stairwell, and all of the glass ornaments broke in the fall, leaving behind a shattered mess.

Sighing, I left to complete my errands (time sensitive). I was fuming a little bit. It’s directly against our lease to leave any belongings or trash in the hallways, and moreover, we are required to take out our trash in a timely fashion from our apartments. Um, I find that not only infinitely reasonable, but common sense. I have no desire to live in a pig sty. My mistake was in assuming that I lived among other responsible adults who felt similarly.

When I got home today, I grabbed a bag, and cleaned up the stairwell. My vacuum cleaner cord isn’t long enough, or it would have gotten vacuumed as well. I did not put the box in the hallway. I did not throw it down the stairs like an enraged child. But I live here, and so I cleaned it up, and took it to the dumpster. Because I am not a pig, and I have no desire to live in a piggish environment.

I am fighting the urge to write a strongly worded letter and post it around the builidng, but that seems childish as well. So, I called management to report the broken glass and the circumstances of its origin. I guess that’s the adult thing to do, since I cannot remedy the situation myself.

What’s most disturbing to me is that of the many adults living in this building, none of them had enough care or concern about their own welfare to take the necessary steps to address the issue (I’ve called about it before). No one took out that box when it became evident that its former owner had no intention of doing so. Presumably, no one called management to inform them that someone was breaking the terms of their lease. No one did anything productive.

What someone did do was make a bigger problem, a bigger mess. I’ve worked in service-industry jobs throughout my life, and I’ve seen this time and again in all the possible permutations. People get a bee in their bonnet, plant their flag, and decide that this, right here, is the hill that they want to die on. Most of the time, it’s a bump. It’s so small that it couldn’t even be considered a geographical feature. But they’re hot and they’re gonna let everyone know how outraged they are.

All I have to say to that is: Who cares? Who cares how outraged you are? What I want to know is, now that your flag’s planted and you’ve chosen your stand, what are you going to do about it? Holler? Stand there and bleed?

The box of stuff thrown down the stairwell was someone planting a flag — and worse, doing so passive agressively. It makes me tired. It makes me disheartened that people would choose to make it worse, instead of taking a small and simple step to make it better. It required more effort to throw the box down the stairs with all that anger than it did to just truck it (whole) out to the dumpster.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem — and what makes me tired is all the people standing on their bumps hollering away about all the problems, and doing nothing other than getting in the way of those who’d like to be part of the solution. Grow up, people.

No, a box of trash in the hallway is not the hill I want to die on. I’m saving that stance for when it matters — because when I do plant a flag it will be in a hill, something big — and I’ll do more than stand there and shout about how big it is. I’ll grab a shovel, or a sword, or whatever tool is required, and do something about it. Now, who’s with me?

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)