Posts Tagged ‘blame’

Smart Roll

26 October 2011

Dear J-

Yesterday was the first day I didn’t ride my bike when I could have. Monday I’d heard a weird sound and the kind of soggy slapping that meant I blew out the rear tube in the morning. I pumped it up that afternoon and rode home, then properly inflated it later that night. Tuesday I get up and the tire’s half-deflated again — I guess these self-sealing Slime tubes aren’t always effective, or maybe the blowout was bigger than I thought. So I turn around and head back, thinking I can always get a tube that night and repair the wheel before picking figgy up for the night. No big deal, right? I get back to the car in the afternoon and there’s a ticket for expired tags on the windshield, one that requires me to prove to the police that I’ve fixed it (turns out I had the tags in my bag all along and forgot to put them on … four months ago … it has been a long time since I had to drive, in my defense). Later, at the bike shop, a yoga studio has moved in next door and taken up all the parking (I suppose it wouldn’t have been an issue if I could have ridden my bike there: this is why I need two bikes, someone tell theVet). Meanwhile I’m cruising around parking lots looking for cops to sign off on my ticket — that knocks the fine down from $37 to $10 and that’s totally worth it.

Instead of blaming my bad day on the flat tire, I’m blaming the whole day on having to drive. Mature, I know. I’m reminded that none of us can control our circumstances, but we can definitely control our reactions. Grow up. Be mature. Where have you heard that all your life … again, over and over. So you get to juggle the requirements of setting an example and not taking it out on everyone else around you but it’s surprisingly easy: remind yourself that it’s your fault. In this case, it’s mine. Between deferred maintenance and general cheapness, the bike’s nearly ready to fall apart (ominous grinding noises from the bottom bracket mean that if I want to keep it I’m going to have to invest some money into that part next), and if I hadn’t sat on the new tags that long driving in wouldn’t have been a big deal yesterday.

It does feel a bit Shenmue-y to me, but instead of sailors I’m looking for cops. Excuse me, officer, would you mind looking at my car to fix this ticket? Yeah, that doesn’t sound sketchy at all, does it? Yesterday I was filled with righteous indignation for roughtly five seconds and then a sick realization that I’m just wasting money: yeah, buy the most expensive tube you can find but don’t bother to check the tread for the last thing that popped the tube. Smart, yes. That’s how I roll.



Work Saw

4 June 2009

Dear J-

Today, my supervisor turned to me and asked me in the meeting what I thought of how things were going; either I wasn’t paying sufficient attention (likely) or I’ve somehow become competent enough to be adjudicated as a contributor.  That’s yet another avenue of loaded phrases; problem personnel are labelled “individual contributors” and quietly shuffled off into the corner where they’re given just enough to be busy, but not enough to be important.

One of my coworkers said that the way things work in the company, failures hang around you in a palpable miasma, while successes are fleeting and quickly forgotten.  It makes sense, then, the way we’ve been structured — the public pillories, constant reminders of dire punishments, and the overwhelming fear of failue poisoning everything we touch; since no one wants to be that guy who screwed that up, no one takes responsibility for their actions, instead seeking refuge in the deniability of the crowd (“everyone saw it …”) or the culpability chain (“my manager/hairdresser/horoscope told me …”).

Oddly enough, we watched Saw IV the other night — theVet said no, but with precious little new content on TV now that the seasons have gone on hiatus until the fall, there’s little alternative.  It’s not about the grisly nature of the traps for me, though; III and IV have both had a progression of puzzles, sort of like a bloody, sadistic Indiana Jones pulling a thread of clues.  The devices themselves all seem to have the same generic theme, though:  how much is your life worth?  What would you sacrifice to see it so?  The only application to work is in the most abstract concept, but perhaps the question could be rephrased as how important is your career — how do you choose to respond to challenges?


Business Classy

24 September 2008

Dear J-

There’s nothing quite as American as assessing blame; we delude ourselves into thinking that it’s a human trait, but it’s so ingrained in our culture that we just assume everyone else works the same way.  When we call for the presidential candidates to assume the mantle of leadership by finding someone to blame for the financial crisis, we forget what good leaders do:  instead of pointing the finger, they lift their hands and direct the recovery.

Leadership has more to do with taking action and being involved, being intimately familiar with what your team does and how they do it.  So while it’s fun — for a few hours — to point the finger at greedy CEOs and unscrupulous lenders, ultimately it does nothing to resolve the problem (how about this, if your company has screwed up badly enough to receive a government bailout, the folks responsible for business direction forfeit their last ten years pay as restitution?).  Yet we don’t have to accept a hasty plan, as we’ve accepted rushed decisions after last-minute decisions with little time to blink.

Who stands to benefit from the way the bailout is structured?  There are alternate proposals that deserve reasonable consideration; we do not have to accept the first blank check that comes across our plate.  Do you still believe in an unfettered business class?  With the opportunity for real reform, we still stand to lose at this; we still run the risk that the tenets of business first and always will carry the day.  Remember this:  if the failure of the company is spectacular enough to roil the economy, why did we let the company get that big and important in the first place?  When did private business interests start to trump the greater good?


Fourth Estate

9 September 2008

Dear J-

Is it American to assign blame?  Let’s look at this whole “Bridge to Nowhere” scheme; after the press got wind of it, the plan became the poster child of pork.  On the surface, it makes sense:  you’ve got a multi-million dollar bridge that connects an island to the main body of Alaska.  Problem is, that island has, at best, a few hundred residents in it, and the tab would come out to nearly a million dollars per resident.  Thus the ridicule and another example of how America legislates through popular perception.  Its champion, Senator “Intertubes!” Ted Stevens, soon found himself scrambling to defend the bridge with essentially indefensible numbers.

Look at it a different way, though:  the bridge connects Ketchikan with its island airport.  Ketchikan is a fairly popular tourist destination, and allowing vehicle traffic to the airport would provide a significant boost to encourage airport growth and could thus potentially stimulate tourist visits.  Suddenly the bridge is to somewhere, but it doesn’t play well in the press, so they’ve managed to bury that nugget; I keep harping on the issue, but a press that attempts to protect the interests of the public by forcing legislative action is governance via un-elected officials.  Unfortunately, I can’t think of a way to stop it — make sure that the newspapers listen to people?  Hold elections for government-run (shudder) news agencies?

All I’m saying is that it doesn’t take much repetition for snappy phrases to enter everyone’s subconscious.  War on Terror (oh, really?).  Bridge to Nowhere.  Fill-in-the-Blank-Gate Scandal.  Liberal Media (that’s right, FOX News, Wall Street Journal — yer all liberals!).  Yet rather than take caution and knowing that these things take on a life of their own, the press keeps questing for the latest sound bite, the newest pat phrase to discuss.

By the way, our local Union-Tribune reserves space in the Monday Op-Ed pages for the reader’s ombudsman to take note of what folks are up in arms about (lately it’s been the removal of the separate weekly TV listings in the Sunday paper — when people are more concerned about the paper providing TV listings, clearly something’s amiss at the paper — you might want to consider adding, I dunno, content or something).  Yesterday’s paper brought something I’d never thought I’d see:  the newspaper, calling its readers idiots and rubbing their noses in it.