Communication Exchange

I recently received an e-mail from a stranger challenging my thoughts regarding a specific person from history and how that person might align politically today. I didn’t think long or hard about my reply, I simply suggested they read the entire essay before attempting to correct my perspective. Thinking the correspondence was at that point completed I put it from my head. I will admit my response was a bit snarky, impolite even; I have only my own weariness to fall back on. The fact is that particular essay had been written in 2009 and remains a point of contentious debate even today, over the years many have come challenged the premise some politely and some not so much, one person even threatened violence, many have suggested there was a warm place awaiting me  sometime in the future.

That wasn’t the end though. The next e-mail came within a day. It was politely written, though it chastised me for my snark, even the rebuke was done in gentle language. In reading this letter I thought to myself, in all the two-hundred plus comments not once has anyone actually asked me what was I really thinking when I put together this essay, why did I choose what I chose; perhaps this deserves an answer. Maybe it deserves more than, “Because I can, dammit”.

So I sat down to think about this essay, which my new e-mail friend had read twice now according to him. I went back to read it again as well, to make certain I hadn’t missed my own mark in the writing. Then I responded (without snark) with the explanation of my thoughts, the premise and the layers and gradations of the essay. Yes, I also apologized for my previous snippiness. Ultimately, I defended the premise of the essay but agreed I took literary license by assigning a current political stance to a historical figure based on past actions and teachings.

Communication isn’t really communication unless what I say and what you hear (read) are one and the same thing. This particular essay was nuanced; it was also a subject sure to offend some, if not many people. To some degree I knew this when I wrote it, certainly I knew it when I named it and as I tracked the comments I became increasing aware of just how big a nerve I had struck. The problem was the nuances were lost on those who took the greatest offence, but also lost on those who agreed. I learned some important things;

* People will defend positions and icons even when these haven’t been attacked.

* People are often incapable or unwilling to read or hear below the surface and thus miss the tones.

* Always wait for morning to respond to e-mail.

I write other places on other subjects, sometimes more controversial subjects in fact. I have always thought to keep it lighter here so I have a place of solace and restfulness. I like it this way, though my links are here and you are welcome to read my more political thoughts, I don’t plan on bringing them here at this time. I have continued my correspondence with my new friend, he is kind and interesting in his challenges to my thinking. I suspect we disagree on nearly everything based on his stated political leanings. I find our discussions refreshing as they are about the finer points rather than personal attacks you find so often these days when two sides debate the issues.

Just my random thought on communication  and what I learned from a single e-mail exchange.

Staying in Bed

There are simply days when you don’t want to get out of bed, feed the dog, pet the cat or say hello to the world.

There are days when it feels as if you have been kicked in the shins one to many times and frankly, your knees hurt!

I am having one of those days today, my knees hurt. So does my back, my neck, hell even my fingers hurt. Now I don’t usually complain, certainly I don’t complain about all the things on my body that hurt me. I don’t complain about all the things that don’t work any longer. I don’t complain about all the things that don’t move the way they are supposed to move or in the direction they are supposed to go. Well, perhaps that isn’t entirely true, there are some people that hear what hurts, I hope not too often though.

There are some days when it just seems I shouldn’t have to get out of bed. In fact the only reason I do is I need coffee, a smoke and if I don’t move I am afraid I might never do so again.

I have had a particularly bad month. It happens this way sometimes when you work for yourself, but this month has simply been particularly bad. I know I am good at what I do, I am not inflexible or hard to get along with – this month I have been accused of both, by a customer no less! I do not use my hidden disability for special treatment; in fact I keep it to myself (the reason for the second accusation) unless asked and pay the price. I tell people what they need to know and only what they need to know so they understand why I do certain things and can’t do others.

While there is a three-month history leading up to the loss of two customers, two projects, actually nearly a twenty-year history now, for some reason this is hitting me hard. I am questioning myself, my abilities, my capabilities and even whether I have the wherewithal to continue on the road I have set for myself.

There are some days when I just want to stay in bed; today is one of those days. I think this week has been one of those weeks.

There are some days when I feel more than justified that I haven’t forgiven those that did so much harm to me, to my body. Days like today when I know every single day for the rest of my life I will hurt and I will have to demand of myself that I get out of bed and convince myself it is worth it, because it is better to live with pain than not to live at all.

Then I think, but I don’t have an income because I lost two projects, not because I am bad at my work but because my body gave out, again. Because I couldn’t work within the travel constraints a client placed; of course had they told me up front I wouldn’t have taken the project in the first place and I wouldn’t be in this position, but that is a different issue all together. I lost one project because someone rear-ended me and what someone else would have likely walked away from I received significant injury and had weeks of treatment for.

There are days, sometimes weeks when I wonder if survival is all it is cracked up to be.

There are some days that simply suck.

Tales from the Air

Farts on the Airplane

There is probably nothing worse than someone with uncontrollable gas in the tight confines of an airplane. Certainly they are embarrassed by their overactive digestive track and their own stupidity at eating foods that would cause their active flatulence.

Let me give some advice. There are some foods that lend themselves to greater amounts of flatulence than others. This is due to the types of sugars they contain, the body CANNOT effectively break these sugars down and thus they produce gas which travels to your nether regions ultimately producing noxious fumes. If you know you will be flying, do yourself and your fellow passengers a favor avoid these foods!

Beans, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Raisins, Milk (especially for those with lactose intolerances) and yes the all-important BEER.

Elbows and other Sharp Objects

I once had a man (not what you are thinking you are so dirty minded) seated next to me in those big comfy First Class Seats. This man must have seen that I was more blessed than the average woman with pair of breasts that might be the envy of a Playboy Centerfold. Perhaps in his fevered fantasy he believed this meant they were public property, since they took more space than was normal. Whatever the case may be, I once had a man and he had a plan.

Our flight to Dallas was looking to be a long one, with plenty of turbulence and stormy skies. I had already taken my seat, 1B aisle bulkhead left side of the plane. When he arrived he first glared at me, as if to say; “what are you doing in this section of the plane?” Admittedly, back then there were few women flying in First during what was considered the Friday specials, business flights back to Dallas on American. Add to this I was already in my standard Jeans, cowboy boots and tee. But then my Man with a Plan noticed my assets and his gears turned. He sat his happy self down, pulled out his Wall Street Journal leaned to the right, taking more than half our ample arm rest as his own, and ordered his Scotch and Soda before take-off. Then the fun begin……….

Turn page one, right hand grabs page turns and shakes landing squarely against the edge of my breast. I think nothing of it. A few minutes go by and time to turn the next page; oddly the exact same action produces the same result. “Excuse me, my breast isn’t public property and your attention isn’t welcome. Would you mind keeping your elbow on your side of the arm rest and your hands to yourself, please”, said as nice as possible and looking directly at the Man with the Plan. He smirked, moved slightly to the left and started reading again. A few more minutes pass (he reads slowly) and the same exact thing happens, fortunately the two gentlemen across the aisle see it this time, so when I turn and tapped him and said, ‘The next time you touch my breast I am going to break your ribs and it will be self-defense’, they concurred. Again he smirked and this time he didn’t move.

Five more minutes, he readies himself for another page turner and a free feel. I ready myself as well, I am watching for him how. He turns the page and this time takes a slow linger down the side of my left breast as if daring me to follow through with my threat. Boy did he challenge the wrong Texas girl, I pulled back my elbow and delivered a blow to his ribs that knocked the wind from his lungs and bent him over in his seat. When he could breathe again the first thing he did is push the call button and when he Flight Attendant arrived he demanded the police meet the plane in Dallas and arrest me for assault. She asked me what had occurred and I explained the situation. She asked the nice gentlemen across the aisle what they had seen and their story agreed with mine. She offered him a choice;

  1. She could have the police meet the plane and he would be arrested. I might be also, but it is likely the charges would be dropped against me.
  2. He could change seats with someone and forget the entire incident assuming I was willing to do so and someone was willing to change seats with him.

He took option two and the rest of the flight was quite pleasant. He called me a Bitch as he was moving his bags, I agreed.

Thus we have two tales of many of my time in the air. Farts on a plane, well that is on-going and frequent. Elbows that is a true story from about ten years ago.

Flying in the Face of Sanity

Did I say that, mention sanity and flight in the same sentence. Could it be I have finally lost what little true lucidity I have left and crossed over into the land of la-la. This could be the case, but as I look at the end of another year of mileage and other sundry programs that award me for spending my life away from home I am forced to take stock.

It is important to understand what I do for a living; I am a consultant or as one of my favorite customers once said during a heated debate;

“Well Val, that is because you are a Conslutant”, at which point he grew beat red and

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fumbled mightily for a way out of his Freudian Slip. Being the wonderful Conslutant that I am I gave him one, I smiled sweetly and said, “Why no George, I am not a Conslutant at all, you pay me very well for my services and thus I think there might be another name for what I am”. While the Steering Committee of the very proper southern State Board of Education stared mouths agape, both George and I burst out laughing and all was right with the world once again. Freudian Slips forgotten and the heated debate regarding the state of the project picked up where it left off.

Nevertheless, I am a Consultant, to be precise I am Project Manager big IT projects. I have been working in this capacity for twenty years. For the past five I have worked as an independent, meaning sometimes I get to pick my customers but most of the time I scramble for new contracts. The other thing this means is I spend a great deal of time in airports, airplanes and hotel rooms; that is away from home.

The Mile High Club

Get your mind out of the gutter it isn’t what you think! Those of us who spend a significant portion of our lives catching catnaps in the air belong to a unique club. We know the secrets of getting through long check in lines, security is a breeze and we generally don’t

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stress when our flights are delayed. Why you ask? The answer is simple this is our life.

We make friends with the people at ticket counters we know their names, sometimes even the names of their children; we see them week after week. TSA agents greet us by name; we take the same flights week after week and are on the same schedules. Flight attendants know us and we continue conversations from the previous week with them, sharing war stories of our time in the air, bad passengers and the changes since the airline has cut back services.

How many miles can a single person fly? 3,722,902 – you read that right. Three million seven hundred twenty-two thousand nine hundred and two. Those are the approximate miles I have flown between four main airlines in the past twenty years. It is likely a bit more, but many miles have fallen through the cracks of bankruptcy, mergers and sundry other incidents of flying life. To be perfectly anal about this that works out to be five hundred and ten (510) miles per day every single day for twenty years.

The Road Less Traveled

Now of course I didn’t fly every day. Didn’t even fly every week. Most weeks but not every week. In fact there were entire years during this period where I actually I stayed in one place and was able to act just like a normal person, commuting to and from an office on a road rather than in an airplane, I found the experience far more stressful. When people ask how I can stand to fly every week I point out if they live and work in any metropolitan city in the US they likely spend up and hour or more each way in the car five days per week. They are subject to road rage, incautious drivers, traffic jams and many other terrible inconveniences. I on the other hand am met at the airport where my car is valet parked, I rarely stand in long lines, I always board the plane first, my commute consists of sitting back while others ‘drive’ and I catnap.

I don’t want to glamorize my commute, believe me there is nothing glamorous about it at all. Every privilege I have has been earned by bad food, rude seatmates, long layovers, delayed flights and being away from home.

I am starting this series here, more to come on Flying in the Face of Sanity.

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