This is how I want to respond to rude, stupid, ignorant, and nasty people. Sometimes it is how I actually respond. More often than not I say nothing, and spend the next ten or twenty minutes thinking of dozens of ways I could have taught the rude, ignorant stupid, or nasty person a lesson. Neither approach, actual or aspired to, is one which I would want my daughter to emulate. That probably means I need to find discern a way to react to the idiots of the world. Today finds me facing just such an idiot, and thus I have a perfect opportunity to identify a knew more constructive and family friendly approach to rudeness, ignorance, self centerdness, and any other behavior that appears to fall short of even the most liberal of standards for polite and respectful interaction with others.
I have been in the midst of trying to write an article on creativity among the homeless, a piece which will constitute my first completed freelance job, provided I ever complete it. I am a stay at home dad during the day, so I won't be heading down into Philadelphia and walking the streets in search of homeless artists. Rather than pounding the pavement, bottle and binky in hand, I have sent a ton of e-mails. The response rate has been rather pedestrian, but there have been responses. One homeless organization channeled me to the person in charge of the art programs. I called her, and she gave me basic information on the programs. At the time that I took the interview, I wasn't expecting to have to use it. When it became clear that I would have to use it, I sent a follow-up e-mail asking for help contacting an artist she had mentioned in our phone conversation and one individual who has attended art classes at the shelter. My first request received no response, and the second was answered only with silence. The third request finally elicited a response: "Yes, I gave her your information. That's all that I can do, I am quite busy at this time dealing with other work issues. Have a great day." I understand that dealing with me was not a part of her printed job responsibilities, but I can't imagine why publicity for her organization would be bad. I also can't imagine that she was too busy to have shot back an e-mail saying, "I forwarded your information to her. I'm going to be too busy to set up a five minute phone call with someone I probably see several times a week." OK, so that bit of sarcasm at the end may be uncalled for, but my point is valid. What is wrong with treating people in the manner you would want to be treated. Which brings me to my response. My first inclination was to send back a snippy e-mail saying that I appreciated her help, and would have appreciated it even more if she had just told me that she had forwarded the information. My next thought was to tell this woman about Malkia Singleton at PEC, who had been super helpful and responsive with the same amount of work and lack of incentive. I could even add something about the PEC being featured in my piece instead of her organization. Of course she probably wouldn't have cared, and I'd already been told by my editor that I needed more than one example. I did still have an article to write. So I asked someone else at the organization for help and referenced this person's inability to help while at the same time recognizing the help she had given me. Once I'd done that I was fully over myself, and thank you e-mail to Ms. Singleton and to include her name in this blog rather than the unnamed b#$@%. I want my daughter to accentuate the positive, and not get caught up in every little slight, perceived and real. It's not nearly as satisfying as dropping an F-bomb or two, or being sneeringly condescending, but it probably is more constructive. And, these days, I am all about construction and am eschewing destruction. I am, after all, foreman on the most important construction project anyone has ever had responsibility for.