Just once

In discussing the bombings at the Boston Marathon, a friend of long standing made an interesting point.  I’m paraphrasing, but she said, “I often say ‘I hate people’.  I don’t always mean it.  Sometimes I say it to be funny, or I say it about someone I disagree with.  But when I see people do good things, it gives me hope.”

I’ve been thinking about this all day.  It’s one of the main reasons I’ve largely disengaged from Facebook.  The guiding principle of Facebook seems to be, “Say mean things to be funny, or to gain the approval of like-minded friends.”  Maybe I read more into things than is really there.  I’ve made the comment before that communicating via social media or IMs is a lot like having Asperger’s.  There’s a ton of social clues that can’t be conveyed with the written word.  Emoticons are a poor substitute for facial expressions, tone of voice, body posture, etc.  I once had an online argument with a girl I was seeing because she typed the wrong emoticon, accidentally conveying anger instead of amusement.  Not my finest hour.

Nowadays, I use a different analogy for Facebook.  I liken it to an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Buffy is accidentally given telepathy, and can hear the dark thoughts of her friends, the ones no one ever speaks out loud.  The difference is that people now trumpet their dark thoughts to the world, expecting (and often receiving) approval for things they should be ashamed of. Continue reading

Customer service

Like most people, I occasionally have problems with customer service.  Unlike most people, I rarely have problems with customer service people.  This is largely because I don’t give them problems.

Let me tell you a story.  (Pretty please?)  A number of years ago, I was coming home from a business trip to the Boston area.  It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and the airport was packed.  When I got to my gate, most flights out of Logan were cancelled due to storms all through the Midwest grounding the planes we were planning to use to leave.  (Interesting science fact: If you have enough storms in the Midwestern United States, you can cause a butterfly in South America to flap its wings.  This is one of the less useful aspects of chaos theory.)

Anyway, the lack of outgoing planes forced all of us to rebook our fights.  This was in the days before ubiquitous smartphones, so we had to stand in line.  The person in front of me was not a happy camper.  He stood at the reservation desk and screamed at the woman trying to change his flight.  She kept trying to calm him down, to no avail.  (This was also before misbehaving in an airport elicited the helpful attention of the TSA.)  Eventually, he shut up and went away, and it was my turn.  I had never been to Boston before, so I had the following conversation with the reservation clerk: Continue reading