Monday, September 27, 2010

Other People’s Mistakes

L.G.C. Smith

Last week’s posts established that we are a largely functional lot able to view our mistakes philosophically and move on. Nothing screams sanity louder than the willingness to take personal responsibility for one’s mistakes. We also know we are deserving of love and grace, despite our mistakes, and we learn to forgive and do better next time.

There is one category of mistakes, however, where precious little grace operates. These are Other People’s Mistakes, and by ‘People,” I include technology, because there is always a person behind the machine (so far), and Nature, because it can be so seriously inconvenient. Other People’s Mistakes are much more infuriating than our own. Even so, most of us are shockingly capable of forgiving major transgressions committed by people we love. These are not the types of mistakes I am talking about. I am referring to the day-to-day torment inflicted by other people’s stupid lazy carelessness. Here are some I find particularly maddening.

Mistakes of Nature

Mosquitos. Gnats. No-see-ums. Poisonous snakes and spiders. Sweat. Pimples. Super-efficient metabolisms in times of plenty. Super Volcanoes. Super bugs. Ice ages. Asteroids colliding with the earth. Florida. Most of Texas. (Asteroids landing in either of those states are off the list.) Skin that sunburns. Gingko fruit and durian. Sticker burrs and foxtails.

And so much more.

Driving Mistakes

Talking on the phone (hands free or not), eating, putting on makeup, picking things up off the floor, letting a dog sit on your lap, wearing earphones and/or playing music too loudly to hear what’s going on around you (like emergency vehicles climbing up your ass because you’re in the way) and, above all, TEXTING while driving.

Not signaling when turning or changing lanes, and signaling when not turning or changing lanes. Slow drivers on the freeway anywhere but in the slow lane. Worse yet, planting your pokey butt in the fast lane and setting the cruise control at 55 MPH. (This happens a lot in Texas, which is one reason I don’t care if an asteroid takes it out.) Not looking over your shoulder when you change lanes. Never using your mirrors to see what’s going on behind you. Ignoring motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Stopping cold in the middle of any road with traffic behind you. (I don’t care if you’re lost or confused. Keep moving!) Stopping at the end of entrance ramps onto highways and interstates because you don’t know the difference between ‘merge’ and ‘yield.’ Failing to zipper properly (aka ‘taking turns’) when lanes collapse. Again, Texans, this means you. Your egos are not on the line here, y’all. It's just how traffic moves.

Geez, I could write a frickin’ book about other people’s idiotic and dangerous driving mistakes. Especially in Austin. I don’t understand the problem there. People are, for the most part, kinder and friendlier than just about anywhere I’ve been. They’re interesting, clever, and fun. Put them behind the wheel of a vehicle and they go from zero to TSTL in 1.8 seconds. The only thing I can figure is that it must be part of the Keep Austin Weird ethos. If anyone in Austin is listening, you need new slogans for drivers. I’m fond of “This is the Interstate, not your grandaddy’s back forty! Look!”

Mistakes Made by Government, Large Corporations, Vendors and Credit Score Keepers

You know what I’m talking about here. You push the wrong button somewhere while buying golf shoes on-line, and the next thing you know, you’re billed for a Today’s Special! Lighted Globe showing all World Premier Golf Courses at the special one-time only price of $299. You didn’t cancel in three business days because you didn’t know about it because, oh, my, you didn’t obsessively check your credit card activity online every single day. You spend the next two weeks trying to correct the problem via the phone and e-mail, and you finally think it’s been taken care of. Someone in Customer Service assures you it has been. You double-check your credit card company.

Then you get billed for it twice.

So you stop payment from your credit card company with all the correspondence and phoning that entails. Pretty soon you begin getting bills direct from the company you bought the original golf shoes from (which you had to return because they sent you 9 Narrow instead of 9 Medium, which they were out of -- GAH!). You do your best. Nothing changes. A few months later you’re getting collections calls from pushy people who don’t care about what happened because their only job is to get you to fork over the $299, plus the cost of the shoes you returned, plus restocking fees, plus late fees, plus collections service fees.

After a year of being harassed, you have your lawyer send the original company a letter, and it lands on Someone Reasonable’s desk, and everything gets cleared up. You even have letters sent to all the credit score bureaus, and you follow up and are assured all is well. There are no bad marks on your credit score.

A year later you come up for a tax audit because you didn’t pay state sales tax on some golf shoes and a globe you ordered from an out-of-state company.

Four years on, you try to refinance your house, and you can’t get a lower rate because there’s an unpaid bill for $482.19 from an Internet golf store.

These kinds of Other People’s Mistakes can tempt the sanest, most forgiving and self-aware among us to fantasize about going off the grid.

Oh, screw that. There are too many Mistakes of Nature off the grid.

There is no hope. We cannot escape Other People’s Mistakes. All we can do is rant.


Rachael Herron said...

That was the best rant ever. Also, it explains why you're such a good driver.

Martha Flynn said...

hahahahaha only you can you make me laugh AND raise my blood pressure at the same time!

Anonymous said...

That whole traffic warden thing happens on coastal highways, perpetrated very often by happy ladies in Volvos or Subarus who just know how fast everyone should be driving.

I drove five miles on the freeway with my damn blinker on (but I wasn't texting!). Feeling bad!!!!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Rachael, I do love a good rant. Twenty five years ago, my sister and I were having so much fun entertaining each other with rants we decided we should write a Book of Rants. I think some comedian has done it now, but if we'd had the Internet back then, we could have set up a blog and gotten it all out of out systems. Instead, here we are, still ranting into advancing middle age. :)

Thanks for the driving compliment.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Oops, typo up there. Out of OUR systems.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Mysti, I've inadvertently left the blinker on a time or two myself. The odd goof doesn't get my dander up. Habitual carelessness is the very devil, though. I, of course, can tell the difference at a glance. ;)

My dad went to traffic school for senior drivers after he got a speeding ticket -- in Austin, of course, where driving the posted speed limit seems to fast to most drivers. The instructor railed at the class about self-righteously enforcing speed limits with cruise control and blocking tactics. Seems there are different enforcers in different locales. But they are always out there.

Sophie Littlefield said...

great rant!! and lgc, driving with you has got to be among the most fun experiences i have ever had. i love it when you rant at other drivers :)