The Voice Of Reason

Contretemps (kon-truh-tahnz; French kawntruh-than): an unexpected and unfortunate occurrence.  Synonyms include kerfuffle, hurly-burly, fracas, hullabaloo, brouhaha, and Donnybrook.  As a former English major, my mind just boggles at the mischief our language gets up to (and yes, I do know I ended the sentence with a preposition).Due to instantaneous dissemination and digestion of information, issues that formerly only a few involved parties knew about now have global dogs in the fight.  If somebody in Wichita says something stupid and offensive, wired people in both Kansas City and Kazakhstan know, have opinions about it, and feel obligated to weigh in on it.In the past, when people said and did hurtful, illegal, and sometimes just flat-out annoying things, the circle of knowledge and subsequent anger was much smaller.

Now, when an outrage occurs either through ignorance or malice, the news travels around the globe, and the indignation of millions can be ignited in the time it used to take to get out stationary for the writing of a sternly worded letter to the editor of one’s local paper.  Recently a couple of controversies occurred involving area businesses.  Both happened in the real world.  But in both cases, social media spread the word and left much egg on many faces.As a bystander, each controversy seemed easily predictable.  One seemed to stem from the overreaction to a minor provocation by an authority figure, and the other a clear, textbook case of cultural appropriation so blatant it bordered on naked racism.

Oh Jeez…

Social media, in many cases not only spreads the word of the real-world ruckus, it also, in an ever-expanding number, provides the opportunity and venue for offences that then spread like crab grass during a rainy summer.

Some examples:

A person posts a cruel, tasteless “joke” right before getting on an international flight for business.  By the time the plane lands, the thoughtless passenger has become a worldwide pariah, and is unemployed and disavowed by their red-faced former employer.A company attempts to use the historic Mideast turmoil to sell shoes.  A phone company clumsily references 9/11 in an ad.  On Pearl Harbor Day, a soup company makes the mistake of tweeting a flag-waving noodle.

And, pretty much any time Kanye West tweets anything, ever.To hopefully mitigate damage that ensues from these missteps, I suggest the creation of a vital new position for every company in the US.

The voice of reason.  Or, if you like, special executive vice president of the office of not being dumb and getting into easily avoidable trouble.They can recommend guidelines like staying completely away from sexual, socioeconomic, educational, racial, and any other stereotypes that exist.  Just take your hands off the keyboard and walk away.  Just.Walk.Away.

A VOR (Voice of Reason) worth their salt will never let corporations engage in petty back and forth school yard-style bickering with private citizens.  Nobody likes a bully.  Especially not a multi-national bully worth billions.So, for the private social media aficionado without the means to employ their very own VOR, I offer a few tips that may save the pain and infamy that comes from ill-considered postings.

Sure Champ, sure.

Check your sources.  And then check again.  If the information you want to post are so outrageous that only a world-wide conspiracy necessitating the silence of thousands of co-conspirators from all walks of life would make it work, you can be pretty darn sure it’s not true.  That many humans are incapable of keeping their mouths shut—I promise.And I beg you, when drunk or jet-lagged never cut your hair, call your ex, or hit “enter”.Thanks for your time.

 

Fictional? Or not so much?

This week, Gentle Reader, we’re going to play a game.

I don’t know, maybe my family’s just weird.  Or maybe not.

But we have this stock of imaginary characters that have developed over the years.  Like Ned and Joey; two hapless, clueless guys we invented that fill in whenever the regular guy goes to lunch.  If your cheeseburger arrives with no cheese, Ned and Joey made it.  If the jacket you ordered never arrives, Ned and Joey were working the warehouse that day.

So, presented in no particular order are profiles of both real and made-up people.  After reading the sketches, try to figure out which ones are actual, authentic humans, and which are not.  There’s no prize, but you get to carry the knowledge that you possess a keen insight into the human condition.Or something.

Good luck and let’s go!

Cholly is a Polish-American whose back pocket is never without a can of beer.  He’s a hard man with a soft heart.  When he was younger he owned and ran a pizza stand and a toy store at the flea market.  Despite fathering three children, he takes the greatest pride in his vegetable garden.

Susan works as the head of HR.  She’s unmarried and lives with her cat, Hobnob Jaworsky Winklestinky.  She’s very social, asking co-workers over often for Bachelor viewing parties.  She tries too hard though, and her parties invariably find her sitting alone with her cat, sipping on wine-in-a-pouch.Joe Cuffy was a retired farmer whose ill-temper made his sunset years solitary ones.  A man of routine, he walked three miles every morning at sun up.  One morning, in a thick fog, he was hit by a Maola milk truck and knocked into a ditch.  Unfortunately, the truck driver never knew he hit anyone, and due to his reputation, no one noticed he was missing.  His body was found three days later after the rats had feasted.

Miss Margie is the modern, middle-aged Melanie Wilkes.  Her manners are perfect, as is her ability to shield her true feelings from everyone.  Her anger looks exactly like her fear, and her impatience, and her pleasure.  She is an amazing cook and fierce protector of children and animals.  She’s never owned a pair of blue jeans.Edwin is an accomplished pilot and a pianist of almost professional ability.  He returned to school in his fifties and became a pathologist.  He is equal parts insanely protective, and punishingly hard on his children.  He is educated and refined, but just might trim his toenails at your cocktail party, because it amuses him and shocks others.  He has a laugh that sounds both child-like and demented.

Haboobika is not his given name, but no one knows that and even he has almost forgotten it.  He’s worked as a carny since he ran away with one at fourteen.  He has more tattoos than teeth.  He’s been to every state in the nation and “knows a guy” in every city he’s ever visited.  He’s never been legally married but has nine exes.Have you placed your bets?

Uncle Cholly is real.  Susan is fictional, though Hobnob Jaworsky Winklestinky was the name of a real human from the Outer Banks.  Joe Cuffy is a made-up, mythical creation.  Miss Margie was an absolutely authentic Southern Bell, and my friend Kat’s beloved grandmother.  Edwin also exists, but Haboobika does not.

So, how’d you do?

And look at it this way.  No matter what, reading it gave you five minutes when you weren’t thinking about politics or hurricanes, or T. Swift versus Kanye.Thanks for your time.