Incivility and Attention Whores

Bowling shoes. Food. Beer pitchers.

Those are the items people have thrown at other people or windows at two businesses in the Des Moines area. Why? Because adults aren’t getting what they want, so they’re throwing adult tantrums, which aren’t a thing. A tantrum is a tantrum. If you’re throwing one, you’re an adult in numbers only.

I remember throwing a tantrum as a kid in the middle of the meat department at Dahl’s (R.I.P.). My mother leaned over to me & whispered that I would NEVER do that to her again. It was terrifying. She was right. I didn’t.

Maybe the person who threw bowling shoes didn’t have a mom who was scary when she got quiet. Maybe folks got away with throwing food when they were kids & were never told it’s wrong. But I doubt that. I suspect these folks know exactly what they’re doing. They know they’re immature & cruel. They just don’t care.

I say that because, this past Sunday, My family & I attended my niece’s graduation. It was held outdoors with no restrictions, no social distancing, & no mask mandates because our governor banned such mandates schools & local governments. The graduating class had over 500 students, which meant there were literally thousands of people in attendance at this one function. I’m confident there were less than 200 masks among the crowd.

In other news, it’s considered “divisive” & an incivility to teach, talk about, & call out racism. Political leaders called for “civility” in protests. And so on & so forth with the standard nonsense that is White supremacy.

None of this should surprise me, but I have this flaw in thinking people will do the right thing. Strangely, it’s the same flaw Iowa’s governor has. Except mine is believing people will care about other people.

It leaves me asking the same question time & time again: Why isn’t everyone talking about this? Why do we let the people in the wrong have the say, make the rules, & control the narrative? This is why we need to talk about it.

The derision of calling people of color “uncivilized” is not new in America. It was encoded in one of our country’s founding documents. In our Declaration of Independence, among the complaints listed against King George III is this: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Ironically, the Founding Fathers (a.k.a. European Colonizers) considered this to be “oppression” and “tyranny.”

(I’ll leave the phrase “domestic insurrections” for another post.)

So, there it is, right? Written into our nation’s history is the belief that the colonizer is the one being oppressed, the ones bringing harm think they are the victims, the ones throwing the food think they are in the right.

But they know full well they aren’t because they have to disparage the so-called uncivilized “savage” in order to look like the victim. And they couldn’t easily defeat the Natives, so they . . . threw a tantrum.

I return to this question too: Why do you think people throw food at those in the service industry? Why do you think a misnomer like “wage slave” exists? Why do you think people get so mad when minimum wage workers don’t bend to the whims of the customer? Why do you think people continue to throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want, then try to disparage anyone who tries to say, “Hey, you’re in the wrong”?

It’s because of the innate right to attention from others, one of the most important factors in feeling whole.

The desire to be a victim, to get sympathy, to get attention is what we aren’t talking about here. It is the cause of so many social symptoms. We shame people who seek attention as attention whores, as if attention is a bad thing, but it is the thing we all crave from birth. We literally need food, sleep, and attention to survive.

And when people don’t get attention in a loving, nurturing way, they will ALWAYS seek it where they can get it. Some will seek it in healthy ways, but others–especially if they’ve not had healthy behaviors modeled for them–will do things like throw food, hurl beer pitchers at windows, harm others, and . . . well, colonize whole countries. It might seem like an exaggeration, but the behavior doesn’t change, only the scale of the person’s impact does.

And if you don’t believe me, look at Donald J. Trump. How many times do you think his parents told him they loved him?

Passports in a Pandemic: A Story about Trump’s America

This morning, I was tested for COVID-19. How I got to this point is Donald Trump’s fault.

For a few years, Hubster & I discussed getting passports. We wanted them pre-Trump because we want to travel internationally. We wanted them post-Trump in case we needed to flee the country. We finally got serious about it in October and scheduled our appointment on October 20th, which–as of this writing–was three days ago.

I’ve long been terrified about getting passports because I’ve always heard the process was a pain. So, being extra-cautious, we checked repeatedly to make sure we did everything right. We know we’ll need pictures, so we agreed to have them done at the post office. And, for at least a week prior, an enveloped marked “passport docs” sat on my desk; it contained required copies and applications. Per travel.state.gov, “citizenship evidence” includes a list with these two items first: “your original evidence of U.S. citizenship” and “a photocopy of the front (and back, if there is printed information) of your original evidence of U.S. citizenship.” It does not say the original documents are required. It literally lists both options. Remember this.

I promise this says “passport docs.” Hubster asked if I drew a penis instead of a D, which is fitting.
A screenshot of the U.S. State Department’s passport requirements page. There are more requirements, but I didn’t crop out anything relevant.

We arrived on time to our appointment. Everyone was masked up, but the post office was busy, as in a steady stream of people in line to ship, mail, and so on. Someone was ahead of us, but we didn’t wait terribly long. It was maybe fifteen minutes. We were both nervous this would go poorly, but with all the prep we’d done, I felt like it would be a breeze. That should’ve been my warning sign.

I can’t remember the order of events, but two employees helped us; one was a trainee. They got our pictures done quickly, but I was unnerved that the more experienced employee had her mask down off her face while we took our pictures. But it was over quickly, and we sat down to do our paperwork, a plexiglass divider on the desk between us and the employees.

They reviewed our paperwork. They went through Hubster’s quickly, but once they got to the copy of his birth certificate, they informed us we needed the original. We (probably more I) grumbled a bit that the directions did not indicate an original was required. They insisted. From there, I was antsy to get it over with. We knew we’d have to run back home, get the originals, and get back to this busy post office.

But did I mention central Iowa got its first ever snow squall warning right before we left for our appointment? Frankly, I was not eager for us to be on the roads.

They reviewed my application, and the trainee said I was missing a page. I said it was double sided. She seemed fine with that. The more experienced employee informed us the application was not allowed to be double sided. I’m sure there’s a reason. We don’t know what it is, and I was too anxious/irritable to ask.

The employees mark down that we’ve already taken and paid for our pictures. They tell us to come back before 3:30. They write on the paperwork that we’ll be back by 3:30. In our heads, this means we can just pop in and finish the process. Again, this should’ve been another red flag to me.

We get back home safely, as the snow squall hit northern Polk County harder than where we were, and the roads remained decent. I immediately bust my butt upstairs, grab my original birth certificate, put it in the stack with the rest of our documents, then print my application again, but this time, I make sure it doesn’t print two-sided. Hubs locates his original birth certificate (which caused a bit of panic because it wasn’t where it was originally, and I’m pretty sure that was my fault). We return to the post office maybe 30 minutes later if that.

An entirely different person is working the passport desk now. The two employees we worked with are nowhere in sight. We notify the folks that we’re back, and we wait. There are two people ahead of us. While we wait, a family of four comes in. My Karen-sense detector beeps. The mother in this family has her mask below her nose. The dad is restless. I’m not sure he ever sits down at the nearby table where his wife and kids are. I sense they expect to get right in. The Karen-y mom even looks at her phone, states the time of their appointment to her husband, has the email up, and says, “We’re special.” Having been invisible and stepped in front of countless times, I can tell my polite bitch mode will be required.

Sure enough, after the two people in front of us are finished, the passport employee calls in this family. At this point, we’d been waiting for half an hour. I jump up and say, “Ma’am,” then explain our circumstances. Hubster and I explain that we were told to come back before 3:30. The employee repeatedly tells us that Karen’s family had an appointment at 2 p.m. (It’s just about 2.)

She says, “It’ll only take them fifteen minutes.”

I say, “My husband is already missing work.”

She says, “Can you wait fifteen minutes?”

I asked, “Do you have an appointment at 2:30?”

She replies, “Yes, but this will only take fifteen minutes.”

At that point, I knew it was pointless to argue, so we sat back down and waited. I also knew it was not going to take this family fifteen minutes.

At 2:35 p.m., the family finishes. There are more people in line for passports. She calls us in. There’s no acknowledgement that her fifteen minutes was really 35.

She’s kind. She’s helpful. She knows her shit, this employee. This is also why it doesn’t not take her the estimated time she thinks it will take. She’s under the impression we will also take only fifteen minutes. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.

She looks at our pictures and asks, “Where did you get these taken?”

We’re both like, “Uh, here.”

She doesn’t believe us. We still have our masks around our necks in the original photos, and she says, “We’re not going to be in a pandemic forever, so you shouldn’t have those on” despite that fact that you can still see our entire faces. I provide the extra copies that have the USPS logo on them. She shakes her head and comments about how she’s taught them better. We’re required to retake our pictures.

Fifteen minutes, you say?

She takes his and has no issues. She takes mine, looks at it, and asks me to take it again. She explains the background is not “picking up the gray” in my hair. Keep in mind we have to take our masks off completely to do this. Hubster’s mask is easy. It loops around the ears. Mine ties behind my head and neck. Taking mine off more than once takes longer than I’d like especially in a scenario when I want to be quick about it. Maybe I should’ve worn an easier mask, but I wanted to wear one that felt secure in the high-traffic space of the post office. I take my mask off for the third time in a public space, and she puts an old, red sweater on my shoulders (god knows how long it has been there and who all it has touched), so my grays will show up. She takes the picture again and is finally happy.

The rest is easy. We shell out a lot of money. We’re friendly and sign some things. I apologize for being rude. She tells me she didn’t think I was rude, just that I didn’t understand the process. And that’s when I about lost it internally because we leave there at 3 p.m. And the 2:30 appointment gets in at 3.

Now, yes, that was his own fault. He was a little late to his appointment. However, it’s possible he came from Northern Polk county, where they had upwards of nine inches of snow in about two hours. Worse, she refused to make the 2 p.m. Karen family wait for us, but she made the 2:30 appointment wait for us, and WHY NOT JUST LET US GET IT DONE AT 2 P.M.? It’s not the process I don’t understand, lady; it’s your damn logic.

*screams internally* What should’ve taken fifteen minutes (apparently) took us two hours. I was exhausted, angry, and grumpy at the end of it. But it was done, and now we wait.

Except it’s possible I got myself a souvenir from this lovely post office, typical government bullshit experience. A couple days later, I notice a mildly sore throat and fatigue. Immediately, I was like, “Ah, shit.” But because I have other health issues that could’ve caused this, I tried not to panic. This morning–three days after our post office fun–I woke up stuffy with a sore throat, a headache, fatigue, and coughing. Before getting up for the day, I decide to get tested. I schedule it for a few hours later.

The experience itself is a post I’ll save for another day, but I should have my results anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. In the meantime, I’m staying home and trying to keep myself in my office even though Hubster probably has it already if I do. (Yes, I’ll share the results when I get them.)

And this is the gist of it. We got passports because we wanted to flee Donald Trump’s America, and I might’ve gotten COVID as the souvenir. That’s the kind of world we’re living in. It’s one where you try to escape a growing sentiment of hatred and end up the victim of an uncontrolled pandemic. It’s one where you’ve done your best to stay home for seven months, wear a mask in public, socially distance from family and friends, keep informed about best practices, raise awareness about elections, and vote with two hours of research to still end up feeling sick and having a swab up the nostrils.

Donald Trump’s America means choosing between a cough or a coup, death or defecting. And I’m over it.

“Trumpalyptic Dingleberry”

My dad & I were chatting on the phone, & he was mildly frustrated because he couldn’t find a word to describe how dumb he thinks Trump is. He was saying there just isn’t a word that encompasses that level of dumb.

He called me back about ten minutes later & said, “I got the word.”

I said, “OK?”

He said, “Dingleberry.”

We both laughed, & I said, “The Top Gear [Grand Tour] guys like to pair that with the word ‘apocalyptic.’ So, apocalyptic dingleberry.”

My dad–forever coming up with the best shit–said, “Trumpalyptic Dingleberry.”

Friends, we have a winner.

Call to Action: #MorrieMailChallenge

Some years ago, I taught a literature course for which the university required Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. Of course, the book is moving in countless ways, but this part stuck with me:

When a colleague at Brandeis died suddenly of a heart attack, Morrie went to his funeral. He came home depressed. ‘What a waste,’ he said. ‘All of those people saying all those wonderful things, and Irv never got to hear any of it.’

(Albom 12) . . . I’m an MLA gal at heart.

From this comes the living eulogy. Morrie wanted to know why we waited until someone was dead to say nice things about them. Why not tell them while they are alive? I loved the idea and decided I’d write a letter to each person I loved, so they knew how I felt about them. I called it The Morrie Project.

I drafted one letter, and I never sent it.

I’ve sat on this project for over a decade. One person on my list passed a few years ago. I missed my chance. I don’t believe in regret, but I do have sadness over this. I know others feel similar about wishing they could’ve said something to someone while they were still with us.

Today, I was admiring the stamps I geeked out over bought and thought, Maybe I should use these for the project. And then I thought . . . why not encourage others to share their living eulogies while supporting the USPS?

Spoopy Stamps! They’re shiny!

If you don’t know, the U.S. Postal Service is struggling and may cease to exist in the very near future. There have long been rumblings the postal service should be privatized, and the Trump administration is all too keen to see that happen despite the numerous problems with said plans (specifically, the increase in prices and the reduction of service to areas a private company would deem unworthy).

And that’s how the #MorrieMailChallenge tumbled from my brain.

The Challenge: How to do the #MorrieMailChallenge

  • Make a list of everyone you love and admire.
  • Write a living eulogy for each person.
  • Buy stamps.
  • Mail those living eulogies!

That does seem easy, but I’ll be honest: It can be emotionally draining, as my therapist told me when I attempted this again recently. That said, it can also be cathartic. It could be heartwarming and improve relationships. Of course, there’s risk involved, but authenticity and vulnerability are all about taking those risks. I say we are in the best time to make our love known for those we cannot see during physical distancing, and this is an ideal way to do that. Maybe this is the chance to unlearn the fear of being vulnerable.

If you do the #MorrieMailChallenge, I’d love it if you shared an image that represents each person on your social media. Maybe you could use the stamp you sent. Maybe you could post a picture of that person. Maybe you could share an image that reminds you of them. Whatever you do, use the tag #MorrieMailChallenge, and spread some love while supporting one of the most important federal institutions we’ve got left.

Even if you don’t do this, please consider buying stamps, support the USPS, leave a kind note for your postal carrier, and call your loved ones to tell them what they mean to you. Don’t wait until it’s too late.