It’s all about me

I don’t think I’m better than you.

And that’s what makes me better than you.

The person who inspired this post will most likely never see it, so don’t bother asking if this post is about you. This post is about the chain letters that I see making the rounds on Facebook and other social media (Gotta love Twitter for that, 140 characters is not a lot of characters to forward a chain letter), but mainly on Facebook.

This afternoon, I was catching up on some Facebook browsing, I love reading what you guys are doing. Scrolling backwards through my newsfeed, I noticed a post warning me about the “New Facebook Privacy Issues”, and asking me to un-check some option in my settings in order to prevent people from seeing what this other person was publishing on my timeline.

When I see a post like this, I always do the same thing: I reply to the post explaining that this is a hoax, and I add a link to hoaxbuster, snopes, or any other relevant website where more information can be obtained about the hoax in question. That’s it.

I don’t call you stupid.

I don’t make fun of you.

I don’t send you emails full of threats.

I just try to inform you, because I believe that knowledge is power, and I want you to have more power.

I admit that after a couple of those posts from you, or if you email me multiple times to tell me that you know that most chain letters are dumb but that you know for a fact that this one is not a hoax, and that you’d be so grateful if I would just follow the instructions and forward the message to all my contacts, I may lose my temper a little and write a very nasty post on my Facebook timeline along the lines of this one:

Seriously, just look at all that vitriol dripping from that post.

What you fail to understand is that even if this post seems to be about you, it really is about me.

About my strong desire to make people better, stronger, brighter, smarter, and how I seem to be failing miserably at doing this with you. This post is not saying: “You are inferior to me”, it’s saying: “I have a hard time understanding what I’m doing wrong, why am I not getting through to this person?” or more literally: “Why the fuck do I keep trying to do this?”

Normally I get a few funny comments from dear friends and I move on. Until next time.

But this time, you replied to my post:

I’m sorry, Superior being.

Wow.

I try to help you and you think that I’m calling you inferior? I have a hard time understanding why you would think that way – if I’m about to stick a screwdriver in an electric outlet and someone tells me that it’s a bad idea, and sends me references to electricity and wiring a house, my first instinct is to thank that person, not get frustrated and call him names.

I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know everything (but I’m working on it) and I’m always grateful when someone takes the time to teach me something. Especially when it’s done gracefully.

Unless you think that all teachers are all secretly thinking that all their students are inferior.  Remind me what you do for a living again? Oh right. You teach math in a high school. I sure hope that when you grade exams lower than 100% the kids don’t think you’re calling them inferior, and that they didn’t nicknamed you “The Superior Being”. I’m sure that after having to explain twenty times the same thing to the same kid, you never got home, cracked a beer open and vented to your significant other.

Oops, my bad.

But here’s the good part. You know those privacy settings you wanted me to change so my friends wouldn’t see what you post? I did you one better. You never have to worry about my friends seeing what you post on Facebook. I won’t see what you post either. That’s what the unfriend button is for.

If you somehow manage to find this post, let me leave you with this one final information.

This is one of my favorite non-fiction book ever. I highly recommend it if you ever want to truly understand why we’re not Facebook friends anymore.

Spoiler Alert: It’s because you’re an asshole.

See? I’m really not better than you.

 

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Enemy at the Gates

The opening scenes of the movie Enemy At The Gates features a sequence in which the main character arrives at the docks on Stalingrad in late 1942, and is promptly queued up in front of a truck, in which Commissars are issuing rifles and ammunition to the conscripts.

The catch is, that only every other soldier is getting a rifle. The Commissars are usually saying something like “One man gets the rifle, the next man gets some bullets. The second man follows the man with the rifle, and when he is shot, picks up the rifle and carries on fighting!”

That’s exactly how I feel at work right now.

Hopefully I won’t get shot. But if I am, I hope someone will carry on fighting.

The matter with me – A car story

Hey, I’ve got eyes that see
Don’t say there’s nothing wrong with me
You say I’m just paranoid, well that’s something the matter with me
That’s one thing the matter with me

Hey, they checked my vital signs
But I can read between the lines
They tell me I worry too much, now there’s another thing
The matter with me. That’s two things the matter with me.

– The Boomers YYZ, The matter with me. From the album What we do.

I remember way back when LovelyWife and I decided it was time to get a car – the first ever thing we would buy as a couple. The year was 1992 and we were living in Montreal. During a week long visit in Sherbrooke, I had to get new sneakers so we borrowed my FMIL’s car and went to shop for shoes. On our way back from the store, I jokingly said something about buying two modes of transportation during the same week, and sure enough by the end of that week we were driving back to Montreal in our very own 1992 Geo Metro.

Yes, it was that color.

One of the main things I remember from buying this car was the fact that since we were really young, the sales person wasn’t taking us very seriously. Before arriving at the dealership, I already knew how much the insurance was going to be, I knew how much the car was going to be and I even knew what color we wanted. Those of you who think that OCD thing I have is recent, not so much.

We walked in the dealership, and when after a while the first person asked us if they could help us, I simply said: “I want this car, in green”. So the guy started telling me about the engine, the fuel consumption, the handling… So I repeated: “I want this car, in green. I need it for Sunday at the latest.” The guy stopped talking and looked at my FMIL. She said that we were the one buying the car, so we finally sat down and signed the papers. We got the car on the Friday.

We drove that car for seven years. Over the course of these years, the car was often serviced at the dealership, and often the mechanics would not take me seriously. Once I was even charged for parts that would not fit on the car.

I always told myself that since I was 21, this might be somewhat normal.

And then in 1999 I started shopping around for a new car. I was 28, so surely I would be taken more seriously that time, yes? Also, I wasn’t going to get a GM because the car place was treating me like a kid.

No. It turns out that even at 28, you’re still considered a kid by car salesguys.

The first place I went to simply *cough* Hyundai *cough* ignored me. So after standing around in the showroom for a good 20 minutes, I just walked out. Only then did someone managed to pull themselves away from their water cooler discussion to ask an half-assed: “Looking for a car?” Yes, but not here.

I changed my strategy at the second place. I walked into Ford, and went straight to the first salesguy I saw. “I want a Focus Zx-3 sedan, silver, manual. Can we go on a test drive before signing the papers?” I thought that would convey the proper amount of interest in the car, coupled with the allure of a really easy sale. Imagine my surprise when the salesguy reply was: “I only have an automatic hatchback version that you can drive, but that’s not really the same thing… So, I dunno. Wanna do that?” I said no, I didn’t want to do that and walked out.

I then went to Saturn, figuring their no hassle thing would work to my advantage. They were nice enough folks, and by nice enough I meant that they greeted me with: “Welcome to Saturn, the SL1 is staring at 15,999$ buy or lease come here and just sign here you have 30 days to bring back the car red is an awesome color”, but ultimately the car was just not a good fit.

I ended up getting a Toyota Echo. It was a great car, but the fact that I was treated like a human being really made the whole Toyota experience awesome.

When in 2004 I wanted a new car, I just went the Toyota way and “upgraded” to a Corolla. Unfortunately, that car was the worst car I ever bought, and the dealership was the worst dealership I’ve ever dealt with. It’s amazing that I kept this car for four years. Of course, when it was time to get a new car, I didn’t want to drive a Toyota anymore.

In 2008 I leased a Nissan Rogue. I have to say that I really enjoy driving this SUV, and I even thought about buying it once the lease period is over. Nissan was nice enough when I gave them my piece-of-you-know-what Corolla, and gave me an awesome deal on a really nice car, so why not. But I like new cars. So when my FFIL hinted that he was willing to buy my SUV one my lease was over – or sooner – I started to think about cars, research them online, look at options. Yesterday I picked up my SUV from Nissan, and figured I was going to get a salesguy to run some numbers for me, help me crystalize my plan to get my current SUV to my FFIL and leave with a new car.

I thought that at 40, I was certainly going to get the proper amount of respect from a business who was about to take anywhere from 20K to 40K from me.

I turns out Nissan is not that interested in my money. Or so it seems. Because when asked about the whole exchange thing, the guy just said: “yes, it’s possible.” When pressed for more information, I managed to get a little more, just enough to know that my FFIL and I had to be there at the same time.

What. The. Fuck. Giving away money has never been so hard.

Here’s what I told the guy:

“I have this Rogue. The lease on it is finishing up soon, and I’m looking for a way to sell this Rogue to my FFIL, and in the same visit leave with a new car, possibly smaller than what I have right now. I’m looking for an approximate pricing on either a Juke, a Versa sedan, a Sentra, a Leaf, a Maxima or any other model that may be a good fit for what I do with a car, which is drive to the grocery store and back. I like new cars and I like fun cars. How do we make this happen?”

Here’s what the guy replied:

“The Juke is not a family car. The Versa has a 4.5% lease rate, you probably don’t want that.” Finally we’re getting somewhere.  “But you’re a preferred client, so you’re getting a deal on the rate. This car (points at Versa) is 17K.”

I’m nodding, looking at him. He’s looking at me. He’s looking outside. He’s looking at his watch. He’s slowly walking away.

“Do you have a business card?”

“Not really. See you around.”

I just stood there. Dumbfounded. I’m a 40 year-old dude and I can’t be taken seriously when it comes to buying a new car. There is something wrong with me. I’m hoping the people at Honda are assholes too, because I really don’t want to drive a Civic.

What if there’s no heaven and I live like a priest?
What if I write a book they don’t like in the Middle East?
What if I do something good and nobody sees?
Then, there would be something the matter with me.
Then I’d have three things the matter with me.

– The Boomers YYZ, The matter with me. From the album What we do.

Speaking of the Boomers

Doesn’t it look like I Photoshopped myself in the background there? 😉 Maybe a beard would make me more respectable?

Lie to me

Let’s say you would happen to be browsing Facebook one night and saw this thumbnail of a picture posted on someone’s wall:

In itself, posting a graphic on your wall is not a big deal. But let’s say – hypothetically – that you then happen to read the caption of the graphic, and it read:

Hand drawn – all rights reserved. Do not copy.

Then you clicked on the picture and saw that once it’s been embiggified, there’s a not-so-subtle watermark on it.

Of course because I can Google shit, my first thought was “bullshit!”. I’m willing to bet it was your first thought too. Unless you thought that it’s a hand drawn watermark?

But being the nice friendly Canadian I am – balanced by the huge skeptic that I am – I had to say something, but something relatively polite and mild. So I wrote this comment under the “hand drawing” that went like this:

“Hey! What graphic program did you use to create this drawing?”

This reply came less than a minute later:

It’s not from a program, it’s done by hand.

So I just let it go. I figured that who cares if that person likes to pretend that she drew a picture by hand when she really just applied a filter. What difference does it make to me? No skin off my back, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that I have a fairly obsessive-compulsive thing going on, and I’m not really able to let go of things. It didn’t help that over the following weeks, that person kept posting all kinds of new “hand drawings” that were clearly done with the help of a computer program. I became literally obsessed by those “drawings”.

I also have a background in social sciences, which unfortunately means that I really really want to help people – even the ones that don’t want to be helped.

So I did what I do best. I asked questions until I got something that could put my mind at ease. My goal was not to catch the person in a lie – even though that would’ve probably been much more gratifying in the end – but to make that person realize why I thought she was using a computer, and ultimately make her realize that people were seeing through her game. I thought that if I could at least get her to admit that I wasn’t crazy for saying her “drawings” looked like photoshop filters applied on pictures, I would call it a day and move on.

You already know that’s not going to happen, right?

For a few weeks, whenever a new “drawing” was posted, I would ask questions about it in the Facebook comment section. How long did this take you to do? What medium did you use? Would you document the work in progress? How did you scan the drawing to your computer? I took it one step further and started commenting on other stuff she posted. When she posted lyrics of a song, I commented that I too loved that signer. I tracked down movie dialogue and literary quotes she posted as her own and commented on how much I enjoyed that movie or book.

Basically, all my comments said: “I’m watching you. I know what you are doing. You may be fooling hundreds of people, but not me!”. There was also a little of “Please stop being an idiot, people know we’re related”.

Finally after 9 “drawings” and a few posts, I received this private inbox message:

Just to be clear on the hand drawings: I do use a Wacom stylus to do them. In 2005, my right middle finger was broken in 5 places so I can’t hold a regular pencil anymore. The only photoshopped part is the watermark, and that’s done to protect my work. Since I use a stylus, they are really hand made drawings.

I immediately stopped posting on the person’s wall, and sent her a polite but frank email about the “drawings”. Basically I asked her point blank to send me the .psd file of one of her “drawings”. I got this:

Maybe for the next drawings. I never keep the electronic files as they take too much space on my computer. You’re funny, it’s like you’re the drawing inspector! LOL!

I told her that I wasn’t, but that I did work with Photoshop and computers in general for the last twenty years or so, and that I was pretty sure that I could recognize a filter when I saw one. I told her that I didn’t mind if her thrill was to apply filters to pictures, but that being told that it was a hand drawing bugged me a little (but apparently not her hundreds of Facebook Friends, who only had good comments to make on her talent). I also included this graphic in my reply, telling her I took 5 minutes of my lunch break to make it.

You can make this bigger. You know you want to.

I concluded my email by saying: “Clearly, you can see where I’m coming from, right?”

Her reply came quickly.

I totally understand how you could be mistaken. Don’t you think that if I post them to Facebook saying they’re hand-drawn, it’s because I’m proud of having succeeded in making these? What would I have to gain by telling people I’m doing these by hand if I’m not?

It took me a good half hour just to think about what I was going to answer, or really if I was even bother to answer. In the end I went with a really long reply, that I will not post here. But basically, I offered these thoughts:

  • Maybe it’s just something that started innocently by posting one filtered picture to your drawings folder. Then you started receiving positive feedback on your talent, so you didn’t want to disappoint your fans and basically painted yourself in a corner.
  • Maybe you simply like the attention.

I then offered that this whole questioning thing had next to nothing to do with her, and all to do with me. You see, I question everything, so why not question that? However, I’m always willing to be proven wrong. So in the spirit of friendship and family, I offered to make the three and a half drive to her place with a nice bottle of wine and watch her draw for an hour or two.

I even offered to blog about how great of an artist she was, and promised to publicly apologize on her Facebook wall if she could prove me wrong.

When 24 hours passed without a reply, I figured the matter was settled. I had called her bluff and she couldn’t answer. Case closed, moving on. I refrained from any and all comments on her new “drawings” when she posted them. I had tried to help, and had failed. No sense beating a photoshopped picture of a dead horse.

See, I can totally joke about this. I even made the following images on my lunch break and had a good chuckle about it. They are some of her “drawings” overlaid on graphics I found on-line.

Well, that kept me busy for about 7 minutes.

Now flash-forward to yesterday night. I see this post in my Facebook timeline:

To all you guys who “sag” your pants and show your butt and underwear …did you know it originated in prison? It was a signal to the other MEN that you are “available”. So if you wanna keep going around looking like you’re “available” for another dude to “tap that” then keep thinking you’re cool while I think you look like a Fool!!! BTW it’s called – PBS (Prison B*tch Syndrome).LOL Pass this on to the droopy pants that you know.

Can you guess this is from the same person? So I did what I always do when I see people pass on false information or chain letters. I posted a comment basically saying “don’t post crap!” and linked to snopes.com.

That comment got deleted in less than a minute. Thinking that maybe Facebook didn’t like the included link – I had linked to a specific article – I commented again. Deleted in less than a minute once more. That made me suspicious… Sure enough, I discovered that all the comments I ever made on any posts on that person’s wall had been deleted. I could sort of understand that, saving face and all. But surely this comment was something different… Why delete it?

So I reposted my comment on my wall, tagging that person in the comment.

“For those of you who didn’t have the chance to see my comment on (person’s name)’s wall before it got deleted…”

That comment was “liked” in less than 10 seconds by that person. Interesting. Thinking that it really was a link problem – I mean why would someone delete a comment from their wall and then instantly like the same comment on my wall – I made my way to her wall to leave a simple comment without any link and was greeted with this gem of a post:

What if I post that I have blonde hair, blue skin and live in a mushroom? Would you call me out on this too? What difference does it make to you? If you don’t agree with what I post, just hang up and go to the next caller. If you’re looking for an excuse to come to my house with wine, you should be mature enough to just come over without having to make up a whole story to justify doing it.

I am now convinced this person truly believes the reality she constructs. I mean seriously, how do you go from a polite version of “I think you’re a fucking liar” to “I’m looking for an excuse to go visit you”? You that I saw last time about 12 years ago for 5 minutes when I dropped off some clothes for your kids at your place. You that in those 5 minutes, asked me for 100$ and a television set.

Delusional.

The worst part of this is that I now realize that some people are just beyond any kind of help. And honestly, isn’t this the saddest thing you’ve ever heard? I know it’s number two on my all-time list.

Because really, nothing can be sadder than learning that I’m related to La Schtroumpfette.

One of those DAD posts

You know what is really really hard?

Come on, get it out of your system… I can hear you say “that’s what she said” from here. 

What is really really hard is parenting other people’s kids. In fact, it’s not “really really hard”, it’s damn near impossible. Okay, it’s impossible. Parenting your own kid is hard enough as it is – I could give you a thousand examples of the situations that are making me lose my mind as a dad and even as a human being in general. I already wrote about how my son got shot in the park, I already asked you for advice about letting CutieDaughter get a Facebook account, I already told you about ripping the wings of butterflies, and of course I already told you that when it comes to my kids I’m a complete emotional mess.

As a dad, I get through those moments by thinking about the eventual benefits we’ll get as a family once we go through the crap. That is what keeps me going, and often a healthy dose of Whisky.

But when it comes to other people’s kids, there’s no real incentive to go through the crap with/for them because quite frankly the rewards would not be mine to enjoy anyways. I’m not saying that always prevents me from trying. I am a real softie at heart you know, and can’t stand the thought of giving up on anyone. Even kids that are mean to my kids.

In that spirit of not giving up on anyone, I spent about an hour chatting on Facebook with a friend of CutieDaughter.

A friend who basically spent an hour writing that my daughter was the biggest liar who ever lived, and also that she really missed her on Facebook since they were BFF. A friend who calls my house at 2am and hangs up when I pick up. A friend who made my daughter cry more times than I care to recall.

I give up.

Goodbye, friend.