Humiliations Galore!

Despite the fact that they were spoken by Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride under entirely different circumstances, those two words sum up my career journey this year. Between no call backs for interviews and starting three new (part-time) jobs this year, I’m now a full-fledged newbie (an oxymoron, I believe) at the age of 36, and I have never felt dumber. I recently began working two short shifts at an apparently hotly contested campus where I am housed in the corner of a computer lab that, according to some higher up, cannot be referred to as a library. Therefore, everyone who comes in believes that I am an IT person which I am most definitely not…especially according to my name tag that clearly reads “Library.” Nonetheless, I have schooled dozens of students in the art of logging in and locating printers on the network.

Just two weeks into the semester, I not only nearly lost my marbles, but I almost pulled them out and threw them at someone…specifically a professor. The situation was a printing problem, and I applied my limited repertoire of skills unsuccessfully to the issue. I then proceeded to inform the professor that this was an IT question instead of a library question so it was outside my skill set. He proceeded to tell his entire class…that had followed him into the library to stand around and wait…that he had asked the expert, but he still couldn’t print. I was slightly taken aback by this pronouncement so much so that I retreated to my desk and failed to call the IT person for help. First of all, the name tag clearly states “Library” NOT “IT/Technology.” Second this was only the second time in my life that a professor had been condescending toward me. I was a teenager the first time and somewhat incapable of defending myself. This time felt like a slap, and I had to rope in the righteous anger.

So instead of saying, “I’m sorry that with your graduate degree you don’t know how to print or treat someone else like a human being,” I just decided to return to my corner where I promptly hated everyone for the next two hours. Then I fled. I will say that it’s a sad state when I’m more excited about going to the doctor than going to work.

At my two other new jobs, the humiliation largely comes from not knowing all the skills just yet, but everyone is kind enough to help when I have questions. Why does there always have to be one person who has to humiliate someone else to make himself feel better? I understand enough about human nature, and I’ve observed enough human character to know this happens. However, it makes the figurative slap no less painful and sharp.

I openly acknowledge that I find the verse Matthew 5:39 difficult to uphold. I tend to be more of an Agent J in Men in Black kind of person, “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.” I don’t like to start a fight, but it is very tempting to finish it even though I’m not supposed to finish that kind of fight. I had no control over the fact that this professor waited until after class to print something while bringing his entire class in tow. I am NOT an IT person responsible for fixing computer issues. I also cannot control how another person behaves. What I CAN control is how I react to a situation.

That day I was insecure because of how I was treated. The next day I was angry. A few days after that I finally let it go because I began to see an advantage to humility/humbleness. Humility just lets that stuff go, but I’m finding that I currently have to work through the stages to get to humility. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the level of going straight to humility, but I’m working on it.

“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” ~Mother Teresa

First, Do No Harm: Driving

My wrecked PT Cruiser after I hydroplaned and was hit by an 18-wheeler who couldn’t avoid me.

For just a few months, I had almost forgotten one of the reasons I quit my old job: the daily commute. Then I decided to take a drive back to my old stomping grounds to see friends, and everything came back to me halfway there. I was passing an 18-wheeler when a brand new pickup truck came roaring up behind me, and suddenly I realized that I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had chosen to block it out of my mind entirely for the preservation of my sanity.

Now some of you are probably wondering a few things. How fast was the 18-wheeler going? Slower than the speed limit. How fast was I driving? The speed limit. How fast was the pickup going? Faster than the speed limit.

I understand that many people would have an issue with me ONLY driving the speed limit of 70 mph, but I don’t drive to suit other people. Seventeen years of commuting, a family of truck drivers, and one hydroplaning accident on the interstate that totaled my PT cruiser (see photo above) without killing or severely injuring myself or anyone else have all taught me a few things.

1)      Speed is no small matter.

2)      Dangerous speed kills – and sometimes not just the person speeding.

3)      Rain and speed…well, see #2.

4)      Ice and speed…also see #2.

5)      In my interstate driving experience, drivers of regular vehicles are far more dangerous and unpredictable than truck drivers. Just sayin’.

6)      Motorcycles are very, very, very easy to lose in your blind spot. Consequently, motorcycles are very, very, very hard to see.

7)      Road rage is real. For some drivers, everything is war.

8)      Construction zones are serious matters. Even the guys just seemingly standing around don’t want to go home in a body bag thanks to me.

9)      Deer (and other animals, such as birds, squirrels, snakes, raccoons, groundhogs, etc.) do not observe human laws of the road. Therefore, they don’t care how my car looks after I tangle with them, and they don’t care if I run into a tree trying not to hit them.

All of that being said, I have learned to abide by one rule: First, do no harm. In other words, I try to go out of my way to be an unselfish driver. Am I always successful? No, I am not, but I’m successful more often than not. I get tired of seeing other people be selfish drivers. More importantly, I try to remember one thing: I don’t want to be the reason that someone else’s family member never comes home.

So here are some tips (with a little sarcasm thrown in for good measure) gleaned from my experiences to ensure that we all get home alive every day (and without committing murder on the way there):

  • If you need to slow down, slow down. Let that person in the passing lane in front of you finish passing someone by applying a little bit of your own brake. There is no reason to terrify another driver by running up on them like a maniac. If you are too distracted to realize this is happening, you probably shouldn’t be driving. Pull over and let someone else drive you to your destination.
  • If you can get over to make it easier on someone else, do it. Let that person onto the interstate. No one “owns” the road, and there is no excuse for being so selfish that you can’t get over if your path is clear. If you are too distracted, well…refer to my instructions above.
  • Put down the #%*&$ phone…paper…burger…whatever. I know how difficult it can be to let things go, but do it so you don’t have to explain how you killed somebody because of a text message or dripping cheeseburger. (Or do it so God doesn’t have to shake his head at the stupidity of the way in which you got yourself killed or, worse, killed someone else).
  • Pick your battles. Remember when I said that road rage was real? I have seen it in action, and it is terrifying because it is completely out of your control (and obviously in the hands of someone with a screw loose). Just let the idiot go. DON’T challenge him or her.

I know how exhausting it can be to deal with people on the road. Everyone has his or her own method of driving, and some of them clearly make up their own laws as they go. I can’t fix those people, but I can abide by the rule: First, do no harm. Because I want every person who comes near me on the road to get home safely and because to paraphrase Louella in the Mitford* books, “I’d rather not meet Jesus going head on with a Mack truck.”


*Mitford series by Jan Karon – Positively delightful series!!!