Divorced Before They Were Married

NOTE: The names have been changed here, so if you think that you know who I am talking about, you don’t.

A couple of days ago I was thoroughly entertained for quite a while by listening to a co-worker of mine, Chris, bicker with his wife on the phone through the cubicle wall. They apparently had a problem with their well-pump last Sunday and he was out of the office on Monday to babysit a repair crew. The crew was apparently unable to fix the problem though and they had to have the crew out again. From what I gathered, the issue was that the pump was not shutting off and it sounded like, on the advice of these experts, they just “disconnected” the pump for the time-being so that it wouldn’t over-pressurize the tank (though it also sounded like they still had water in the house from the residual pressure). For some reason, they don’t know where their well-head is and Chris was planning on going home that afternoon to use a metal-detector and/or dig some holes in their yard to look for the well so that their repair guys, who were already scheduled for the next morning, could come back and do the work that was necessary (like replace a sensor or a switch or replace the whole submersible pump). Chris’ wife however was apparently unsatisfied with this plan for some reason (I can only hear one side of this conversation so I didn’t catch all the nuances) and she wanted Chris to call another company. Chris resisted this because they were already half-way down this road with this first company and he didn’t want to start from square-one with a whole new set of people (a nice, rational piece of male logic that makes perfect sense to me). His wife, Amy, wanted her husband to do all the leg-work and “talk-technical” with the specialists, but she wanted him to do what she wanted done the way that she wanted it done and under her direction and to her schedule and priorities. She wanted him to do the grunt-work while she acted as The Executive Manager making all the strategic decisions. The whole thing got rather heated for an office conversation with Chris refusing to do what he considered to be a waste-of-time and Amy refusing to do the “man’s-work” of actually calling and talking to the repair-guys. They went around and around with this for at least 20-minutes and I think that the final outcome was that Chris “won” in that Amy was going to personally go do whatever she thought appropriate to resolve this well issue and he was going to wash-his-hands of all further involvement with it (yeah, right – that’ll last for about an hour).

What this really does for me is emphasize how atypical my wife and I are by comparison. We seldom disagree to this level on anything and we never argue like this – not even in private – and certainly not in a public forum (which an open office is). I think that one reason for this is that unlike many people, we seldom take a stand against the other’s desires “on principle”. My theory (and probably my wife’s too) is that the “Domestic Tranquility” is far more important than “being right” or “winning” in any specific situation. If it becomes clear that something is really, really important to the other person each of us is willing to give way on the issue even if we don’t agree with the plan. I know that so-called “marriage experts” say that fighting with each other is normal, necessary and healthy – but no, it isn’t any of those things – and I say this after being happily married for over 30-years.

Although I haven’t heard any telephone arguments over-the-wall for a couple of days, I have been thinking more about Chris and his relationship with his wife. It seems apparent to me that in spite of being young and having a small baby, Chris and his wife Amy are headed for a divorce. The problem, which I can clearly hear in the one side of the conversations that I get, is that he has absolutely no respect for her as a person (and this disrespect is quite likely reciprocated by her-for-him too). It is just a Fundamental Truth that “love” cannot possibly exist without the prerequisite of basic “respect”. You don’t necessarily need to agree with the other person all the time, but you must be honestly willing to view their feelings and opinions as legitimate and worthy of your consideration. You must be prepared to fully accept the other person as your equal, if not necessarily in specific skills or knowledge, then at least in “Value”. If you think that you deserve to be “The Leader” in the relationship, or even if you claim that you can accept the part of “The Follower”, then quite simply – you are doomed.

Now, I know that it is currently fashionable to consider everything female “right” and everything male “wrong”, but I don’t necessarily condemn Chris for not respecting this particular woman. There are many idiots and assholes in the world and there are many people who I have no respect for either, regardless of gender. I have never met Amy but for all I know she could be one of those idiot assholes and she may well be completely undeserving of anyone’s admiration. What I do blame Chris for though is marrying this woman and not putting forth the effort ahead of time to figure out that – by his standards – she is unworthy of his respect as an equal and therefore literally unlovable by him. It is this lack of foresight with its horrendous personal consequences that is completely unforgivable, and in this they both share the blame equally. These two will probably struggle along for another 5 or 10 years fighting and bickering and making each other’s lives miserable and listening to friends and family tell them that it is all the other’s fault. They will spend a small fortune on marriage-counseling and also probably have another kid or two in the vain and unimaginably stupid hope that this will “bring them closer”; but the end is already inevitable – as it was before they even walked down the aisle.

Misguided Laws

I work at a small liberal-arts college. Our campus is on the edge of a small town and it straddles a major (numbered) state roadway. This state road is 2-lanes through campus and the town, but it separates the academic buildings from a set of old houses that are now owned by the college and act as dorms. This means that many students must cross this road several times a day to “commute” between classes, their other activities and their housing across the street. This road can be quite heavily traveled, especially at rush-hour, but there are no stop-lights immediately in front of the campus, only cross-walks, lots of streetlights and flashing yellow warning-lights. There is also a state law here is that cars are required to stop for pedestrians in cross-walks.

Last week, during an evening rush-hour when it was quite dark, a student was struck and killed by a car on this street. I know that there have been several other incidents in this road over the last 18-months, but this is the first fatality that I am aware of. I wasn’t a witness to this event, but the police report indicates a strong likelihood that the “fault” was the student’s. I have crossed this street many times myself and I have seen others do it and it is not infrequent that people (especially students) will simply step off the curb into the road assuming that because they have the legal right-of-way that the cars bearing down on them will stop. Most of the time this is true, but obviously the problem here is that one-time-in-100 when the oncoming car does not see them, and then it can literally be a matter of life-and-death.

I have always believed that the law about cars being required to stop for pedestrians is insanely stupid, and this incident is exactly why I feel that way. This law leads pedestrians become complacent when they know that they are “in the right” and some, especially the immature and inexperienced, simply stop paying attention after months of acclimating to the traffic coming to a stop for them. I am sure that there will be many cries for the college to “Do Something” about this situation, but as a former member of the college’s “Safety Committee” I know that there isn’t much that the school can do on its own. There has been an ongoing “publicity-campaign” for the last year to raise awareness of this danger in the minds of student body, but changes to the physical environment are much harder to accomplish. First, this is a state highway and there are many bureaucratic regulations about what can and cannot be done on it. There is also the borough council of the town to deal with as they must also approve any changes to conditions or traffic flow on this street. I am aware that the college has tried for years to improve the safety on this road, including the offer to cover any-and-all costs involved, but the other two players have simply dragged their feet over it. Now that there is literally blood-in-the-street however, the others might be moved to allow some changes, like maybe installing a button-activated stoplight instead of just the yellow flashers.

Still, I put the primary responsibility for this death on the idiotic law that requires cars to stop for pedestrians. If pedestrians knew that the cars would not stop for them then they would certainly be more careful about it because they would have to be. People might have to break-stride and look up from their precious cell-phones and pause for an additional 60-90 seconds to get across the road, but there would be far less chance of a fatal accident like this if the individual pedestrian realized that their lives and safety were in their own hands rather than abdicated to some stranger who sooner-or-later is bound to be just as distracted and rushed as they are. It is a question of potential outcome and relative impact (literally). What is more important to you – getting where you want to be 90-seconds sooner 99-times out of 100 – or being dead in that 1-time out of 100?

I… I Am Hugh

I lost my cell-phone a week ago today. Think about it for a moment; how would you feel if you lost your cell-phone? What would life be like after 7-days without it?

To me this is liberating. I don’t have that weighty lump in my pocket anymore and I am delightfully disconnected from the burdensome threat of random interruptions and clamoring distractions. I am not completely off-the-grid of course. I still have access to “real” computers and telephones and e-mail and music and TV and anything else that a cell-phone is capable of doing these days. It is just that this stuff is all external to me and not directly attached to my person. I no longer have that continuous chatter of news-feeds, texts and “social media” in my face that so many cool-people seem to think is de rigueur to modern life.

Have you already devolved so far into electronic cybernetic enhancement that you think that such biologic autonomy is weird? Can you not see how your pitiful addiction to your device is actually making you weak and vulnerable? Can you not see that the world of The Borg is not a pleasant or positive place, but one shackled in the gray conformity of peer pressure and devoid of individual uniqueness and personal independence?