Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.

I don’t know why…

…but this is just funny to me.  For some reason, a couple months ago I decided that I wanted to contribute to Google Maps.  Part of it is their point system, and the different levels with various “access”.  Make something exclusive and I guess I want to be a part of it.  Smart marketing on their part.  Some of it was forcing myself to take more photos, even if with just a phone.  Composition is composition and I can practice it with any type of camera.

So in the last four months or so that I’ve been doing it, my photos have garnered 86000+ views as of this morning.  My most popular photo?  Of a guy running the grill at Waffle House.  It’s up to 41k views and it’s only 3 months old.  Who the hell is looking at reviews and photos of The Waffle House?  Don’t you just know what you’re getting when you go there?

Hide the Happy

Kid lenses – I’ve written about them before.  It’s my term for the goofy perspective we have of the world as a kid without experience, perspective or knowledge.  The coming up with ideas or beliefs or behaviors as a child because they fit your understanding of the world.  As I’ve gotten older, it’s been interesting to see the views I’ve had, the behaviors I’ve had that have been unhealthy, but that have been so ingrained in me, such a part of me they’re hard to change.  They’ve become like a default setting.  It takes a lot of conscious effort not to return to those default settings in times of stress.

When I was younger, one of those beliefs was the certainty that I had to remain calm, flat on the outside.  If things were going super well, I felt like I had to hide that happiness on the inside.  If I was too public about that happiness something bad would happen, somehow that would be taken away.  Fate or something.  If I was sad about something, I needed to be careful not to complain too much or that same fate would show me how much worse things could be.

I remember how much I used to love little toys.  Things that I could carry in my pockets and hold in my fist.  Things I could touch and just be secretly happy on the inside.  When I was really little and got a stuffed animal for Christmas, I would bury my face into it to hide my smiles.

This was actually behavior that was called out fairly early on.  My first real girlfriend was bothered that I wasn’t shouting with happiness from the mountain tops about my joy of dating her.  Over the decades I realized I was a story teller and liked opening up about some things as I was teaching soldiers or my son about things.  Then when I started therapy a couple of years ago after the big break-up I realized I needed to let people in, express joy and sadness more openly with friends, family and significant others.

My blog is a weird animal.  It’s obviously publicly posted, but I don’t have a real audience.  I do use it for interaction with a few people who are friends, but largely I use it as a diary, to augment my craptastic memory.

So.  The last couple days I vented on here about ex girlfriends and social media.  I bumped into one of them a couple weeks ago and it knocked me off my beam.  I complained about it to all the normal people who listen to me.  And then instagram suggesting we be friends, then my mom doing the group message thing.  Stupid stuff in the grand scheme of things.  And you want to know what put it into perspective?  Finding out, and then subsequently having to tell my son that my Dad has prostate cancer.  I know prostate cancer is relatively manageable but the fact that my older sister died of cancer, my younger sister is fighting with leukemia and I’ve had 2 cancer scares myself, I’m just kind of not as optimistic as I could/should be.

Now I know I wasn’t being punished for complaining about my ex-girlfriends.  He’s known about this for awhile and just last night decided to tell me.  And I know that if something…  more tragic happens, it wasn’t be because I’m upset about my dad’s prostate cancer.  But there’s still that urge to just go complete turtle.