January 19, 2004

Blog Exits and Soda

One of the more boring blog entries you may come across is the "why I'm not going to blog anymore" entry. I've seen people bow out of discussion groups, which is a similar phenomenon, and it is rarely interesting. Often, you get grand pronouncements, or ones that don't make any sense. Or ones that piss you off. Or, the person is just a little too wrapped up in him or herself -- even for a weblogger.

It reminds me of a time I was working at Shaw's Supermarket in Fall River, many years ago. I was lucky enough to land the relatively fun job of sorting plastic bottle returns. It was fun because there was rarely any real rush, you could talk and joke with the customers, people are happy to get their bottle return money (and I didn't have to handle actual money - I printed out a receipt for them). Also, once you got a feel for where the boxes were behind you, you could toss the soda bottled over your shoulder and still hit the correct box, which delighted child and adult alike, though it wasn't as popular with the ladies as you might imagine.

One day, a somewhat elderly man came in with his wife and a few bottles to return. Among the bottles were some "Newport" soda bottles. I believe that brand was sold by Cumberland Farms. It was not sold by Shaws, which meant we couldn't take it. (That's the way it worked at the time).

I explained to the man that I was not allowed to take those bottles and credit him with the returns. He asked why and I told him that we only took bottles of brands we sold. He insisted we sold him the soda, but I told him that we did not, and even suggested where he might have bought them. The man got quite angry with me, but there was little I could do but apologize and repeat what I had told him.

He exclaimed, "I'll never shop here again!" and stormed out. I was 17. I didn't care where he shopped.

A couple of days later, I was on duty again with the bottles. The bottle return was close to the door, so I always saw who was coming and going. And, sure enough, I saw this old man and his wife, back again. When he saw me I lobbed a friendly "Hello" at him, and he scowled and trudged between the aisles.

This reinforced something my mother taught me. It doesn't pay to make a big fuss and be a jerk about things. And it is a small world.

The same is true for the "online world" which is actually the real world, but people like to give it a different name. If blogging sucks all of a sudden, it's because you're out of energy or ideas. There's no shame in that, but I have less respect for someone who says "blogging has sucked lately because..." and they give some reason that has to do with what any other blogger is doing. Worst of all is the reason that it's somehow conformist to blog; it's no longer trendy or different enough for you.

Everyone needs a break once in a while. In case anyone is wondering, the way to take one is this:

"I'm going to take a mental vacation for X weeks, so there are no updates until then. Mark that day on your calendar, because I ought to have a decent blog post on that day. Something has got to happen to me in X weeks."

Or "Just so you know, I'll be blogging less frequently for a while check back every couple of days or so."

It's just polite to tell people what's happening so they don't wonder. But no grand pronouncements of why you're leaving. We know why you're leaving - you're out of juice. You squeezed too hard.

To make this long post even longer, I need to return to the story of that man, and things my mother taught me (or tried to). I know I thought that story was hilarious at the time. But now, looking back, I wonder if the guy was just a little off his rocker. It makes for an interesting story, but if the poor fellow was a little unbalanced, no surprise the bottle thing might set him off. Elderly people can get that way. I'm glad I wasn't a total jerk to him, other than making a point that he knew I knew he had returned to the store.

This is the sort of thing my mother doesn't have in her and tried to suppress in my. My wiseass side is not from her genes. Or, if it is, she's got it under control. She tried to teach me to respect other people. They have their reasons for doing the things they do. Still, though, I have trouble respecting someone who yells at me for not taking a bottle I've been told not to take. For the hell of it, today I would probably just suggest to the guy I'd personally pay him the 5 cents, or whatever it was. I could always return the bottle myself. But at the time, that didn't occur to me. I'm not the most compassionate person, but when I see that today I have better solutions -- better than being "right" I know that wisdom is contributing to compassion. That's as it should be.

Posted by James at January 19, 2004 3:30 AM
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As the rational part of my mind occasional stifles my emotional impulse to throw a temper tantrum I'm reminded of how most people never completely outgrow certain adolescent types of behavior. When I'm older I'll probably assume I deserve more respect simply because of my advanced age. I know I'm already losing the ability to stop myself from blurting out whatever vile thoughts I'm thinking at the moment. Imagine how I'll be when I have a few more decades of experience (and lower prices, better service, etc.) to compare everything to.

Posted by: Mik at January 19, 2004 12:03 PM

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but who's the blogger that pissed you off? Come on, dish!

Posted by: Steve at January 20, 2004 8:22 PM

You're an evil one! No one pissed me off, but something did set me off on the topic. I saw a number of people lamenting the exit of a blogger and it recalled to me similar exits I've seen over my "career" observing online communities.

If it were worth dishing, I'd provide a link. What set me off was much more mild than the memories it evoked, so it wouldn't be fair to call it out as a representative sample.

Plus, wouldn't it be nasty when someone is exiting to take a parting shot? I don't even know the person. :)

Posted by: James at January 21, 2004 12:45 AM

i suppose it is a bad thing, to throw a temper tantrum on your way out -- especially if you intend to come back. but who cares? does it hurt anybody? is having a temper really all that much worse than having a tendency to post things in a superior or condescending tone?

despite the condescension, and despite the fact that you had to needle the old man who got mad about the bottle, i liked your musings about cutting out gracefully. i'd never really noticed the phenom before.

Posted by: Pollyanna Fishwrap at May 7, 2004 11:40 PM

You should be more respectful when addressing your betters!

Waitaminit... Holy Crap! You're right, I DO have a superior tone! I'm going to have to work on that.

Posted by: James at May 8, 2004 12:59 PM

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