Saturday, October 11, 2014

Are You a Social Coward?

If you have to tell somebody something that you believe they aren't going to like or will react badly to, do it to their face like a civilized human being!

       I never have liked the idea of using a blog for the purposes of venting one's sour feelings, but I simply have to get this off my chest.  I have a lot of arthritis; that's why I quit driving.  I was getting to where I couldn't turn the wheel or even pull the seat belt around to fasten it, because it started in my shoulders. Maybe four years ago, the orthopedist said I had no cartilage left in the shoulder joints and the only answer is joint replacements.  I can't see doing that -- I am not going to spend the rest of my life doing nothing but therapy and maybe have it be less than successful, anyway.  I also have arthritis in my hands, my feet, and now in my right knee., and it's starting in the left hip.  So, after I got rid of my car (which happened in February of 2013, when I broke my rib), a friend volunteered to take me the grocery store, to medical appointments, etc.  She was firm in her commitment, although I'm always skeptical about whether you can be entirely sure of anybody's help, no matter what they say.  My mother always said, never count on anybody to do anything for you.
       Lately I've developed a medical problem that will require some outpatient surgery.  And I've been thinking that my friend didn't seem herself lately -- she seemed kind of edgy and taciturn, and she's been tied up a lot, so scheduling the things that I needed to do was becoming difficult.  So I asked her if she was going to be able to keep on helping me, and she said firmly, "Oh, yes, I want to," and we made some arrangements and I thought everything was hunky-dory.
       Then yesterday morning I had an email from her (and we never exchange emails -- we talk on the phone).  She told me very formally that she had family problems and she couldn't help me any longer.  A very cold, businesslike note, like we were business partners breaking off a contract or something.  I've called her twice and she won't pick up.  Now what do you think of that? 
       It's not the fact that she can no longer help me that bugs me because I understand that family has to come first -- it's just that I think she should have talked to me directly instead of wimping out with an email, like I was somebody she barely knew.  I would like to still be friends, but now I don't think we're going to be.   She'll probably never talk to me again. 
       It's like getting a "Dear John" letter.
       That's what I call social cowardice. 
       This isn't the first time I've encountered this phenomenon.  My mother and I lived in a duplex at one point and the landlady and her husband lived on the other side.  We were quite friendly; they had cats and two Great Danes, and I enjoyed being around them.  One day in summer, we were sitting there with the front door open for air and the woman suddenly appeared at the door.  I called, "Hello!" but she just dumped a note in the mailbox and bolted around the corner.  She was raising the rent and didn't have the guts to face us.  Now isn't that something?  We continued to be friends, but she never said a word about the rent raise and we didn't either -- we just paid it out.  Social cowardice!  
       And one more example.  I had a handyman whom I really liked.  He would always do anything I asked, from remortaring bricks in a retaining wall to repairing the till of an old trunk.  And he agreed to install new vinyl flooring in the kitchen.  I picked out the flooring and had it delivered, and then he broke off contact.  He never told me he changed his mind and didn't want (or maybe didn't know how) to put in the floor -- he simply stopped answering my calls and disappeared off the face of the earth.  I wrote him a straightforward letter of complaint, but I never heard a word from him again.  The man did not know how to say no!  Most handymen will say, "I don't paint" or "I don't do flooring," etc.  But for some reason he couldn't do that!  I found somebody else to put in the flooring, but still, I counted on him to do little things for me, like fix light switches and toilets.  And he just dropped me like a hot potato.  If he didn't want to work for me any longer, he should have said so!
       Face people, for goodness sake -- take responsibility for your actions  and maintain a civilized attitude!  You're not going to lose a friend or a business associate just because circumstances won't let you do everything you may have promised! 
Don't be a social coward!
And learn how to say no gracefully!