Language, please

I never meant for this blog to become a series of vented frustrations, but here we are.

For what it’s worth, I hope to diversify my output in the future. If you’d like to read something here that’s nice, I still like my post about The Song of Bernadette. I hope to write more about other movies and books I’ve enjoyed, but right now I’m still making my way through The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine. Somehow I doubt I’ll be reviewing it, because the scope of it is immense.

Onward.

Onward to the unrelated subject of grown adults with chronic potty-mouth syndrome.

As a child, I heard my mom say the “F-word” once, in anger, during an argument with my dad that I was eavesdropping on. Foul language was not a part of my early upbringing. I once chastised my aunt for saying the word “stupid.” At the time, the word “stupid” was just about the worst word I knew.

But it’s impossible to avoid hearing bad language unless you’re a completely sheltered individual. My brothers and I weren’t home schooled. We had television. We played video games. Eventually, we had internet access at home. My dad let us rent PG-13 movies much earlier than my mom would have preferred. If anyone else has had an experience wherein your mom overheard the line “Suck my white ass, ball!” while Happy Gilmore was playing, I’d love to hear from you. HOO BOY.

When I was 17, I said the “F-word” in front of my mom for the first time. I can’t remember what my punishment was–a severe grounding of some type, probably. I deserved it. My mom was and is a good mom for not tolerating that kind of disrespect.

On rare occasions I still use the “F-word” in moments of anger, though I’m working on eliminating it from my “casual conversation” vocabulary. In this blog, I’ve written “Suck my nuts” in anger, so I have no room to judge anyone else. Anyone who found this blog via tags or whatnot relating to my religious beliefs would perhaps consider it very hypocritical of me to cast stones at others for their use of foul language.

But I’m trying to practice some self-discipline now. I’ll be writing a follow-up post to this one about the other areas in which I’m trying to improve.

This attempt to curtail my use of profanities originally began in response to my environment at work. My coworkers use a lot of profanity in a way that is markedly different than what I’ve witnessed at previous jobs. The f-bomb is versatile as a part of speech and many people here delight in exploring its many uses. What the fuck? You fucker. Get fucked. And stop fucking bothering me, you fucking idiot.

I hate even writing that now! There was a time when I rolled my eyes at people who dared to suggest that the overuse of foul language makes one look stupid.

I’ve switched sides.

If I only had to hear those words when someone was pushed to their absolute limit–like the time I overheard my mom–I probably wouldn’t be writing this. Instead, I hear them all the time. The most common usage of the f-word that I hear is one applied during moments of minor frustration that I wouldn’t even categorize as anger. The other common usage I hear is one of emphasis, both good and bad.

That movie was so fucking good.

That movie fucking sucked.

Easy examples.

The most likely candidate for this type of language usage (based on my personal observations at work) is: youngish person, mid-twenties to late thirties. I can’t even recall hearing the same type of language from my coworkers past and present who were in their early twenties. Maybe their experiences with having strict parents are still very recent in their minds.

Almost any use of profanity is completely inappropriate in the workplace. It’s unprofessional. I’ll make an exception for any person whose job involves handling snakes.

I work in security, though. We sit on our butts all day doing close to nothing. When that’s what your job entails, and you get accustomed to a life of comfort, any minor inconvenience seems to be enough to justify the use of the f-word.

I hit my limit with a former coworker here who was incapable of expressing any thought without the use of profanity. The longer he was here, and the more he talked, the dumber he became. He went from being just another foul-mouthed individual to a person who no one trusted to act professionally in any situation.

The overuse of profanity in casual speech bothers me for many reasons.

If you and I are having a normal conversation, and you use profanity for no reason, understand that my perception is that you’re using the language of verbal assault. I don’t know why someone would intentionally want their choice of words to be similar to that of someone who engages in verbal assault.

Words have meaning and serve a purpose. I’m not anti-profanity, nor am I an advocate of censorship. If I’m working toward eliminating unnecessary profanities from my own speech, it’s because I’m trying to challenge myself to find a better way to express my thoughts. It’s also one of the most basic considerations I can make in my communications with others.

An older coworker of mine who rarely uses profanity has a favorite song that is known for its blistering use of profanity. When John Lennon sings a line like “…and you think you’re so clever and classless and free / but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see” in “Working Class Hero” it has more impact and more meaning because he doesn’t use profanity as a crutch throughout the greater body of his work.

When you read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, your sense of propriety might be challenged, but your intelligence and sense of self-respect can remain intact. The use of fuck and cunt have a purpose, and that purpose is examined in the text itself if you don’t already find it self-evident.

I had a recent experience with a different coworker (featured here) who likes to pepper his everyday speech with profanities. He burst into the security dispatch office complaining about something or other, using his normal fuck-this and this-fucking-thing type of phraseology. At one point I tried to calm things down by saying “yikes,” to which he responded, “I’m not angry or anything.” Oh really? It was hard to tell.

I realized while writing this that my timid “yikes” overpowered all of his f-bombs.

When I was first hired on at my current job, many of my new coworkers tried to bring me up to speed concerning the who’s-who and the what’s-what of the job. Some of the information was helpful, but it quickly devolved into an exercise in advising me about who among our employees was terrible. I will never, ever forget the moment that one of my coworkers in security described one of the museum’s custodians as “subhuman.” For anyone who might be slow on the uptake, Untermensch became a favorite term of the Nazis, used in reference to the undesirable populations of people farther east: Jews, Slavs, Poles, and many others. Also please appreciate this callback to my current reading material.

Do I really have to keep reiterating how and why words matter? Would it depress you if I told you that my coworker who nonchalantly called another employee “subhuman” is currently enrolled in the creative writing program at a local university and plans to graduate soon? I suppose there’s a limit to what school can teach someone.

Works mentioned in post:
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy
Happy Gilmore, directed by Dennis Dugan and starring Adam Sandler
“Working Class Hero” from Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Kind of a tough few days

Many problems at work. I feel like my department is a lost cause sometimes. We have little recourse when it comes to addressing our concerns. My shift might be the ideal shift to be on at this time, if only because we haven’t fully entered “hostile work environment” territory (if you can ignore Gun Guy from previous post). I have noticed that people have found it easier to succeed on my shift. Despite its many issues, we have a good crew that for the most part supports each other.

I recently began working some earlier shifts on days when I’m not the fill-in Evening supervisor–granted, it’s only two hours earlier than my norm, but it means I clock out at 10 p.m. instead of midnight. I was hoping to create a better work/life balance for myself, and now I can actually spend real time with my boyfriend. We’re looking to buy a house soon if everything works out, and we’re planning on getting engaged soon as well.

We don’t live together currently–I live with my brother, but he’s graduating from medical school soon and awaiting news of his placement. He wants to move as close as possible to wherever the place turns out to be. We’re all hoping he can stay in the same city we’re in now. He has a pet cat that is paralyzed and his hope is to be able to find a place within walking distance from his future workplace. That way, he can walk home during his break to take care of his cat. I do hope everything works out for him–he has put everything he has into caring for his cat, who is very happy and much more mobile than you’d imagine. The cat is somewhat famous on the internet and was even featured on TV this year during the Cat Bowl. I didn’t get to see it air because work always gets in the way of things.

But now I’ve started this slightly earlier shift. I was very nervous for my first day. I’m not particularly well-liked among some of the Day crew in my department, and now I’d be overlapping that shift by a couple of hours. The first one went just fine though. Leaving at 10 p.m. was amazing.

Wednesday was a tough day though. I learned that one of the Day shift supervisors was intentionally trying to “get to me” in an effort to force me off of that shift entirely. I’ve long been aware that the shift is very insular, and they’ve successfully managed to ban at least five other current or former employees from their shift since I’ve worked there. Interlopers are made to feel very unwelcome. They are currently trying to get our newest employee fired or moved to another shift. She’s a very nice woman who I don’t know much about personally since she only works part-time and during hours that I’m not there. The moment I met her, I worried that she was too nice to survive on that shift for long. They’re already working on a list of complaints against her. This is their usual tactic and so far it has worked every time. Wednesday was the day I found out that I might be the next target.

I was not prepared to also discover that my Evening shift supervisor is hoping that these tactics will work on me and that I’ll come back to my normal shift from 3:30 to midnight. Apparently he was hurt when I put in the request for a slightly earlier shift.

I’m finding it difficult right now working for two different supervisors who are both rooting for me to fail–albeit for different reasons. I guess it’s “nice” that I’m wanted back on my old shift, but I don’t actually think it’s nice to sabotage someone else’s opportunities. The reason behind it becomes irrelevant if the result is something that hurts me.

One of my favorite coworkers just got an amazing job opportunity and will most likely be leaving. He’s considering staying on part-time, but that remains to be seen. His new job sounds amazing. He gets to travel to D.C. for a month of training. The job pays a lot more and once training is completed, it will be mostly work-from-home. In this past year he has lost two immediate family members, so getting the news about this job made me very happy for him. He’s a great guy who deserves some good news for a change. And I’ll miss having him around.

Imagine being the type of person who is unable to feel happy for this guy because his absence might cause you a slight inconvenience. Or because you feel threatened by someone else’s success. Those seem to be the Top-2 reasons why people at this job sabotage each other on a frequent basis.

I’m not sure how much longer I can stick it out here. I want to stick it out and I want to show them that I’m not bothered by any of it. If you’re reading this, you’ll know that in truth I’m very much bothered by it. But they don’t have to know this and I hope to make sure it stays that way.

I no longer talk to my Evening supervisor in confidence like I used to. I don’t enjoy the idea of having to defend my request for a better shift. It should be apparent why anyone would want a better shift– it’s because it’s better. Loyalty in the workplace is a joke if it’s only meant to benefit those in positions of power. True loyalty looks like this: You get an unexpected phone call from a person because your coworker has used you as a reference during their job search. You like this coworker, and even though it means you may no longer get to work with them, you give a glowing recommendation to their potential future employer. Even if you don’t like your coworker, you keep your personal feelings out of it and give the best recommendation you’re able to based on their job performance as well as any good qualities you can hopefully emphasize about them.

Loyalty also looks like this: Your supervisor levels an accusation against you that you know isn’t true, or is perhaps embellished. You know the full story, but the full story implicates someone else you work with who might then take the brunt of your supervisor’s anger if the supervisor knew the full story. You know that you don’t have anything to gain by throwing your other coworker under the bus just to clear your own name. The issue is over a matter of hurt feelings, and nothing that would lead to anyone getting reprimanded anyway. You choose to let your supervisor think you’re “guilty”, because the alternative involves your coworker being treated as the guilty party instead. And if the supervisor knew the full story, the hurt feelings would be multiplied tenfold.

I’m trying to show some loyalty here to my coworker because he told me something in confidence. This is what happened:

I came in for one of my earlier shifts. I saw on the daily schedule that I was assigned a certain post at 3:00 p.m. that is generally unpleasant for me because it means I’ll be in the dispatch office. And at 3:00 p.m. is when certain people, my supervisor included, like to sit in that same office, turn on the TV (which I hate and is very distracting when you’re trying to listen to all the radio calls coming through) and watch the show Maury (which I find distasteful and absolutely despise, more on that later).

My supervisor has given me that 3:00 p.m. post every single day that I’ve come in. It’s normally a post reserved for the shift supervisor, it being the last dispatch post during Day shift and a time that requires the Day shift supervisor to pass on information to the Evening shift supervisor.

This supervisor knows that I never watch TV when I’m in the dispatch office. He knows that I find it distracting. He also knows how much I hate the show Maury (someone else told him as a heads-up, which this supervisor took offense to). My supervisor puts me there, hoping that I’ll be so bothered that I’ll request to move back to my old shift.

When I came in on Wednesday, a different coworker was in the dispatch office at the time. I made a comment about how I wished I didn’t have to be in there at 3:00 again. My coworker offered to cover that post for me. This is a normal occurrence–people swap posts all the time, especially in dispatch. Usually on my normal shift, those requests are made because someone wants to watch the news at 5:30 or a hockey game that night or something.

At first I said no to swapping, saying that it wasn’t that big of a deal. My coworker offered again and told me that the offer was on the table because it would get him out of having to make keys later with Jason. Jason is this supervisor.

I was only too happy to make that swap after he said that. It made me laugh. Jason is very difficult to be around, so it was like we were doing each other a favor. I wouldn’t have to be stuck in there during Maury time, and my coworker wouldn’t have to be stuck making keys with Jason.

Jason saw the change made to the schedule. He complained about me to our boss, saying that I was crossing my name off the schedule and wasn’t showing up for my posts. This happened only that once, and it was prearranged. His account made it sound like this was something I had been doing consistently and without getting my post covered.

If Jason knew the actual story, he’d feel very hurt. Unlike his feelings toward me, he actually likes and respects this other coworker of ours. Coworker may not return those exact feelings, but he always works well with everyone and has never shown any disrespect toward Jason.

Jason is pursuing this “action” against me, and I really hope it stops. I don’t want to tell him the full story. I hope it resolves itself, and I hope I get to keep this new shift that I’m on.

I’m pretty sure there will be a Part 2 to this post, because I haven’t addressed the “hostile work environment” comment from earlier. In case you thought I was including my situation underneath that umbrella–I’m not. I found out yesterday, my day off, that one of my coworkers on Midnight shift has put in a request to leave our Security department in order to return to the Gallery department (where he first started out). I suspect it’s because of how poorly he’s been treated by his coworkers on the Midnight shift. So I might return to this subject in a future post in order to provide some context. I don’t want to lump that in with my problems in this post because the treatment he has received is far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced at any job I’ve had.

So I’ll just end this post by talking about why I hate Maury. I don’t care what Maury Povich has said in defence of his own show (I’m thinking back to an interview with him on The Breakfast Club). Maury is a show that encourages its viewers to laugh at black people. Most of the guests on Maury are black. Half of its home-viewing audience is black, per demographic reports. While I was trying to look up hard stats on Maury guest demographics, I came across this article on The Root. Read if you want, it addresses some of my concerns.

My coworkers who delight in the Maury show, who mock and belittle its guests, are white. They enjoy imitating loudly any perceived laughable thing that is said on the show. When Maury is on at work, the dispatch office turns into a circus. Few seem to question whether this is appropriate behavior to be engaging in at work.

White people also love Cops. I presume that this show is still on the air because there’s no limit to how much we’re willing to laugh at poor people going through difficult situations. Some may claim to watch Cops because they like watching criminals being taken off the street. Call me when they decide to tackle criminals who are in actual positions of power. I might consider joining in on the laughter if I ever got to see Donald Trump being led away in handcuffs.

Maury viewers of all races and backgrounds are given an opportunity to feel superior to the people on screen. You’re not supposed to come out of it with a greater sense of understanding or empathy for its guests. If Maury makes you feel good, it’s because that good feeling is one of superiority. Cops does the same thing through the way they focus on people considered “lower class”. At least you didn’t just get busted smoking meth in your trailer, right? You might verbally abuse your own girlfriend, but at least Cops will present to you as entertainment some other domestic abuser who seems a little worse than yourself because he lives in undesirable conditions. Poverty in this country is equated with a lack of dignity. We’re encouraged to make only the worst assumptions about people experiencing financial hardship.

I feel like conversations involving issues of morality often fail to address basic human dignity. Instead we use morality as an excuse to legislate people’s intimate lives. Here’s something I don’t care about: who you’re having sex with and how often, whether you’re married or not, how many sexual partners you have, what this or that church says about sexual morality– it’s all bogus and irrelevant. It’s a titillating distraction from the ways in which society is actually morally bankrupt. Consider how we treat the poorest members of society before you ask me to care about someone’s sexual orientation, or how many “baby daddies” someone has.

I find a lot of behaviors at work to be highly immoral, but addressing that at work is not acceptable. I can’t ask someone to turn off Maury because the show is morally offensive and mean-spirited. I can say it’s annoying, maybe. I can say I don’t like having the TV on. I might be able to say that it’s inappropriate for the workplace, but I’d love to be able to say that it’s degrading.

We all think we’re smarter than the media we consume. We tell ourselves we’re not influenced by advertisements and commercials. We defend the garbage we watch on TV as “entertainment”.

Garbage in, garbage out.