04-03-13 - Sad Facts of Life

Gathering of some sadness.

1. I went to sit at my kitchen table a while ago, and saw all the seats were taken by cats. One of our cats, "Kitten", is totally chill and easy going and lets you do anything to her and still just purrs about it. One of our cats, "Chi Chi", is crazy and mean and hisses about everything. So of course I immediately just dumped Kitten on the floor and sat in that chair, without thinking about it. But then it occurred to me that what I was doing was rewarding bad behavior. You just automatically give the shit jobs to the people who don't complain and just take it. People who are big whiners and grumble about everything in fact are allowed to slack. Really it should be the other way around, they should be *punished* for being such annoying bitches, and the sweet ones who don't complain should be rewarded, but that's not how life works.

2. People who pretend to work hard are rewarded for it. People who just quietly do a great job are not. Or even if we do realize that and compensate for it, it's not nearly enough. Certainly I have fallen prey to this in a lead position; you might know in the back of your head that this guy on your team who's putting in tons of hours and constantly complaining about how hard he's working isn't actually getting much done; he's spending all his time walking around the office telling everyone how hard he's crunching, and when he does sit at his computer he's on message boards. But it still gets in your head that "X is working hard". Even if you do try to compensate people fairly, it should be something like a 10X difference in pay, and the harder worker should get lots of time off, but it's not remotely close to that. The fact of life is that it pays off massively to spend time at the office not working, and to constantly grumble about how hard your job is.

3. It's almost impossible to get fired for just being really shit at your job. This hit me when watching Top Chef. Nobody is ever eliminated for just making really boring simple food, or even just for making food that's not as good as the others. It's always for some dumb specific thing, like you didn't get X on the plate or whatever. Judges, bosses, etc. are not very good at evaluating a whole package with all it's pros and cons and going "this one is better than that". They like to have on specific obvious fault to latch onto. People get fired for being late to work, or specifically not doing some task they were told to do, or coming to work drunk. People never get fired just for doing really shitty low quality work all the time, if they are smart enough to put their effort into not making those obvious fireable offenses. Certainly at large companies you can skate by as a programmer at a microscopic productivity level as long as you do the things you are specifically told to do (and maybe crunch a tiny bit right before annual reviews).

4. True kindness is never rewarded; superficial niceness is massively rewarded. If you are kind of a gruff asshole, but occasionally do really self-sacrificing things that help someone in a substantial way, give of your time and inconvenience yourself - noone will care, you won't be rewarded for it. Conversely, you can never do anything seriously helpful for anyone, but if you smile and make chitchat and occasionally flatter them, people will like you and treat you well and do favors for you. Life lesson : be nice, not kind.

5. Nagging works superbly, especially on people like me. Be it in home life, or producers at work, or fucking web sites that want me to sign up and throws a popup at me every time, I just want the damn pestering to go away, and the only option is to let them win, give them what they want.

6. People are constantly trying to "get one over on you". They're just looking to see what you'll let them get away with. The simplest case is little shit like cutting in line, or grabbing the last of something they know you want. They are totally cowardly about it, they don't look you in the eye and take it from you, they try to act like they aren't doing anything wrong, and if you don't call them on it, then they're so proud of themselves for getting away with it. If you do just say "excuse me" they'll act all apologetic; they're just trying to see what they can easily get away with.

A lot of neighbors are shit-heads like this. They'll start mowing the lawn six inches across the property line, and will eventually take it unless you go out and yell at them. They'll do things that they completely know is an asshole move, like they'll put their stinking compost pile right on their property line next to your patio. They're just trying to get away with it and see if you let them. If you say something they apologize and move it, and then a few weeks later they'll try to get away with some other tacky shit that they know full well is wrong. I see a lot of forums on the web where people are like "I blast my music all night long and none of the neighbors complain so I assume it's fine". You're a fucker. You know full well that it bothers them, and just because they let you get away with it doesn't mean you should.

Of course this is the entire modus operandi of salesmen. A lot of places, like jewellery stores, or persian rugs, will initially give you a price that's just totally ridiculous. That price is an insult, it's the sucker price, but they're just trying to see if you're cowardly enough to let them get away with it. All you have to do is go "lol, try again" and they'll give up the charade (but they'll try again at the end when they slip in the service plan or the doc fee or whatever).

Lots of employees are like this. They will progressively do less and less work, and do it shittier and shittier until you call them on it. They think they're so smart "zomg I can hardly work and nobody calls me on it". You're not smart, you're a fucker, you're stealing from someone who is trusting you.

The next level, which salesmen and realtors and business people are masters of, is to act like your friend while they try to get away with something. The really clever ones set it up so that it seems like their way is just the natural way to go, and if you want to stop it you have to act like a big jerk. For example, super sleazy and common business tactic : just start doing your plan without getting it okayed, then act like it was a collaboration and it's going great and you're good pals with the opposition. This makes it very easy to just go along with it, and makes it a really big deal to stop it.

It's all sort of like a pet that wants to eat off your dinner plate. They aren't actually aggressively coming after you, they're just looking to see if you'll let them get away with it easily. You just have to give them a whack in the nose once in a while to remind them that you aren't letting them get one by you.

You have to have your defenses constantly up in this life. Nobody will just treat you fairly out of the goodness of their heart. They will lie and cheat and steal from you if you let them.

7. What you have to do to be treated decently. So sad but true. If you want a customer service person, or a contractor, or a cop, or really anyone to just treat you fairly and have some reasonable consideration for you as a human being - you have to pull some kind of move. There are two options that both work. One is to yell or cry and make a big scene. The other is to shmooze a bit and try to make some kind of connection, call them by their name, tell a joke, or give them a little story about yourself, so they will see you as a human being and treat you decently. While this is true, and it's certainly wise to take advantage of it, how fucking shitty is that. The underlying thing that makes this wise and true is that if you *don't* tell someone a funny story then they will treat you like shit and fuck you over.

8. To some extent the whole idea of peaceful civilization is a myth. We're all at war with each other. Your government is trying to fuck you, large corporations are trying to fuck you, your neighbors and co-workers are trying to fuck you. Your "friends" are not your friends when it comes down to what matters. As long as nothing is at stake, then fine you're friendly, but if you're both competing for the same job or the same woman, then suddenly they're telling lies about you behind your back. Your boss who's your "friend" is paying you half what you're worth because you're too young to know better, while smiling to your face.

I grew up believing that all humans should be treated fairly, and while I should do well for myself I should never do it by taking unfair advantage or hurting others. LOL. It's taken me many years of great pain to see that almost noone else feels that way. I would watch as people did unbelievably rotten things to me and it just broke my heart; I'm a human being, why would ever intentionally hurt another human being, especially when the benefit to you is so small? I just don't undertand it, but such is life.

To some extent "the rule of law" is just a form of combat that was created by the powerful who control the law, and the rich who can buy good lawyers. It's a way of making the battle between humans into a form that they can win. (People who's main strength is fist-fighting are really unfairly marginalized by our modern society, which was set up by a bunch of pansie-ass European aristocrat weaklings).

One of the scummiest myths of civilization is that we are rational human being who can "talk out our problems". Perhaps a separate post on this.

9. The horrible level of male conversation. The way men talk to each other is so revolting. It's always in this sort of shallow macho level, semi-jokey, never showing any humility or admitting any weakness. Obviously auto mechanics and construction workers are on that sort of locker-room grunt-grunt conversation level, but even programmers are usually stuck in the "fishing story" level. Like "lasy year I had to fix a bug where the system software had an internal memory trash" , and someone else will be like "well I had to printf-debug on a punch card machine" , err grunt-grunt.

10. The inability to ever have a deep conversation. Perhaps a separate post on this.

I've always been super-opposed to all these tricks, to the point of self-sabotage. I believe that people should be treated well whether or not they tell a funny story. Because of that I would *not* try to shmooze the rental car agent, because I wanted them to treat me like a decent human being without me tricking them. Of course that doesn't work.

The game of life is disgusting and sleazy and broken, but you can't choose not to play it. It's like if you wanted to be a professional soccer forward and you didn't take dives for fake penalties. You just can't do it, nobody would give you a spot on a team because you wouldn't make enough points. By being "clean" and not taking advantage of the sleazy ways of getting ahead, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage so severe that you just can't win.