Snarkiness Breakdown

donkey-215885_1280As the profound Brittany Spears sang not enough years ago:  Oops, I did it again.  I forgot that some people don’t speak Snark.  Today, when one such person looked at me with a combination of horror and confusion on her face, I remembered too late that she’s one of those people. Then I felt bad.  Because she thinks I meant what I said the way that I said it, not the backwards way that I meant it.  And since she heard it the forwards (?) way, I’m a complete jerk. Dang it.

How come some people can communicate in cynicism and some can’t?  If science looked hard enough, would it discover the smart ass gene, somewhere between hair color and tongue curling ability?  Is it a skill learned between the ages of 18 and 24 months, and a few poor souls were just never exposed?  Or is it a bad habit, like nail biting, that we are supposed to get under control, but some particularly weak-willed saps can never tame the beast?  I’m not sure I’ve ever met a weak-willed sarcastic person, so that last one seems unlikely.

Then again, how dull would it be to never put a twist on a phrase?  To never say the opposite of true intent with a bit of a grin and twinkle?  To never engage in a cynical sword fight with a worthy opponent?  Hmmm.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  Given my propensity to put my foot in it when I really should know better because I’m talking to one of those people, I’ll likely never know.

Still, the cursed gift should come with a warning.  Use with care.  Cynicism is often viewed as an indici of apathy and a bad attitude.  If that’s what you intend to portray, go for it.  Otherwise, try to smile and keep quiet.  Also, when speaking this way, take a moment to examine your motivations and the motivations of those around you.  Sharp words can be a cruel weapon.  Then again, those snarky tones can be a hardened callous around an injured soul, so maybe someone just needs a hug ….  Also, even in the best of circumstances, some people will never understand a word you say and will think you’re just a jerk. 

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When Did Phones Cross the Line from Useful to Overwhelming?

When watching ski races, conversations with other racer parents, known or unknown, often go in fits and starts.  We are all checking the start lists, refreshing Live-Timing on our phones for the last finish time, making sure we haven’t lost a glove, shivering and saying hello to people walking by.  At Winter Park this weekend, another racer parent sat hunched over his phone, grumbling about the lack of internet service.  “I’ve had good coverage here all season,” he says to me or to no one in particular.  “I guess the crowds are eating up all the bandwidth.”

I looked over at the excessively long lift line of President’s Day weekend skiers and shrugged.  He was probably right.  That or the clouds were in the way.  He was trying to get the results of the first run of the men’s World Championship slalom race.  He finally got some coverage and expressed frustration that the page, slow loading as it was, didn’t have what he was looking for.  “I’m sort of over my phone,” I said.  A wry smile crossed his lips.  “Yeah.  It’s almost too much to keep up with.  And it’s so annoying when I can’t get a signal.  When it works, there is always something to check on or download or whatever.  I get a little overwhelmed with it sometimes.”

And there it is.  Maybe it’s generational and just us middle-agers feel this way.  I mean, most people who are a decade or two older never really plugged into the constant-on of technology.  I think it’s still the norm for my mom to leave her (non-smart) cell phone off unless she is going to make a call.  I’m not sure she’s ever sent a text.  Dad doesn’t have a cell phone.  But it’s all good for them.  They use what they want how they want and who gives a crap if they never learned how to turn on a cell phone.  The younger generations, X, Y, millenials, whatever-they-are-called-past-that, they grew up with this constant information availability.  The expectation to be checking in all the time is just normal rather than overwhelming.

I’m also over the tangled or too-short power cords, ear buds that go missing, quickly depleting battery, and the messages from AT&T that my data usage is about to exceed the plan that I was assured would be more than sufficient for our family of three.  Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out what the best “deals” are, or that my phone, which is less than two years old, is already decrepit in its technology, or that the power cord from my even older iPad no longer works to charge my iPhone.

I don’t have the job of a senior manager any more.  I’m not expected (not that this should be the expectation for our professionals, even though it is) to check email or voice mail or whatever 24×7.  But I still do.  It’s a weird obsession that has me a little concerned, frankly.

There are those who take technology vacations.  They turn off their phone and unplug their computer for a day, a week or a month, and “find themselves” again.  They become the free, unconnected people we were born to be.  I haven’t been able to do this.  I think I have some sort of subconscious fear that when I find myself, I will be irrelevant and boring.  Not that anyone will notice; they are all too busy checking their phones.

Whatever.  I’m certainly not alone, as evidenced by Mr. Grumbly Pants next to me on Sunday.  Maybe I’ll create an I’m Over My Phone support group app.  Download and it’ll drain your battery like nobody’s business and message you several times a day to remind you that your obnoxious phone is taking over your life.

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Introvert, Schmintrovert

Many years ago, I discovered that I was an introvert.  I had never really thought about it much.  I read a book about twice exceptional children (because my kid must have been twice exceptional . . . whatever, I was a new parent) and it described the personality traits of introversion and extroversion.  I learned that introverts need to recharge by having some alone time while extroverts get their energy from interacting with others.  That made complete sense to me, I checked the box that applied to me and aligned my family and friends with whichever box applied to them, and I moved on. It was handy to know that my kid, like me, needed to escape to a safe haven after school and that my husband needed to host a party every so often.

Recently, I’ve found myself annoyed, annoyed, annoyed by the little Facebook posts, articles, books, advertisements, Today Show jokes and little squiggly cartoons targeted at the shocking revelation that introverts are people too.  They can be entertainers, they aren’t all librarians (in fact, I’d be willing to bet that the intro/extro ratio amongst librarians is the same as the ratio in the general population . . . SHOCKING), they sometimes even rise to the position of President of these United States.  The messages are meant, I think, to be enlightening.  It’s ok to be an introvert, see all the positive qualities that introverts have?  See all the things they can do, poor souls?

It feels a little bit like being told it’s ok to have big feet or curly hair. Sometimes people with big feet AND curly hair get nominated for and win the Nobel Peace Prize — can you believe it?

Why is this aspect of personality so worthy of an entire book (or many books, I’m not sure) devoted to the notion that introverts can actually be interesting, have lives worth living and contribute in positive ways in a corporate setting, a church group, a friendship, yada yada yada?

I bought the audio version of Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” last year, thinking it would be a fun listen on a road trip. She tells us that thirty percent of the population (at least that’s how many will ADMIT to having this horrendous affliction) are floating around being introverts, and that they can actually, wait for it, have power.    I couldn’t get past the second chapter.

For those of you who are still struggling with how to live with the introverts around you, Google “how to love an introvert.”  You’ll find plenty of helpful tidbits.


INTROVERTS CAN EVEN DRIVE CARS!

Introverts Can Drive Cars!