My Ineffectual War Against Incompetency, Bureaucracy, and Crime

We keep getting told life is short. I feel that. At 50, it seems to speed by more and more quickly. I have become resentful of the things that eat my time and am trying to simplify more than ever before. But who am I kidding? Nothing about modern society is simple. Everything has a EULA attached and you better damn well read it, lest you inadvertently give up your firstborn.

canstockphoto12549577Today, I spent a couple of hours reporting a fraudulent credit card charge, cancelling my credit card, and moving auto-pays (which is an alarmingly high number of transactions) to another card. Because fraud has become so ubiquitous, it was surprisingly easy, albeit time-consuming, to do. I do hope that AirBnb in California was a lovely place. For $950, these criminals should have gotten a bedtime story and warm milk with their stay.

Over the last month, I’ve been stalking the magazine American Scientific through email and phone calls requesting repeatedly that they remove me from their email lists. I finally cancelled my subscription. To no avail. They email throughout the week with offers and click bait. I’ve blocked the sender and finally reported them to my internet company as spammers.

It isn’t just the constant emails that aggravate – it’s the idea that a publication covering science is incapable of managing a database or teaching their customer service reps who, to a T, have told me they have taken care of the issue, how to use said database. My husband doesn’t understand why I’ve picked this particular battle. He’s a programmer. Color me suspicious.

And the final time-suck culprit is the MEETING. Every time there are more than two people involved, there is a meeting. Some of the groups I’m involved in have a heavier social aspect than others, requiring designated drivers and doggie bags. The other groups have a decidedly bureaucratic flavor, with multi-page agendas, PowerPoint presentations, and where, at any given moment, 50% of the participants are on devices. Connected and disconnected all at once.canstockphoto13823889

Meetings are made up of human beings. At least that is what I keep telling myself. There is always the meanderer, the nonstop talker, the pen-clicker, the drink-slurper, the strident, loud voice that stomps on everyone else. I have meeting narcolepsy. The sound of the human voice going on and on, puts me to sleep.  College was torture.

639919With my abhorrence of meetings, I’ve mastered several new skill sets. The classic lean on hand so closed eyes are not noticed posture or writing as if I’m taking furious notes, while putting together grocery lists, bad limericks, and drawing animals based on my childhood Ed Emberley training. I have not, however, learned to avoid the snort-awake. But I’m good at it – meetings, yoga classes, airplanes. Any place where there is a slight chance I might doze off. They don’t call it the relaxation pose for nothing.

Pushing back against the minor indignities and inconveniences of life likely takes more effort than the initial grievance. But that’s what they’re counting on. That we just give up and before we know it, we’re walking balls of aggravation, carrying our hostilities out in public, hunched over by the weight of it all.

There’s something to be said for picking your battles – maybe not every single one, but a few here and there to suggest you still have a pulse and haven’t been assimilated into the machine. There are bigger battles to fight, huge social and political issues that might award some integrity points, but sometimes you like to have a fight you can win. Snoozing during meetings, stalking publications, and making crime profitable – these are things I can do all on my own.


20 thoughts on “My Ineffectual War Against Incompetency, Bureaucracy, and Crime

  1. Michelle,
    Life is long. Boring meetings make it longer, or seem that way. I’m fifteen years older than you, and I have withdrawn from meetings and on-line money transactions of any sort. I don’t even have a cell phone and usually don’t answer my land line. It’s easier when you live alone. My current attitude is one of futility, having tackled too many lost causes, to the point of exhaustion. Not proud of it, and miss the sense of ambition and purpose I used to have. Waiting for something to interest me enough to care.

    Even with all these self-protective, isolationist, anti-social tendencies, there’s still not enough time in the day to do everything I “should” do, so I’m practicing lowering my standards.

    When I used to go to meetings, I would cause some disruption when I got too bored, if only to entertain myself and wake people up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “…I’m practicing lowering my standards.” This made me laugh. It really is the ONLY way to make life easier. I’ve had to learn to relax a bit about housework in order to have time to do things that I really want to do, like gardening and writing. Although, I’m not particularly good at relaxing. That’s another skill set I need.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michelle,
        Laughter makes life seem shorter. I find gardening relaxing, so it’s a two-for-one deal. If there are advantages to housework (other than having finished it), it may be that your mind is free, so you can think about writing, work out plot glitches, imagine dialogue, and the like. Theoretically.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The “snort-awake”: I’ve always wondered what that was called. 🙂 Love it!
    This made me nod knowingly, if sadly, and vow anew to avoid as many of these kinds of interactions as possible; they drain too much time and energy without return. I have a friend whose work involves a ton of online meetings, and she often finds them useful and sometimes even enjoyable. She is not of our tribe, obviously.


    1. At one meeting, the tables were set up in a square, so we were all facing each other. Before I started leaning on my hand and dozing off, I kept looking around at people’s faces. I was wondering if they were really interested or engaged with the speaker and they did a passable job of being present. As usual, I wondered what was wrong with me. It was pure torment to not excuse myself. Permanently.

      I have simplified my life in a lot of ways, but whenever the care of other people, animals, even plants are involved, nothing is simple. And maybe simplicity is not the point – maybe it’s just to tip the time scale more to the side of things that bring us joy, instead of those thing that sap energy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The only meetings I have to go to are writing related. Those too can be boring when one person hogs all the air in the room. However. I’m the person who has to call and take care of whatever stupidity has happened (over billing, missed payments, etc. – you name it). I can never get over how long I’m on the phone, bouncing from one person to another. You hang up hoping that they fixed the problem, but I know I never feel sure.


    1. All those phone calls create a sense that I’m being productive, but somehow when I’m done, it just feels like I wasted half the day. And I curse the hold system that is usually awful music or ads being repeated over and over. And they add insult to injury with messages like “We value your call” followed by music on the radio that keeps cutting out. Yeah, sure you do…As I said, these are minor grievances, but they can pile up on some days!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nothing ever happens where I work — just meetings. Meetings where we discuss what we want to do, rehash what we want to do, argue about what we want to do…but we never actually DO the thing we want to do.

    And committees. We have a committee for every thing under the sun. Still–nothing ever happens and nothing ever gets done. Last year, I shit you not, we had a “communications committee” meeting…and a few people didn’t show up because they weren’t told about it. I said to my boss, “well, I guess maybe we should schedule a communications committee meeting about effective communication? Or should I create a new committee to discuss committee communication?” and then my head imploded because humans are just stupid and beyond help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment makes me laugh, Darla – you are a funny, funny writer. My husband works for a corporation and every day I have to hear about misadventures in communication, because they have a million ways to contact each other. He usually runs away with his laptop and hides in empty conference rooms just to get work done. But it means ignoring emails, IMs, and VOIP calls.
      I worked at the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota in various capacities and there is nothing more mind-numbing than gathering a group of people who each think they are the smartest person in the room. Nothing gets accomplished. Except more naps for me. It was a bummer in the Army, because their meeting were always in formation. It’s difficult to sleep while standing. Difficult, but not impossible.
      The last place I worked, the most tantamount issue with meetings was “are we getting cookies or cake today?” It turns out that even a sugar high doesn’t make them interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m with your husband. Just give me a $%&ing empty room and leave me the %^&% alone, people! I will get ALL THE THINGS DONE.

        And you are soooo right about people who think they’re the smartest in the room. They endlessly blab on and on. We get it. You’re all that and a bag of chips. Funny how those are the least apt to accomplish anything yet are experts at passing the buck to poor pathetic slobs like me who actually get things done and oh…I suppose they ARE the smartest people in the room then? (ahem)

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow- think how productive we all would be if all the meetings were cut out, time running down stupid mistakes and correcting them (or thinking we did by talking to the person who said “we took care of that for you.” ! I have been on the phone three times and visited in person once to a hotel chain that messed up our charges. If it wasn’t in the thousands range I might have written it off after the second attempt. I finally told the hotel general manger that if he didn’t fix it I was going to return to his hotel and put the thousands on his desk in person! That would mean am international trip for me back to Minnesota. This kind of incompetence really pisses me off! Sucks my valued time. But, I do try to think outside the box on resolution as I knew $$$$ in cash in this day and age would be difficult for the hotel to handle along with a pissed off retired Tough Army Chick. Thanks for writing about this as I felt like i was on a real deserted island without my kayak to escape.


    1. It is amazing how much of our lives are spent dealing with these petty (or in the case of thousands of dollars, not so petty) grievances. Somehow technology and the distance in human interaction has made it all worse. I keep thinking about decreasing my digital footprint, but even thinking about doing that and the work getting there paralyzes me. Our world is no longer designed for common sense to exist – it’s all just a bunch of algorithms, phone menus, and scripts read by CS reps.


  6. I wholeheartedly agree. I turn 50 in a few weeks, and I am feeling like I don’t have a minute to waste! Your description of the meeting was spot on and made me laugh out loud. I know ALL of those people! Ugh. It seems everything we do these days requires follow up after follow up after follow up. Thanks for adding a bit of humor to life’s grating situations.


    1. Yes! The follow-ups! In my fantasy world, everything mundane should be “one-and-done”. It reminds me about that old office management advice about only touching a piece of paper once – putting it where it needs to be the first time around. Never works out that way with customer service and you end developing serious trust issues – calling repeatedly until you have proof in hand that they did what they said they would do!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Funny Michelle! I just happen to be in Ca., and yeah, there’s an Air B/B across the street, robbing people blind for about a grand a night just cuz were close to the beach.
    But, the place is a one bedroom shit-hole! No warm cookies or milk here! But, people come, and people pay! Crazy!

    Oh, and I luv the ‘snort-awake’ scenario….can just picture you doing it! LOL

    Keep on fighting the good fight! You do make a difference!



    1. It’s been a long week dealing with all the fallout from that fraudulent charge, so they better have stayed in someplace nice, damn it!

      Fortunately, I had no meetings this week, but next week, I might as well start packing a travel pillow with my notebook. Snooze city while people explain tech and political issues to me. Just give me a handout and send me home…


  8. I have meeting narcolepsy too! And the sound of the human voice going on and on puts me to sleep! You are the first person I’ve met who is like me in that you are interested in many intellectual topics and seem like a person who should like and get something out of being lectured at, but aren’t. And I am also vulnerable to the snort-awake. I think this is one reason I did not go into academia, even though I have a PhD. Academics luuuuuuuv sitting in dark rooms listening to other people give power point presentations. It’s like how they spend half their waking hours. And I just can’t do it!


  9. I share your issue with struggling not to let meetings becoming naptime. We have one room at work in particular whose mood lighting is far too soothing.

    I also smiled at the nod to Ed Emberley. I used up a lot of colored pencils copying his instructions back in the day!


Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.