Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why Can't We?

Thursday morning I had the oddest exchange I've ever had with a stranger.  I tried to let it go, but it bothered me.  First because it all began with a wrong number, then ended with a lecture based on an assumption about me.  A song on the way home erased the bad and made me smile.

I offer this as background.  A year ago we switched cell phone companies and received new phone numbers.  Turns out the numbers were only "new" to us and had been previously issued.  Mine, apparently, had belonged to a Drug Dealer.  For the first month I received voice messages and texts requesting a laundry list of drugs from virtually the same 12 people.  No, it wasn't just the same phone numbers, they LEFT THEIR NAMES!  An offer of those phone numbers to a local law enforcement officer got me an invitation to "go meet and set up a buy" so the Cop could bust whoever was showing up, looking for dope.  No thanks, not interested in being the bait.   With the lack of legal interest,  in self defense I began blocking those numbers without answering.  Oh, all right.  I did lose it one day and after the 4th time my phone rang I answered it with a crisp, "Look!  I don't know who the guy was that use to have this number but I'm not a drug dealer.  Kindly pass that on to your buddies!"

From the quavering of his voice as he repeated, "Sorry, wrong number!"  over and over, I'm pretty sure I scared some 85 year old Grandpa to death.

That's when I went back to ignoring numbers I didn't know and checking messages later. Except Thursday. Thursday, I answered the phone.

I didn't recognize the number but I was expecting a call, hopefully, from someone out-of-town about donating to our Charity.  I answered...and pretty much lost control of the conversation after that.

"Hey man.  I know you don't know me, but they said to call you.  I've got some stuff you might be interested in," he began.  "I know we're not from the same area, but it's some good stuff.  Hello?  Heeelllloooo?   Anybody there?"

As coolly as possible, I said, "You've got the wrong number."

"No man, hear me out.  You still might be interested," he persisted.

"Look, I'm not a Drug Dealer, I'm tired of these calls from people I don't know and I'm not interested," I countered through gritted teeth.  "Please pass that on to your buddies."

If only we'd both let it go right then.

He began to protest that he wasn't selling drugs, didn't do drugs, didn't even know anyone who did drugs.  There was a website he wanted me to see.  Politely, my steam evaporating somewhat, I explained that the only calls I was receiving from strangers were folks looking for a product I didn't sell.  This set off the salesman in him and he went into sales pitch high gear.  I tried to politely cut in to reiterated I wasn't interested.  He kept on.  I was at I hung up on him.  Then I blocked the number.

60 seconds later, I got a text message.  Those are usually from my husband so I opened it out of habit.  Nope.  Mr. Salesman.  Guess he didn't like being hung up on.  Or losing the opportunity to have the last word.

The first part of his message was pure sales pitch.  "In case you're interested, here's the link to the website I was trying to tell you about."  Apparently it was for party clothes and jewelry.  I never checked.  Then he added an assumption which was almost ironic.  "Just a friendly reminder that not all black, white or minorities are trying to sell you drugs."

Hmmm...wouldn't that eliminate the entire planet population?

Friendly reminder? I went from angry to sad in 30 seconds. Why?  Because he hadn't heard a WORD I said.  Because our voices sounded as if we were different colors out of the crayon box, he assumed I had stereotyped him.  And I had assumed this latest stranger with "a deal" for me belonged to the drug dealer's clientele.  Didn't speak highly for either of us.   I fought the urge to text back an explanation.  He didn't want to listen, he wanted to lecture.  Hitting "delete" ended the conversation.  But it bothered me.

On the ride home, I kept turning the encounter over in my mind.  I'm probably one of the most fair minded, unbiased people you'll ever meet.  My optimism is still viewed as naivete by some because I don't judge the book by its cover and always expect the good in people to shine through.  If they prove me wrong later, then I've learned a lesson. Turning on the radio for distraction, it seemed every station was rehashing the recent Martin/Zimmerman case.  The problem was, everyone was talking...but no one was listening to all those opinions.  It felt as if the Media was in a feeding frenzy, throwing blood in the water to get a reaction and not caring about the ongoing beyond the trial.  For all of us.

When did we stop caring about each other as human beings and let the Media tell us what we should think or how to act?

I reached to shut the radio off, but accidentally bumped it to another station.  This was playing.  The message of the chorus made me smile.

This is the original video, made in 1975.  Yes, it does look dated.  Some of the stereotypes are disconcerting but you know, that was the whole point of the video.  Eliminate stereotypes.  A glance can't tell you who I need to take the time to find out.

I hope the sentiment of that chorus makes you smile too.


Kim Ayres said...

When we put such effort into being fair-minded, because we know how much worse the world is when people are not, it cuts to the bone when we get accused of not being so. But their comments aren't about you - they are about them, and the way they view the world.

hope said...

Thanks Kim....I needed that. :)

savannah said...

perfect song, sister hope! kim's right! it's not us, it's them! ;) xoxoxoxox

Ponita in Real Life said...

I hear ya, sister.

I work with a lot of aboriginals (First Nations peoples, Indians, Native American down there) and in my province, they have a bad rep as welfare scamming, drug and alcohol imbibing no good losing thieves and murderers.

Sure there are some like that. Sure we kicked them off their ancestral lands, and set up reserves for them in the backwoods swamps far from any place civilized, where it was hard to find a job and make ends meet.

But the truth of the matter is, a lot of the ones I work with held good jobs before their kidneys crapped out. They were educated and have stable families. One woman, bless her now deceased heart, worked fulltime in the OR at the hospital while on dialysis. Until she couldn't stand on her feet all day anymore because her hip joint was disintegrating from the calcium imbalance in her body; so she worked parttime. And then her heart started giving out, so she had to quit altogether. And then she lived with her daughter, who cared for her until she ended up in hospital and then died. She never fit that stereotype. She was as "native" as they come, to having a long braid down her back, and (beautiful) beaded moccasins for winter boots. Her name was Ruby, and she really was a gem.

But on the flip side, yeah, we have a few aboriginals who do fit the stereotype. One was brought by guards from the remand centre, complete with handcuffs and shackles around his ankles, because he still needed dialysis while incarcerated.

People don't listen well when you talk to them, or they have a singleminded (ie those drugs that gotta move!) purpose. In all my years of working with this patient population, I have met all kinds of people. Even the white, well to do types who can be nastier than you could even imagine, to the poor homeless guy with the psych history who turned out to be a total sweetheart.

I don't take anyone at 'face value' and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt about their 'character'... until they prove me wrong.

You tried to set that guy right, but he couldn't/wouldn't listen, so then he loses it on you. Kim's very right. It IS him, not you.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Wow... sorry about being so long winded! :-\

hope said...

Sav: its friends who understand where you're coming from because they take the time to listen. Even friends you've never met fact to face. :)

Ponita: Thanks. I'm starting to feel human again.

Anonymous said...

It has gotten to the point now of bring on Aaron Hernandez. Talk about beating a dead horse into the ground!!! I keep hearing we need a conversation. Well quit saying it and do it. I know you will listen - I'm humbled and grateful for your friendship :)

hope said...

Thom: that goes both ways, friend! ;)