[Sober Living] Sniffin’ Out Rats

“Also, I heard you yelled at one of our folks this morning[1].” I nearly got shot after not following one of the 10 Bullets. My phone call was taken out of context and someone wanted me, me specifically, to get in trouble. After explaining the context, apologizing for the concern, I began sniffing out the rat, as one does subconsciously, whether pious or petty; even decent people. After about a day, I found that rat, alright.

That rat was me.

I failed to control my emotions and got angry. Sure, I could explain it away as just my naturally loud voice, and being in an open office environment. Especially after building rapport, and casually explaining I must be like the boisterous Raphael, things settled without issue.

But the anger is still there.

In this situation, in other past situations, and even my natural inclination- diffusing situations isn’t my strongest skill. I am more used to handling confrontational situations directly. It’s been over 18 months since I wrote the first part of this essay and other than some awkward feelings throughout that gig, nothing long-term happened for me, negative or positive. I was probably labeled a troublemaker before that had already happened, because I am forthright and honest with my opinions, which doesn’t make me the savviest for a traditional suit-and-tie job.

I work hard, but I don’t work hard for others I don’t respect.

There’s, then, a sort of mentality where when it’s a situation where someone is earnest, honest, or needing assistance, I’m there to help, but as soon as there’s any sort of passive-aggressive behavior, then it’s game over. Reflecting back on that phone call all those months ago, I think what got me frustrated was the level of insincerity over helping me out with the situation, which was a HR concern of some minor variety.

Still, I should have walked outside for that phone call.

In the months since then, I haven’t had many further situations where I’ve felt frustrated at the person I’m talking with over the phone for how they’re helping me, but I’ve had many people frustrated with me over what they perhaps perceived to be shortcomings on my behalf. I work in technical support; I don’t work miracles. Stresses of life leak over into those calls. I am often a troubleshooter of people – a therapist or psychologist – more than I actually troubleshoot technical problems.

I try to keep an upbeat attitude now for that reason.

I can hide a lot of frustration through a loosely executed joke. My sarcastic wit is now so dry that I can say something completely dry and if I don’t crack a smile, it can be one of those puzzling moments for people. For example, I was talking to someone about their new bag, and how the other one was fancier. So I said, “well, that bag you could throw at anyone, but the other one would be one you’d have to throw at someone when you’re in a pinch.”

You know, because rather than actually throwing a bag, it’s just a joke…

I’ve also started to wear my clown nose again because when we get into the sort of super-serious mentality where we can get ourselves into trouble for getting mad at people, it’s usually because we’re taking ourselves and our lives too seriously. The clown nose is the antidote for that seriousness. I’ll wear it when there’s a particularly overwrought situation where the person is just so in their own head that their anxiety is spinning out of control.

But only if that person is me.

It’s like the thought of the crying clown, except, sometimes wearing the clown nose reminds me not to take life too seriously. I learned that from The Dude and the Zen Master, so when I was able to get a few clown noses, I did just that. Perhaps in that way, the clown nose is how I can sniff out rats both external as in the accuser that thought I had been yelling at the full-time employee and internal as in the self that had been encouraged to raise his voice to the point of influencing an anti-contractor into thinking I was yelling?

I think I prefer the clown nose over the truffle hog nose.

When you sniff out rats, you’re looking for someone to blame. You’re looking for a causality where there was someone that did bad behavior that must be held accountable. This sort of ratting someone out isn’t the mentality I want to portray. What I prefer to do is allow the person the room to hold themselves accountable so that they might correct their own actions. If someone does a procedure incorrectly, I won’t directly tell them they’re wrong, but guide them along in a not-quite passive-aggressive way.

Passive aggressiveness, for me, means you don’t care about the other person.

When I say, broadly and with a sort of generalization, that if one were to do something in some way that causes this sort of result, that gives the potential recommitter of crimes, whether innocuous or serious, the chance to redeem themselves with their new-found knowledge. If I would have known that this particular person, who I eventually found based on my general ingenuity, acted in this certain way, then I could generally avoid this behavior again.

And yet, I am reminded of the events from a few months back.

I wasn’t aggressively rude, rather, aggressively social. The passive aggressor that reported me to their supervisor about their broadest possible concerns wasn’t looking out for my well-being. I have since sniffed out that rat based on their general personality, their behavior both before and after the accusement, and their general conversationality with me. When people think you’re more than a rat, they’ll guide you toward some nice cheese without a mousetrap. If they only think of you a rat, then they’ll trick you into getting caught in the mousetrap.

I didn’t learn until internalizing all that just now…

Quotes: [1] We later talked about the situation, I explained my perspective and what had happened, and it was fine, but it’s one of those situations we all get into unless we’re taught not to get into them, I suppose.
Sources: My personal and professional experiences.
Inspirations: I never got around to wrapping this up. I saw that the Year of the Rat was coming up and so I went ahead and finished this essay, even though it doesn’t tie into the New Year at all.
Related: Other Sober Living essays.
Picture: I never had a picture before, so I’m using the template so I can publish this backlogged essay.
Written On: 13 February 2018 [Writing time unknown Wrote until “In this situation, in other past situations, and even my natural inclination- diffusing situations isn’t my strongest skill” then didn’t return to it.] — 28 December 2019 [3 minutes. From 4:17am to “but I don’t work” at 4:20am. 4 minutes. From 10:59pm to “I try to keep an upbeat” at 11:03pm. 17 minutes. From 11:18pm to 11:35pm. Gdocs.]
Last Edited: 2020 January 02 [Some edits adapting from Gdocs to WordPress… so… second draft?]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.