Five Priceless Tips to Prevent Call Center Derangement Syndrome

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I’m a tech-savvy guy, but like most of us, I have to call tech support from time to time. When this happens, I get angry.

Do you have any advice for dealing with this?  The calls, the waiting time, the computerized voices and endless menus of options are enough to make me want to become a Luddite, but it’s too late to turn back now.

Aggravated in Atlanta

Dear Aggravated,

Few statements are more ludicrous, or more insulting to our individual and collective intelligence, than the cloyingly ubiquitous,  “Your call is very important to us.”

No, actually, it’s not. If our calls were even remotely important to you, you’d hire more people to answer our very important calls.  They aren’t and you don’t.

The phenomenon of call center-induced derangement syndrome has even inspired a web site devoted, as its name states, to providing telephone numbers most likely to connect you to an actual human being at some point in the course of your natural life: GetHuman.com.

The following five rules start with the moment you first realize you have to call for help: a moment in many lives that’s frustration-fraught, rage-filled, and impatience-driven.  You’re often as annoyed with yourself as with the glitch — for being unable to solve the problem without turning to a stranger in the night thousands of miles away.  That stranger, you fear, will rob you of the most precious commodity there is: your time.

Before you dial the number, remember this:  you’re calling from a dark void of 21st century anguish. You need a guide, a Sherpa, who’s resourceful, trustworthy, energetic and has the patience to stick with you until the problem is solved.  You won’t be friends for life, but for a brief time, you’ll be zealous partners with a single goal.

Following these five simple rules can make the difference between a long, painful, anger-increasing, and ultimately failed partnership, and a brief, reasonably calm, successful one.

RULE 1: STEP AWAY FROM THE TELEPHONE.  

INITIATE YOUR CALL ONLY AFTER YOU CALM DOWN

Your instinct is to begin one of these calls when you’ve reached  the end of your rope. Don’t. Just as road rage is dangerous and counter-productive, so is device-malfunction rage.

Before calling that 1-800 number, take a brisk walk, run in place, or listen to this:

Rule 2: DON’T JUST STAND THERE, DO SOMETHING

Before placing the call, make sure you’re prepared: do two things: first, have a household or office task to complete: organizing your sock drawer, filing papers, alphabetizing your spices, reading a book, responding to emails — whatever it is, plan to get something accomplished while on hold.

Second, before initiating the call, find the serial number and model number of the device.  You’re going to need them and it’ll save time later if you have this information before you start.

RULE 3: DON’T LET THE OPTION MENU GET YOU DOWN

Option menus are among the banes of modern life, but try to approach them as speed bumps on the road to recovering your hard drive rather than as mortar attacks on all you hold dear. Option menus are, by their very existence, annoying. Ask yourself this: is your irritation at an option menu worth a heart attack?

A.  THE SPANISH OPTION

When you hear the inevitable announcement about continuing in Spanish, try not to re-examine the entire political controversy over whether the United States should be a bilingual nation or solely an English-speaking country.  Your goal is to focus on getting your technical problem solved. If you want to speak English, that’s still an option.  If you prefer to discuss your problem in Spanish, go for it.

B.  THEIR OPTIONS HAVE NOT “RECENTLY CHANGED”; IF YOU REMEMBER THE OPTION YOU USED THE LAST TIME, USE IT AGAIN THIS TIME

Your next source of exasperation will be the warning not to press any numbers you may have pressed as recently as say, an hour ago, because – you know it’s coming – “our options have recently changed.”  You’ll be tempted to think, “What if their options really have changed?”  It’s the “recently” that will get you every time. How recently?

Wasting even more time, you listen to the same list of options you heard last month, last year, or when Chicago Cubs last won the World Series. You were right in the first place: the “5” you pressed in 2007 is still the number to press today.

C. THE $64,000 QUESTION:

“CAN YOU TELL US IN YOUR OWN WORDS THE REASON FOR YOUR CALL?”

Now comes the greatest challenge, especially for women whose voices are invariably not recognized by the computerized “ears” that have been programmed to “understand” only men’s deeper voices.

I recommend doing an end-run around this question.  Just say,

“Twas brillig, and the slithy tove

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.”

These nonsensical words from Lewis Carroll’s 1871 “Jabberwocky” are just the ticket to connect you to another human being.  “Sorry,” the computerized voice will respond, “I didn’t understand you.”

You couldn’t get a better response than this, especially if you’re not understood three consecutive times.  This will automatically trigger a default mechanism that rewards you with the chance to wait to converse with a fellow member of our species.

“I’ll connect you to an agent,” the computerized woman’s voice says. “You may hear silence until you’re connected.”

You won’t hear silence.  Instead, you’ll be treated to the most jarring, brain-jangling jingle ever recorded, played on a sadistically endless loop until you finally do hear a human voice.

D. TIME TO ORGANIZE THE SOCK DRAWER, ALPHABETIZE YOUR SPICE RACK, OR FINISH THAT FILE WORK FROM LAST WEEK OR 1999 

The wait begins.  This is when you’ll hear how very important your call is.  Many companies will also tell you how many minutes you’re likely to wait. If it’s more than one minute, place the call on speaker and apply yourself to whatever task you’ve decided to accomplish: finish the dishes, clean the kitchen counter, read a book, re-arrange your sock drawer. Plot a crime you’ll never commit but would deeply enjoy if you did.

When you hear that special click that signals that you’re about to speak to a human, this is when you have to pay particular attention. The agent will introduce him- or herself and will ask how he or she can help you.

RULE 4: DECIDE ASAP IF THIS IS THE AGENT WHO CAN HELP YOU — OR NOT

A. THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT NANO-SECOND OF THE CALL

You have to decide on the spot, based on how the person answers the call, whether you want to spend the next 20-60 minutes of your life with that person.  It’s a little like speed dating on speed.  With speed dating, you’re offered as many as eight minutes to decide whether someone is for you.  With a tech support call, you have eight seconds.

Your decision will determine whether your problem will be solved by an experienced, customer-attentive agent or not solved by an uninterested, unmotivated one.  You’ll want both a technical wizard and a person who conveys clarity of expression, patience, persistence, resolve and diligence.

While it’s better to make the decision as quickly as possible, if you’re unable to make it in the first eight seconds, then make it in the first five minutes.  If after five minutes you’ve gotten nowhere in solving your problem, say, “Thank you, I have to go now,” and start the wretched process over again, rather than lose even more precious minutes of your one and only life.

How do you make a snap decision based on one sentence at the other end of the line?

B. WHAT TO AVOID

Here’s what you don’t want to hear at the other end: someone who sounds tired or fails to speak up (mumbling rather than stating clearly, “Hi, my name is Sylvia .  How can I help you?”)  If what you hear is, “himynameissylviahowcanihelpyou,” Sylvia may be insufficiently awake, alert or communicative to be of any assistance.  On the other hand, if the agent sounds overdosed on uppers and ready to speed over to a high school football pep rally — “Hey! What’s happenin’ today, dude?” — he or she may be too pumped to address your profoundly tedious issue.

C. WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR IN THE VOICE AT THE OTHER END

What you do want to hear is someone alert, awake, confident, and focused.

RULE 5: WHAT YOU CAN ACTIVELY DO TO MAKE THE CALL GO BETTER

A.    LISTEN FOR AND THEN USE THE PERSON’S NAME

If you miss it the first time, just ask, “Did you say your name was Barry?” Once agents hear you using their names, it tends to instill a higher degree of motivation to do their best.

B. YOUR GOOD MANNERS AND PATIENT ATTITUDE WILL PRODUCE A BETTER RESULT AND WILL DO SO MORE QUICKLY THAN A SOUR OR CRANKY ONE

Try not to begin on the wrong foot.  The person you’ve reached did not cause your problem.  Someone in his or her company may have done so, by constructing a device in such a way that your problem could all too easily arise (after all, it didarise), but don’t hold that against the agent on the line.

You’ll have far better experience if you begin with a greeting such as, “Hi, Sylvia, How are you?” and then a quick sentence of self-introduction. You could say, “I’m usually good at tech issues but today I’m up against a problem that’s beyond me.  I need your help.”  Or, in the alternative, “I’m a techno-failure and I really need your help if I’m ever going to talk on my cell phone again.” Things go better if you sound like a real person, not just a problem with an angry voice attached to it.

C.  KNOW WHEN TO CUT YOUR LOSSES AND HANG UP

If the agent is reading from a poorly-devised script and keeps repeating the same lines even after you did what you were told, and have clearly stated that the suggested action didn’t work, it’s time to say goodbye. When you ask,Could we try something else, please?” and the answer is a robotic re-reading from the same script, cut your losses and say, “Thanks. I have to go.”

If you cannot understand what the agent is saying, this is not a shortcoming that’s going to improve in the course of a single phone call, so ring off and call back.  It will save time.

D.  IF YOU GET GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE AND GOOD TECH SUPPORT, DO THIS

Take one extra minute and ask to speak to the agent’s supervisor to tell the supervisor what a great job the agent has done.  Your words of praise will be added to the agent’s personnel file, and you’ll have made the supervisor’s day: normally, they only hear complaints.

A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

 With a modicum of patience, good manners and clear communication you’ll (a) achieve the goal of solving your technical problem, (b) have the best-organized sock drawer in your zip code, and (c) have contributed a positive comment to the agent’s personnel file. Who knew that three such delightful benefits could flow from a single technical glitch?

Why, with enough calls to tech support, by the end of the year you could get your entire home and office whipped into shape — and who says you can’t do thigh lifts and push-ups while waiting to hear the agent’s voice?

Don’t think of your next glitch as an undeserved punishment.  It’s a priceless opportunity.

—Belladonna Rogers

 

How To Avoid Adultery When Temptation Is Looking You in the Eye

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I’m writing for help with adultery, which I haven’t committed yet.  I’ve spent hours discussing Exodus 20:14 with my clergyman.  Even so, I’m still tempted.

I’m a highly sexed woman married to a man with a lower sex drive than mine. I had a series of painful affairs with highly-sexed hunks who loved me and left me in my twenties.  After a decade of several of them, I was blessed to marry a great husband in every way but one: he can’t have traditional sex with me any more. I don’t want to be unfaithful.   I have a high-level job in the federal government, where I’ve worked hard for half my life, 25 of my 50 years. Among my responsibilities is to mentor a subordinate of mine, a 25-year-old married man. He wants me to become his lover. I’m sorely tempted.  We travel a great deal together for work without our spouses so the possibility is always looking me in the eye.

My 15-year marriage has blessed me with two wonderful children, as well as every satisfaction and joy I could hope for, except one. My husband has seen many physicians and the problem appears to be permanent and unresponsive to the major medications known for the dysfunction he suffers. Having tried many, I’m not comfortable using electronic devices or watching porn.  Rather than stimulate me, all that  turns me off.

My young subordinate at work oozes sex, is funny, perceptive and tells me he desires me more than any woman in his life. He pays enormous attention to me, which is hard to ignore. I know our co-workers have picked up the vibes between us.  It’s hard for me to accept that I have to give up sex at 50, especially since I’m fit and look 40.  I want to do right by my husband, but I’m not made of stone.  I feel lust for this young guy 24/7.  It’s agony. My guilt over my lust is also with me 24/7, and that, too, is agony. What should I do?  What can I do?

Worried and Willing in Washington, D.C.

 

Dear Worried and Willing:

Let’s start with your guilt and then move to the other components of the ball of wax that seems to be melting all over you. Your situation can be easily understood as long as you’re not in the middle of it — which you are.

 DON’T FEEL GUILTY FOR HAVING HUMAN YEARNINGS

You have no reason to feel guilty for being human and having human yearnings.  If you’re fit and 50 and your husband can no longer engage in traditional sex, and your 25-year-old subordinate who “oozes sex” is eager to become your lover, of course you’re going to be filled with desire. He could even be older than you: it’s not the age of the seducer that counts, it’s his sexual energy.  As Mae West liked to say, “It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men.”

 THE LAST TIME I CHECKED, “FRATERNIZATION” BETWEEN MARRIED COLLEAGUES, ONE OF WHOM IS THE OTHER’S SUBORDINATE, IS NOT A CAREER-ENHANCING MOVE FOR EITHER PARTY

It’s understandable that, in the throes of sexual yearning and guilt, this major factoid may have slipped your mind: I doubt your proposed affair would be consistent with your federal agency’s regulations.  If you’re a fit 50 who looks 40, and co-workers have noticed the vibes, I suggest using the authority vested in you by Uncle Sam to order a transfer for your mentee to a different department, a different supervisor and a different mentor.  The situation as it now stands adds up to trouble with a capital “T.”

I know this suggestion will sound harsh and even cruel, but arranging for him to transfer from  your department is essential.  As long as you see him every day and travel with him, you’re making life far too difficult and stressful for yourself and you’re risking everything for a man you do not know deeply — and I hope you never will.

You can arrange his departure without casting aspersions on his service, but the fact that you’re ordering his transfer may teach him a much-needed lesson about the wisdom of propositioning his supervisors in the future.

You’ve worked half your lifetime to get where you are today.  Don’t throw away your marriage, your access to your children and your career.  That seems like a lot to lose for one sexy 25-year-old — and I don’t say this because I’ve never encountered a sexy 25-year-old.  Complete the paperwork to arrange his transfer to a distant field office, preferably on a continent you never visit — Antarctica would be just the place — and then read on.

HOW YOU GOT WHERE YOU ARE

You were fortunate indeed to land in your husband’s arms after spending your twenties with highly-sexed chick magnets who seduced you and left you as road kill when they tired of their  joy rides with you.  This is the classic M.O. of highly-sexed seducers.  They reel in their women with the bait of their “oozing sex,” as you called it.  When they leave — as they always do — you end up alone, sobbing at 3 in the morning, the tears streaming down your cheeks, as you listen to Leonard Cohen singing “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.” The silent treatment is their method of choice when it comes to bidding you farewell.  That’s a chick magnet for you: all the empathy of a marble.

They think nothing of breaking the hearts and wounding the psyches of the women they seduce and abandon. Why do they do this?  Because they can. The first rule of the human jungle is this: the more highly-sexed the man, the more selfish, narcissistic, inconsiderate and uncaring he can afford to be.

It’s the law of supply and demand.  Men for whom there’s an endless supply of women never have to learn to be as careful and considerate of their prey as men in lower demand, who’ll husband their scarce resources with far greater care.

SOME PEOPLE REMEMBER PLEASURE MORE CLEARLY THAN PAIN

It’s possible that your 15 years of happy marriage to a good man may have clouded your memory of how brutal chick magnets are. At the moment, you’re living in anticipation of the pleasure you do remember.  But ask yourself whether you can tolerate the intensity of pain that will follow whatever ecstasy you envision. Even if neither you nor your subordinate were married — which you are — the anguish you’ll feel when he abandons you — which he will — is guaranteed to be excruciating.

INTRODUCING PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER 1:

MR. CHARISMA T. ORGASM

One of the greatest novels of all time is Henry James’ A Portrait of a Lady. To summarize the 672 pages of dense Jamesian prose, the 1881 masterpiece portrays the choice that every intelligent, highly-sexed, sentient woman must make: whether to marry Mr. Charisma T. Orgasm or marry Mr. Dependability A. Kindheart.  The reader can easily foresee the train wreck ahead, even as the novel’s heroine, Isabel Archer, is blinded by a Hillary Rodham-like sense that her life will be most exciting with Mr. Orgasm.  Exciting, yes.  Stable? Hardly.

THE DILEMMA OF THE HIGHLY-SEXED, EMOTIONALLY ASTUTE WOMAN

When it comes to the choice of a husband, a woman with a high sex drive and high emotional intelligence faces a Hobson’s choice: she’s in a lose-lose situation.

If she chooses to marry a highly-sexed chick magnet whose sex drive will match her own, she’ll find herself with a husband who’s missing in action much of the time because he’s either being pursued by other women, or he’s pursuing them. When he’s home, she’ll be in seventh heaven, except for the time it’ll take him to catch up on the sleep he lost on the road. When he’s away, she often can’t reach him, as her calls to his cell phone go directly to voicemail while he satisfies one woman after another, and, of course, Numero Uno, first and foremost. Every “relationship” is all about him.

If she marries Mr. Dependability Kindheart, she can have a fine marriage and a wonderful, loving family, but she’s fated to endure an inchoate yearning for the rest of her days.  It may become submerged and remain amorphous for years, even decades, as she diligently raises her children, is a loving wife to her husband, and often cares for others, as well.

But the day will dawn when Mr. Charisma T. Orgasm will walk into her life.  The “T,” by the way, stands for Trouble — his middle name. He could be a former lover from her youth showing up out of the blue — as they’re wont to do — or a co-worker, a mentee, or any man from anywhere.  However he appears, he’s here now, and when he focuses his gaze on you, you melt.  He possesses a keen pheromone-based radar system that picks up on sex-starved married women and turns their inchoate yearnings into a specific desire for a specific man: Charisma T. Orgasm, himself.

HOW YOU’LL RECOGNIZE MR. CHARISMA T. ORGASM

 He’s tenacious, highly focused on you, his prey, charming, quick-witted, but most of all, he’s got your number.

He hones in on you like a heat-seeking missile.  That’s because he is a heat-seeking missile and the heat he’s seeking is between a married woman’s legs.

And so it is that a highly motivated, conscientious wife, mother and professional woman who’s worked half her lifetime to achieve a position of responsibility and respect is suddenly transformed into a 14-year-old with a crush on the captain of the football team.

WHY EMOTIONALLY DISCERNING WOMEN DON’T MARRY CHICK MAGNETS

Here we come to the central question in the lives of the highly sexual, emotionally intelligent woman. Should she marry Mr. Orgasm — knowing full well that if she does, she’ll likely be sharing him with countless nameless women (not literally nameless — they all have names, of course — she just won’t know what they are) who’ll come onto him or onto whom he’ll come?

Or should she marry the less charismatic, less sexually-charged man and have a good, steady marriage to a man who’ll be there for her and their children every day and every night, but who never could be (even when young) and who never will be a chick magnet?

If she wants a life of dependability and stability, and if she doesn’t want to share her husband with dozens or hundreds of other (potentially STD-infected) women during her marriage, she chooses exactly as you did, as any sane woman who wants a sane adulthood would and does.

The problem arises when an erotic snake like young Mr. Orgasm slithers into your life and, by his very presence, plus his skillful, manipulative playing on your weaknesses, reminds you of what you’ve been missing.

WHEN A PLAINTIVE SUITOR TURNS INTO A SUITED PLAINTIFF

One day, about six months from now — if you were to give in to your yearnings – you’ll have to tell your young lover that you must stay home with your husband and children one Sunday afternoon instead of going to your tryst with him.  Within 24 hour after you’ve spurned him, Mr. Orgasm can change from the charmingly panting young lover to the scorned and humiliated former lover, sitting in the general counsel’s office signing an affidavit, claiming that you seduced and sexually harassed him.

Of course, there’ll be no merit to his complaint, but after you’ve paid your lawyer half your savings to clear your good name, you’ll have lost far too much that you’ll never be able to recover.

THE DESIRE FOR ONE LAST MOMENT OF SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS

I well understand your desire for one last hurrah before you go from a fit 50 who looks 40 to a fit 70 who looks 60.

Of course you want another Charisma T. Orgasm before the sun sets — as set it will — on your days of splendor in the grass.

I don’t aspire to be a wet blanket or a killjoy, but when I see a hardworking woman, a loving wife and mother, driving 120 mph and heading straight to Heartbreak Hotel, I have an obligation to urge her to apply her right foot to the brakes as hard as she possibly can. Then go home. Read  Anna Karenina.

If you don’t have time for a magnificent 976-page Russian novel, (free download) see the 94-minute film  (but only the version with Greta Garbo), also a powerful experience.  Either way, you’ll come away with a renewed sense of gratitude for your husband and children.

You’ll always have a tug in your heart and a hot, wet, throbbing desire for your young mentee, and for all the men just like him in the decades ahead who’ll do their best – and their best will be mighty powerful – to lure you into bed with them.

Look in the mirror and practice saying, “I’m married and you’re married. If we weren’t, everything might be different, but we are and it isn’t.”  Repeat it over and over until it’s ready to be deployed whenever this and future Mr. Orgasms give you their patented come-hither looks that have worked with hundreds of women before you, and will work with hundreds of women after you.

Then watch Anna Karenina again and again and again until you get the message: no good will come of this.  It isn’t worth the fleeting pleasure for a lifetime of regret.  It isn’t.  If you’re filled with feelings of guilt now, you’ll be drowning in oceans of it as long as you live if you go forward with this affair, or any others during your marriage.

USE THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE BLIMP SHOT

Use the method that networks use to cover NFL games: the blimp shot.  From up in the blimp, every Mr. Orgasm looks like an ant.  Picture him as an ant.  A fire ant, who will ruin your house.  He’s an ant!  He’ll provide a night of pleasure in exchange for a lifetime reservation at Heartbreak Hotel.  You don’t want to live there.

As a highly-sexed woman, it’s your ineluctable fate to be both pursued by and drawn to these feckless, reckless men.  I wish I could say it isn’t, but it is.  Your duty to yourself – even more than to your husband, children and profession — is to remind yourself that the middle name of every one of these tempting, silver-tongued seducers is Trouble.

YOU ARE MORE THAN THE SUM OF YOUR EROGENOUS ZONES

Think back to those hunks of your 20s: the stress, the constant disrespect, and the insults you withstood when dealing with the Mr. Orgasms of the world.  They forced you off the road.  They are nasty pieces of work once you get to know them, so you drove off, bloodied but unbowed, and married a fine human being and not one of those wily wolves that prey on every highly-sexed woman they can sniff.

Let them sniff someone else.  You’ll find that every one of them carries a double-edged sword, a sword that wounds you deeply in your heart and soul even as it arouses your erogenous zones. Remember this: you are more than the sum of your erogenous zones. You have other zones that Mr. Orgasm will damage, and  on which he’ll wreak havoc with his own patented genius for conferring pain irresponsibly while feeling none himself.

If this description of Charisma T. Orgasm doesn’t reduce your desire for your young mentee, perhaps a few lines — 14 to be exact, since it’s a sonnet — by William Shakespeare may help.  Emphasis is added for, well, emphasis:

SONNET 129 

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had

Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad;

Mad in pursuit and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;

A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;

Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

IF TALKS WITH YOUR CLERGYMAN, PLUS READING WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, HENRY JAMES, LEO TOLSTOY & THIS ADVICE COLUMN DON’T WORK, HERE’S HOW TO FIND A GOOD THERAPIST

If, after talking with your clergyman, arranging a transfer for your youthful pursuer, reading A Portrait of a Lady, Anna Karenina, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 and thinking about this column, you feel the need to discuss the strain of living with a man you love with whom you can no longer enjoy traditional sexual intercourse, find yourself a therapist.

If at first you feel uncomfortable, try another.  It may take meeting with five or six before you find a therapist with whom you’re on the same wavelength.  One session is usually enough for you to tell if you can work together.  It isn’t that there are “rotten apples” in the field of psychotherapy: there are thousands of excellent apples with whom you can still be incompatible.  Psychotherapy involves working closely as a team with another human being.  If you don’t like your fellow team member, return to that website and find someone else.  Keep trying until you find someone with whom you can spend between a few months and a few years.  However long it takes, it’s worth it, regardless of what others say who’ve had bad luck and gave up after two or three unsatisfactory meetings.

Carly Simon finally concluded that she didn’t “have time for the pain.”  You, too, would weary of the cruel, heartless narcissism of this and every other Mr. Charisma T. Orgasm, no matter how gorgeously appealing he is right this second.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater’s campaign slogan of 1964, in your heart, you know I’m right.

If you don’t, watch Anna Karenina again, take two aspirin and email me in the morning.

–Belladonna Rogers

Teen Girl on FB Acts Like Teen Girl on FB: Dad Shoots Her Laptop

Unbeknownst to many other Americans, upwards of 26 million Americans have now watched a Youtube video created by one Tommy Jordan, a North Carolina father, an IT specialist and a potential reality show folk hero, in which he lectures his 15-year-old daughter about life in general and her life in particular.

The climax, and I mean climax, comes as he points his 45 at her laptop, lying on the patchy winter lawn outside his house, and shoots it full of nine exploding hollow-point bullets.  As he fires into the laptop, he tells his daughter she now owes him not only for the $130 worth of software he spent six hours the day before installing for her, gratis, but also for the cost of the bullets themselves, “about a dollar apiece.” Nice touch.

Why did he do this?  To teach his daughter a lesson.

What did she do that provoked this dramatic form of education?

She behaved like a rebellious, entitled, self-centered adolescent.  In other words, she was just doing what comes naturally to many in their teens.  Specifically, she chose to air her differences with her father on her Facebook wall in the mistaken belief that it was visible only to her FB friends. “To My Parents,” she’d written, and then unloaded her grievances.

What she didn’t take into account — hello? — is that her father is an IT guy.  He got behind her firewall and produced a fire wall of his own — all over her laptop.

Or, to be accurate, her ex-laptop.

In a well-spoken, indignant rant that might remind some — in part — of one of the finer Monty Python skits ever (The Four Yorkshiremen), Mr. Jordan informs his daughter that when he was 15, he was not only in high school, but was also studying in college at the same time and had a two paying jobs and was a volunteer fireman.  His daughter, whose only responsibilities in life, as he puts it, are to do a few household chores, which by his estimate, take well under ten minutes a day, get up in the morning, and get on the school bus.

Speaking for a generation of parents who had to lug heavy typewriters if they wanted to write anything that wasn’t hand-written, and had to put a dime, later upped to a quarter, into the coin slot of  an invariably inconveniently-located pay phone in order to make a telephone call when not at home, Mr. Jordan’s indignation has spread across the land as did the most memorable line of the 1976  movie, Network“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”  Although now, in 2012, that outrage is viral and on steroids, thanks to Youtube.

The Youtube has, unsurprisingly, sparked an avalanche of comments, the vast majority cheering him on as “Father of the Year,” another simply writing, “Justice.”  A small minority of others ask bluntly, “Are you nuts?” and “This is how you teach your daughter a lesson?”

As of this writing, the video that first went live on February 8th has garnered 289,058 “likes” and 27,053 “dislikes.”  The ayes definitely have it in the country at large.

Here on PJM?  Only you can say.

h/t: Soccer Mom

The Chastened Adulterer: How an Affair Is Like a Heart Attack and The Case for Psychotherapy

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I read your last advice column, “Adultery Is Bad, Telling Your Spouse Is Worse,” and the comments it provoked. I have a question that no one raised: is it possible for a chastened adulterer to become a good — even a great — spouse?

Chastened in Chicago

 

Dear Chastened,

The answer is a resounding yes.  With serious introspection — if at all possible aided by serious psychotherapy with a licensed, qualified, and, in a best case scenario, a highly experienced therapist — yes.

Note: To avoid the awkward “his/her,” “himself/herself” phrasing, I’ll refer to “him” in this column, by which I intend to include “her.”  Whenever I refer to a “husband” and his conduct toward his wife, it applies equally to a wife’s conduct toward her husband, or any partner’s behavior toward his or her partner.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that your post-adultery decision to make an effort to mend your wandering ways and succeed at becoming a good or great husband should not begin with confessing your adultery to your wife, unless you’re forced by circumstances to do so.

There were many comments last week to the effect that if you don’t confess, your spouse will love a person who isn’t “the real you.” My reply is that no one knows everything, even everything important, about his spouse. It’s neither helpful nor useful to make such a confession. It’s hurtful and counterproductive to the marriage.

One reader wrote that since infidelity is grounds for divorce, a secret adulterer deprives his wife of the knowledge that she has the legal basis for ending the marriage. To that I say that if the husband has ended his affair and is seeking to keep his marriage and family intact, it makes no sense whatsoever for him to inform his wife that she has grounds for a divorce.  That’s the last thing he wants or, frankly, should want.

Others emphasized that absolution requires an apology to the person you betrayed. While no Judeo-Christian-based religion condones adultery, I stand with the commenter last week.

Confessions to a member of the clergy can certainly give one a good start on the road to fidelity in marriage. For at least the past 20 years, many Catholic priests hearing confessions of adultery have recommended psychotherapy, and have even given their parishioners the names of competent therapists.

 WHY A CHASTENED ADULTERER CAN, POTENTIALLY, MAKE A BETTER SPOUSE THAN ONE WHO HAS NEVER STRAYED (NOT AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF ADULTERY)

An errant husband with a deep desire to mend his ways by understanding why he’s been vulnerable to, or even open to, extramarital temptation has the potential to become an even better husband after an affair (or after decades of affairs with numerous partners) than a non-adulterous spouse.  This is not a recommendation to commit adultery. It’s just a statement of fact.

Unlike a faithful husband, an adulterer must — if only briefly — contemplate how much he’d lose if his wife learned of his extramarital conduct.

A man who has looked into the terrifying abyss of life without his partner and children is a man unlikely to take his wife for granted.  He’s come too close to losing her and he knows it.

To change his ways, the adulterous husband must examine the inner triggers that have led him into adultery, be it once or serially.

Some may sneer that the “inner triggers” require no advanced degrees to decipher. The triggers consist of nothing more complex than an appealing cleavage, a lively smile, gorgeous legs, an attractive posterior, or a suggestive come-hither gaze across a crowded room.

Wrong!

Such enticements are almost everywhere.  Why is a man prone to respond to one temptation, but not to all?

Through serious therapy, an individual can discover clues to when and why the urge to wander occurs. When is he most vulnerable? It may seem like a no-brainer that the reason the urge occurs is that temptation has suddenly reared its head, but the question remains: why was one vulnerable then?  Or, if always vulnerable, why is one constantly at risk?

HOW POST-ADULTERY THERAPY IS LIKE RECOVERING FROM A MAJOR HEART ATTACK

The conscious decision to make a fundamental change in one’s personal life is analogous to the choice to act in a way to make a second heart attack unlikely after a first one.

By and largewhen one has dodged a life-threatening bullet of any kind, one has a keener sense of gratitude for everyday reality than someone who hasn’t ever felt the soul-chilling breath of the Angel of Death hovering close, or who’s never realized how close he has come to losing his marriage.  It can be sobering and life-changing.

When you’ve dodged The Big One, you know it.

As in the period after a first heart attack, when diet and exercise and other lifestyle changes must be made to avoid a second brush with death, in the time after an affair a man who wants to become a faithful husband must make a conscious decision to change his ways.

No cardiologist or heart surgeon, no matter how brilliant or learned, can keep a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza out of the hands or mouth of a man who refuses to accept that these foods will do nothing but produce fleeting, albeit intense, pleasure while also coating the interior of his arteries with life-threatening plaque.

The choice of whether to prevent another heart attack or to prevent another adulterous affair is one that only the individual can make.  A choice to change one’s patterns of behavior requires high motivation and Herculean resolve.  A trained physician or therapist can help, but not unless the patient feels a deep need to behave differently in order to produce a different response to the same stimulus the next time.

Menus and potential lovers will never change: they’ll always offer up their ephemeral raptures. It is the individual who must change his approach to them – or else suffer a repetition of the past, over and over and over again, just like in Groundhog Day.

 THE AGING PROCESS WILL NOT MAGICALLY CHANGE ADULTEROUS BEHAVIOR 

If you think that “waiting it out” will work – that the onset of one’s sixties, seventies, eighties, or nineties will, without serious introspection and a strong desire to change, magically “solve” the problem of being a wandering spouse — think again.

The emotional impulses will remain unchanged.  All that will change is that the flesh will require greater patience and longer periods of physical stimulation to accomplish the act.

THERAPY IS NOT JUST “FOR OTHER PEOPLE”

As for psychotherapy, those who think it’s only for others are making a mistake.  Everyone can benefit from greater knowledge of his inner life.  Without the clarity of vision that the hard work of therapy entails, one is fated to make the same errors, and fall into the same traps, again and again and again, leaving untold destruction in one’s wake, and doing untold damage to oneself. One can pretend otherwise, but pretending won’t make it so.

 HOW THERAPY CAN HELP

A fine portrayal of how therapy works can be found not in a film about psychiatry — and there’ve been dozens – nor in the HBO series In Treatment, which was OK as entertainment but not as a serious portrayal of psychotherapy, but rather in the 2010 movie The King’s Speech.

It skillfully tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of the present queen of England, who was afflicted with an agonizing problem of stammering, leading to minutes of total silence when the BBC broadcast his early public addresses.

Through his wife’s intervention, he consulted a speech therapist who immediately sought to learn about the future monarch’s childhood. “We don’t wish you to examine his childhood.  Just fix his stammer,” his wife ordered the therapist.

As the film unfolds, however, the future king does, in fact, examine his childhood and comes to recognize the hitherto invisible links between how he felt as a small, defenseless, and abused child and his inability to speak without mortifying pauses as an adult.  He begins to connect the dots that connect his earliest years to his present impediment.

In 1939,  after years of intense introspection and resolute, hard work with Lionel Logue, his speech therapist, the king must make a historic speech on the radio to his country and the entire British Empire, informing millions of his subjects around the globe that they are now at war with Hitler’s Germany.

He succeeds brilliantly. Without the will to examine his inner life, he would have been doomed to stammer his way through six years of wartime BBC broadcasts. Instead, he became, along with his wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an inspiring speaker to the British and the Allies throughout the long, arduous war.

 SUBSTITUTING THE CONQUEST OF INNER DEMONS FOR THE QUEST FOR EXTERNAL TRAPPINGS

With the necessary will and the necessary help, demons can be conquered. What is needed is the determination that leads to intense, deeply motivated effort. Promises and resolutions to do better in the future will inevitably be broken without doing the work to connect the dots and to understand why a person does what he does.

Yes, it takes time, and yes, it takes money.  The time will pass, anyway: it’s better spent in therapy than in bed with a lover.  On balance, psychotherapy can be enormously worthwhile, far more so than any material object – from a closetful of shoes to a powerful, flashy vehicle or a humongous-sized television screen. Many therapists offer sliding scales of fees to enable all to benefit. If you believe that a new thing (or person) will make you feel better, it or she won’t — except fleetingly. The benefits of psychotherapy will outlast anything else you can buy.

Nothing in life is more costly than the errors we make because of woeful ignorance of ourselves.

 TO CHANGE FROM CHASTENED ADULTERER TO GREAT HUSBAND OR WIFE

I will end with part of a 1644 essay by John Milton, the towering poet of Paradise Lost who also wrote an essay titled “Areopagitica (emphasis added:)

Good and evill we know in the field of this World grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involv’d and interwoven with the knowledge of evill, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discern’d, that those confused seeds which were impos’d on Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not more intermixt. It was from out the rinde of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evill as two twins cleaving together leapt forth into the World. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evill, that is to say of knowing good by evill. As therefore the state of man now is; what wisdome can there be to choose, what continence to forbeare without the knowledge of evill? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister’d vertue, unexercis’d & unbreath’d, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather: that which purifies us is triall, and triall is by what is contrary.

Each of our lives involves trial by that which “is contrary.”  To win those trials and emerge stronger and better human beings, we must subject ourselves to the arduous task of self-understanding.  Without that, all the tearful and abject apologies, all the confessions of guilt to one’s spouse and endless promises of change are just so much hot air.

To change is to work at change, not to believe that absolution or forgiveness is all it takes. It wasn’t in 1644, it isn’t now, and it never will be.

— Belladonna Rogers

Adultery Is Bad. Telling Your Spouse Is Worse

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I love my wife but I’ve committed adultery. I know it’s wrong, morally, religiously, spiritually and in every way. Reading your column last week on apologizing, I’m writing to ask if I should apologize for my infidelity even though my wife is unaware of it. What should I do if my wife suspects and confronts me?  Should I confirm her suspicions, make a clean breast of it and apologize? I know I’d feel better.

Sinner in Salt Lake City

Dear Sinner,

Adultery is the one thing to which you should never admit unless your wife discovers you in the act. The line, “Honey, this isn’t what it looks like” will be of no avail. It is exactly what it looks like. Assuming she hasn’t found you in flagrante delicto, here’s my advice:

CONFESSING ADULTERY TO AN UNAWARE SPOUSE IS CRUEL AND UNWISE

An adulterer’s need to confess and “make a clean breast of it” is both supremely selfish and  monumentally unwise.  If the urge to “confess” is overwhelming, then make your confession to a professional — religious or secular.  With a minister, therapist, or counselor you can give free vent to your impulse to disclose your adultery and discuss your feelings about it in complete confidentiality without being brutally cruel to the person you love.

Having made one crummy decision, your two options of what to do next are similarly crummy. Bad actions beget bad options.  The lesser of the two evils that I favor involves treating your wife with kindness by omitting to tell her what you did. The one I oppose involves confessing your infidelity to her, thus inflicting needless pain while not undoing your error.  Nothing will ever undo your error, including confessing it to your wife and apologizing for it.

A confession will irreparably destroy trust, the indispensable foundation of all relationships.

Under no circumstances — no matter how drunk, how angry, how deliriously high on any substance you may be, and regardless of how sorely tempted you may feel in a moment of guilt or intimacy to reveal “everything” about yourself and “get it off your chest,” and “make a clean breast of it” — does it make sense to reveal adultery to your spouse.  Even on your deathbed, the urge to “bare all” before drawing your final breath should be suppressed: this is an unconscionably cruel way to say goodbye.

HOW CONFESSING ADULTERY ONLY MAKES A BAD SITUATION WORSE

(1) By disclosing your adultery, you’ll be hurting the one person you love more than anyone else in the world.  Your urge to confess and beg forgiveness does not outweigh your responsibility to be kind, considerate, and to avoid inflicting pain and suffering. Confessing is cruel.

(2) It will inevitably lead to your spouse telling your children, if you have any.  If they are young, this will have long-term negative effects on their behavior when they’re married.  Children learn by the example set by their parents far more than by what their parents tell them is right or what their religious training teaches them is right or wrong.

(3) Revealing your adultery, especially soon after it has occurred, will increase the chances that your wife will do the same to you, motivated by a number of impulses, including:

(A)  Reassurance: There’s nothing quite like adultery to make a person feel abandoned, unloved, unlovable, and unattractive. One way many spouses of adulterers cope with feelings of rejection is by seeking comfort — as well as confirmation that they’re still emotionally and physically appealing — with a partner outside the marriage.

(B) Retaliation: to let the errant spouse know exactly how it feels to be cheated on. To show him or her that “two can play this game.”

(C) Punishment: a powerful desire to inflict emotional pain on the spouse who cheated first, a desire that never would have existed if the originally errant spouse hadn’t blurted out, in a foolishly self-destructive moment of candor or weakness, that he or she committed adultery.

ADMITTING ADULTERY LEADS TO A SPIRAL OF MISERY

The original disclosure of adultery is thus likely to set in motion a spiral of misery that can lead to divorce even when the couple is no longer in the bloom of youth. While examples abound, here’s a recent one to contemplate as you ponder whether to confess, courtesy of The Telegraph in December 2011 (emphasis added):

99-Year-old Divorces Wife After He Discovered 1940s Affair

An Italian couple are to become the world’s oldest divorcees, after the 99-year-old husband found that his 96-year-old wife had an affair in the 1940s

The Italian man, identified by lawyers in the case only as Antonio C, was rifling through an old chest of drawers when he made the discovery a few days before Christmas. Notwithstanding the time that had elapsed since the betrayal, he was so upset that he immediately confronted his wife of 77 years, named as Rosa C, and demanded a divorce. Guilt-stricken, she reportedly confessed everything but was unable to persuade her husband to reconsider his decision. She wrote the letters to her lover during a secret affair in the 1940s, according to court papers released in Rome this week. The couple are now preparing to split, despite the ties they forged over nearly eight decades – they have five children, a dozen grandchildren and one great-grand child.

WHY THINKING YOU’LL “FEEL BETTER” AFTER CONFESSING ADULTERY TO AN UNSUSPECTING SPOUSE IS A PATHETIC, DELUSIONAL FANTASY

Like the guilt-stricken “Rosa C.,” many a cheating or formerly cheating spouse will experience guilt followed by an overwhelming impulse to “tell the truth.”

This overwhelming impulse must itself be overcome by a far more constructive resolve to understand the devastation confession will wreak, even if accompanied by tearful, abject, heartfelt apologies and a promise never to stray again. The choice of confession is nothing but a pure, unmitigated self-centered mistake. 

It’s likely that the confessing spouse will, in fact, “feel better” after baring his or her soul. But that feeling will be more fleeting than the light of a firefly.  A husband surely won’t feel better when, a week later, he receives a text from his wife saying that the dentist kept her waiting…until midnight… to fill that cavity. What cavity?  That cavity.

DEALING WITH A SUSPICIOUS SPOUSE

What if a spouse suspects and confronts the delinquent spouse?

Suspicion is part of life and therefore of marriage.  Suspicion is a subdivision of thinking. If we have minds, we think.  If we think, we wonder. Only spouses afflicted with deeply flawed thinking seize the opportunity afforded by a spouse’s inquiry to reply, “Well, you’ve pretty much guessed, anyway, so I may as well tell you that that person I work with — the one who calls here all the time? –well, he’s (or she’s) got the hots for me. One night we were the last people in the office, and the next thing we knew we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I don’t know what got into us.”

Bad idea! If the worried spouse expresses a hunch or a suspicion, the other spouse reassures. He or she does not leap at the chance to blurt out the truth. A loving husband or wife reassures rather than blurts.

Never ever, ever, ever, ever give in to the temptation to tell the truth if adultery (even once) is the truth. With adultery, once is the same as 100 times.  It’s the infidelity, the unfaithfulness, not the precise number of times or partners.  “Only” doesn’t modify “once” when it comes to adultery. Confessing to having had even a single one-night stand will cast a long, dark, irreversible shadow over all the days of your marriage.

“SHUT UP,” SHE EXPLAINED

If your infidelity is a result of an inherent problem in your marriage, or a personal problem of yours, you might find it helpful to address that problem in counseling or therapy with either a religious or secular professional. Flinging an act of infidelity at your wife is no way to deal with an intrinsic difficulty in your marriage or in yourself.

Making your spouse miserable is not an appropriate cure for your feelings of guilt.  The cure is to end the affair and to keep your error locked in your heart forever.

My advice is at odds with the mantra of the Oprah-and-Dr.-Phil-besotted, revelation-obsessed swampland in which we dwell.  Although admitting one’s intimate transgressions on national TV makes for high Nielsen ratings, such a confession does nothing to strengthen a marriage.

To paraphrase the writer Ring Lardner in his 1920 book The Young Immigrants, “‘Shut up,’ she explained.”

Discretion — not confession — is the better part of valor.

–Belladonna Rogers

Four Congressional Democrats to Oil and Gas Industries: Drop Dead

Ira Stoll’s brilliant blog, FutureOfCapitalism.com reports one of the most anti-capitalist, pro-stupid proposals in recent memory today, in which four House Democrats have taken it upon themselves to propose to the president a “Reasonable Profits Board” for the oil and gas industries, and they further propose a 50% to 100% tax on any profits above what the fatuous “Reasonable Profits Board” decides are…reasonable.  As Stoll writes

This legislation doesn’t look like it’s moving anywhere at the moment (two of the original six co-sponsors have withdrawn their support), but it’s newsworthy as an illumination of how certain elements — Congressmen John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Bob Filner, Lynn Woolsey — on the left think.

This is beyond “the left.”  It wanders aimlessly and cluelessly into the world of Soviet economics — an oxymoron. The Soviet Union’s economic system imploded with the Soviet Union itself. Five-year plans, fulfilling government-ordered quotas, ignoring extraneous elements of an economy such as supply and demand — all this and more sunk the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics in 1991.

How stupid can four Democrats be? This stupid.

And why confine the “Reasonable Profits Board”‘s purview  to oil and gas?  What about the manufacturing and housing industries? Steel and metals? What about media companies and children’s toy companies?  Why exempt publishing companies and telephone companies and hospitals?

As Emily Litella might ask, “What’s this I hear about communism?”  If the four Democrats have their way, we’ll be on the road to a controlled economy with Washington telling private industries across the board how high their profits may rise and taxing them mercilessly if they dare make one extra dollar.

What exactly about capitalism is so repugnant to President Obama and his minions in the House and Senate?  It’s one thing not to know much about geography and history but to seek to play so extravagantly fast and loose with the basics of a capitalist economy is really, really stupid.