The Marginalized Shouldn’t Have To Educate Others (But We Have To Do It Anyway)

It’s patently unfair that the majority of people in the world should be marginalized in some way by a small group of people. It’s irrational that straight white men with money should be in control of everydamnthing, but our power structures are built on our human failings. Our human irrationality. People who wish to gain power prey on our weaknesses and use them to gain leverage; people who end up benefiting from these power dynamics often go along to get along because they want to stay cozy in their privilege. Even more, they often fight against any attempts to even the playing field, to remove the unfair advantages afforded them by manipulation. The more privilege you have, the harder it is to relinquish it, to empathize or believe someone who tells you that you have ill-gotten gains.

I sit at a fairly significant crossroads of privilege. On the one hand, I’m white; in America, that is a hefty privilege to have. It’s a privilege I didn’t see or recognize until I was almost 30. I knew, vaguely, that I was fortunate to be white and that there is an unfair power dynamic that favors white people; because I grew up in a mostly-white town in Kentucky, the only reality I knew was being white among other white people. I was less privileged than the other white people because we didn’t have money and I came from a broken home and I had mental illness issues. So, I felt unprivileged most of my life and was totally unaware how high I actually was on the privilege scale. I am grateful that I have learned better and I am ashamed of my privilege-blindness. I am also heartbroken for the pain that people of color go through every day at the hands of white privilege.

I don’t know if I would have seen my white privilege if I were male. Being a woman gives me some insight into marginalization; when I finally started hearing firsthand accounts from people of color experiencing racism, I believed them more readily, I think, because I have experienced sexism. I know that it is possible for a group of people to have unfair prejudices and for those prejudices to affect (for the worse) the lives of others. I know what it was to live in fear of a group of people, as well–not the irrational fear that white gun-toting “patriots” live in, but the kind of fear that makes you walk briskly down the street with a can of mace at the ready and your keys clenched in your fist like a dagger. The kind of fear where you know someone could look at you and see not a human being but prey, an object, an objective, and that they could probably get away with doing violence to you because they have done for centuries. Because it would probably be your fault, somehow, for existing.

If I had been male, I wouldn’t have known that fear. Worse, I would have a lifetime of reinforcement that my viewpoint is correct by virtue of my whiteness and maleness being so highly prized. When you’re consistently told that you’re right because of who you are, not because of any critical analysis of what has been said, it isn’t intuitive to allow your thoughts and feelings to be challenged even if you have the best of intentions. I struggled enough with just whiteness; I don’t know if I could have overcome both. I’ve known otherwise good, progressive, feminist men who have struggled with the basic concept that feelings are not always accurate to reality, that they should be examined and questioned for truth and measured against reason. Women are taught to second-guess ourselves from birth, and while we often take this to unhealthy extremes of never giving ourselves any credbility, I’m glad that my natural inclination is to examine my feelings and thoughts.

These power dynamics make education about marginalized persons sticky. Very sticky. On the one hand, it’s exhausting to have to keep parroting the same talking points about privilege. I have an autism spectrum disorder in addition to being a woman, an atheist, a person of size, and a person who struggles with depression. Most people know fuck-all about autism, and “autistic” is the new “retarded” in slang terms. I have to walk a delicate line when it comes to employment; I’m less likely to be hired if I tell people I have Aspergers, but I’m also not able to be accommodated for certain aspects of my disability if I don’t tell my employers. A lot of people have really hateful viewpoints of people with autism spectrum disorders; I’ve been told by strangers on the internet that I should just kill myself. No reason except that I have ASD, and thus, I’m no longer seen by these cretins as “valuable” to society.

Obviously they’re wrong. But here’s the sticking point, and I think it’s something all marginalized people can relate to: they’re a part of a larger majority that, if the wind turns south, could do real damage to marginalized groups. Donald Trump is in the news for his Hitler-esque viewpoints regarding Muslims and he has support. Even though many people are absolutely aghast, there are people who support him. White people, mainly, I’m guessing–the people most favored by the American power dynamic, which means the people who are most likely to shape the country to their whims. I’m certain that the anonymous people who told me to kill myself for being autistic were shitty white dudes–so, again, people who have the power to hurt me with their ignorance.

The unfortunate truth that compounds all of this mess is that people in privileged positions are rarely interested in educating themselves about anything they’re prejudiced against. This isn’t the same as a topic that they’re neutral or curious about; this is a topic on which they already have formed solid, though wrong, opinions. Because their baseless opinions have nevertheless been reinforced as right their entire lives, and because people don’t like to be wrong and will actively double down on ignorant shit to avoid admitting it, biased people in privileged positions aren’t going to seek out facts on the topic. They will stick to their guns until they absolutely have to abandon their views. Until something, someone, overwhelms their humanity to a degree that makes their positions untenable. The more prejudiced they are, the more they will stick to their ideals–otherwise, they risk seeing themselves as monsters.

So even though explaining and educating are exhausting, even though it often seems fruitless and it’s repetitive and it’s something we shouldn’t even have to do because people should know better and be better, it’s the yoke we have to bear because nobody’s going to do it for us. Nobody is interested in doing this for us. We eventually gain allies who try their best to help, but even they mostly aren’t emotionally involved enough to take over our fight for us. They don’t have the volume of experience that lives inside us, that twists us and does violence to us when we hear and experience certain things. You might wince or be upset if someone uses “autistic” as a slur, but do you feel the same knife of fear through your heart when you hear it? (I know, for you, it may be a different slur that stabs you and doesn’t stab me. Even if we empathize fully, we’re just not able to be aware of the depth of pain that others feel in every single instance, and we’re often partially cloaked by the deep knowledge that, while ugly, certain slurs simply do not apply to our situations.)  It’s that fear that motivates me to keep educating people, to keep fighting for myself. It’s the fear that ensures that I won’t just look away because I’m already emotionally exhausted or I’m busy or I’m too involved in something that has to do directly with me to notice–because that is directly about me and it’s easier than it maybe should be for people (myself included) to look away when it’s not about them. To shelve it, even with good intentions.

I would love to step away sometimes and say, “Educate yourself, it’s not my job.” The thing that keeps me from doing that is the certain knowledge that, 8 times out of 10 at the least, no education will occur and this person of privilege will go on with their lives with their same ignorant ideas, possibly reinforced by an “unpleasant” encounter with me as a woman or as an atheist or as an Aspie or whatever. What I can do, what I have been trying to do, is to help take up the fight for others. I know that I don’t have the same motivation that will keep me keen in other people’s fights, but I can empathize by remembering my own. I can reinforce to other people who are struggling that they are being heard and that they deserve better than they’re getting. And I can keep explaining, one ignorant person at a time, that autistic people have value, that black people have value, that women have value, that their prejudices are artificial constructs rooted in power dynamics, because the privileged aren’t going to take up this fight for us. They stand to lose too much.

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Creationists have more in common with toddlers than with scientists.

babyeating

Mom leaves little Billy alone for just a few moments in the kitchen–someone has come to the door, maybe, or the laundry needs to be stuffed into the dryer. When she comes back, the lid is askew on the cookie jar. There are bits of cookie on the counter.

“Billy, did you eat these cookies?”

If you were ever a child, you know that you’re probably going to lie like the dickens in this situation. She didn’t see you eat the cookies, so you don’t have to get in trouble, right? “No, I didn’t!”

“Then who did?”

Again, mom didn’t see it happen. In your toddler mind, you pick out any explanation that seems logical (which, granted, your knowledge of the world is pretty damn limited). Think fast. “A bird ate it.”

“A bird! How did a bird get in here?”

Uh. “It flew in the window.” Good, good. There’s an open window there. Totally believable.

“How did it get through the screen?”

DAMN. DAMN. Forgot the screen. “It took it off! With its beak!”

“And then put it back on again?”

“Yes.” Short but sweet. Don’t offer up too much information.

“How did the bird get the lid off the jar?”

Uh. “With . . . its claws?” Birds have claws, right? Grippy things kind of like fingers, which you absolutely did not use to take off the lid of the cookie jar, because the bird did it.

“So, you’re telling me that a bird flew over to the window, took the screen off the window, came in, ate the cookies, flew back out the window, put the screen back, and then flew away.”

“Uh-huh!”

At this point, the kid probably thinks he’s in the clear. He answered all the questions she threw at him with explanations that, really, almost make sense. I suppose a bird could possibly, maybe, take a very loose, lightweight screen off of a window. It could fly in and claw the lid off of a cookie jar. It’s not even out of the realm of extremely remote possibility that it could even put the screen back. The kiddo thinks he’s done well.

Of course, the story ignores things that a toddler just doesn’t have a grasp on, like the fact that random, untrained birds don’t have any way of understanding that they even could remove a screen, or what a screen is, or even what a window is; that the bird isn’t going to know that cookies are kept in the jar; that the likelihood of it accomplishing the task with precision and stealth in a short amount of time is nonexistent, even if it could and would do so in the first place. These facts aren’t part of a toddler’s worldview, so they don’t factor into the scenario. Couple the insanity of the idea with the clear evidence that Mom sees as she looks down at her son–chocolate smears on the hands, cookie crumbs around the mouth, and tiny little shoeprints all over the chair, still standing by the counter, that he used to climb up to reach the jar–and the toddler is, not shockingly to us, found out quite quickly.

Interestingly, he will stand by his story even through punishment; after all, the story was born out of a need to promote and protect his own agenda, which is not getting in trouble because he ate the cookies.

Listening to creation “scientist” Ken Ham debate actual scientist Bill Nye was like listening to a toddler lie to his mother. First–and Ham admitted this upfront–he started with the conclusion: God exists and God created the universe. Then, he had to protect that conclusion by altering the rest of the facts to fit his conclusion. Ken Ham didn’t even realize he was saying ludicrous things; because, for example, methods of dating the Earth don’t fit his conclusion that God created it, he just said that all of the ways of dating the Earth are “flawed” and based on “assumptions.”

One of those so-called assumptions is that scientists assume that, since they have observed how radioactive elements decay again and again and again and again and again (and again and again), and found it to be consistent, and since there’s no rational reason for the laws of nature to have randomly turned on a dime, they can trust that radioactive decay worked the same way a few thousand years ago as it currently has been observed to work. With no fluctuations in the half-life and no reason, when getting down to the subparticular roots of these atoms, to think that there ever have been fluctuations in the way that half-life works, scientists hold that this method of dating can be considered accurate.

Ken Ham says, well, we didn’t WITNESS IT LIVE AND IN PERSON, so. We can’t know if maybe half-lives worked totally differently back then. We just can’t know. (He conveniently forgets that we didn’t SEE anybody write the Bible. It’s A-OK to make assumptions about that, but not about something that can actually be tested.)

I don’t know about radioactive dating enough to know if it is, in fact, something we actually can know exactly, but I do know that this is an idiotic line of reasoning. By that reasoning, I could say that I can’t prove my parents weren’t hippopotamuses before I was born, because I wasn’t there and I don’t know and maybe they could have just suddenly changed into human beings before they had me. You could come to me with a stack of photos of my pre-parent parents, saying look, they’re not hippopotamuses; but how do I know they aren’t? How do I know they don’t just look like people in the photos, but are actually hippopotamuses? Never mind that hippopotamuses just don’t turn into people and that’s not a rational thing to consider.

Mom?

Mom?

How do I know the bird didn’t fly in the window and eat the cookies? Ken Ham can’t see the crumbs around his mouth, and so, my assertion that he ate the cookies is based on an “assumption.” I just assumed he did it because he was in the kitchen and there’s no bird there now. I assumed he did because I’ve never seen a bird take off a window screen, but it could totally happen, right? Because he rejects any science that doesn’t fit his preconceived conclusion, because he can’t see the damning evidence for what it is, he can’t see that his arguments for creationism are just as insane-sounding as a toddler making up a story.

You could see, nakedly, that he missed significant points that Bill Nye made. The point about predictability, for example–Nye deftly made this point several times, and Ham didn’t even seem to register it beyond, “Yeah, well, the Bible made a prediction and it came true.” What Ham fails to see about prediction in science is that it demonstrates a deep understanding of the truth of the subject at hand.

If I observe something long enough that I can make predictions about its being or behavior with a sterling success rate, I have unlocked a fundamental truth about that something. I can predict, for example, that mixing lemon juice with baking soda will create a product of water and a metal salt (along with a by-product of carbon dioxide). I know this because of chemistry research done by people a long time ago who mixed acids with bases and observed the reactions. Every time they mixed an acid and a base, they unerringly got a metal salt and water. It never does not do this. It’s so true that you can literally bet on it and win every time, hence the value of predictability.

Further, there’s no reason for nature to ever have treated this reaction differently. No chemical or physical evidence that a major change would have occurred, or will in the future occur, at the molecular level. Nevertheless, this is the kind of evidence that Ken Ham finds shaky and “assumptive,” because he wasn’t there thousands of years ago to verify that everything hasn’t changed on a molecular level since then. This is a stupid thing to assert, and an astoundingly-stupid thing to assert when your counterargument is, “Well, but we absolutely can believe, without question or doubt, this book written in a totally other language during a time when most people ‘knew’ the Earth was flat and disease was caused by bad humours and demons. I mean, these are eye-witnesses [which isn’t even true if you take the Bible literally].”

Another thing that flew over Ham’s head: that his whole observational vs. “historical” science is based on a massive misconception of what scientists do. One thing I would have loved to have seen would be Bill Nye explaining the scientific method. News flash to Ham: there is no “well, this was something that one scientist thought up awhile ago, we’re just going to keep assuming it’s true!” or “Well, since it’s like this NOW, we’re just gonna assume that it was the same back THEN.” There are no assumptions, only observations–unless you want to get laughed out of science.

For a science teacher, he has shockingly little clue how scientists do anything that isn’t based in very small slices of working on modern technology.

The most disturbing thing about the debate was Ken Ham’s repeated statement that if you come to God believing that He is whatever, He will reveal Himself to you. Does he not realize he basically said, “If you decide to believe in God then you will see that it is true, which you already knew because you believed it was true”? I mean.. put another way . . . you can only see the evidence that God is the creator of life and Earth if you already believe that he is the creator. Because that evidence doesn’t exist to rational people who have the ability to weigh good and bad information.

Note to Ken Ham: Any scientist that starts with a conclusion has already failed. Odd how everything supports what you think when you already thought it to start with, innit?

Mom will see the bird who ate the cookies if she already believes the bird ate the cookies–because, of course, she will eventually see any bird out in the yard. She will tell herself that the toddler was right about there being a bird and let her brain fill in the rest. If she doesn’t believe, she will come to the rational conclusion that of course she is going to see another bird in her life because birds are every-damn-where and the logical explanation is still that the kid scarfed down the cookies.

Ken Ham is asking people to believe without rationality or evidence; then, of course, it will all make sense after you believe it. Because, like Ken Ham, you will skew everything to fit your conclusion and reject anything that doesn’t. And you will ignore eloquent explanations of phrases like “survival of the fittest” and say dumb-ass things like, “It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the survivors” and say exactly what your opponent just said but acting as though you’re saying something totally different because you can’t let anything disrupt your argument, especially not truth or the fact that your opponent was 100% right about everything.

And he wants to start his debate by you deciding to agree with him. Only after you agree, he’ll present his conclusions–with which you’ll undoubtedly agree. And you won’t notice when the explanations start to go down rabbit-holes of increasing weirdness, contorting evidence to fit the conclusion rather than examining the evidence to see what it tells us. You won’t blink when simple, reasonable, rational ideas–such as the fact that radioactive decay probably hasn’t undergone radical changes in how it works, like uh, ever–are discarded or denigrated in favor of anything that supports the conclusion.

Because you already believe.

“Mommy, before I tell you what happened–can we just agree that I did not eat the cookies?” If that doesn’t make your bullshit-meter go off, I don’t know what would.


Why selfies deserve defense and click-bait is slowly ruining everything that is good.

OH SHIT IT IS A SELFIE, RUNNNN

OH SHIT IT IS A SELFIE, RUNNNN

Writing a post about selfies was definitely not my intention. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even read the original goddamn post that got everyone in an uproar. I couldn’t even remember what site it was on; when I did find it, I was too fucking bored to even read the whole thing.

But I do have one thing to say in reference to the following quote, which seems to be the theme of the article:

Stop this. Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the fucked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.

Fuck. You. Seriously.

Yes, it is probable that for some women, selfies fit that role. For others, selfies play quite a different role–the ability to take charge over the way that your image is presented to the world, and in doing so, the ability to take charge over the way you see yourself. I had maybe the barest shred of positive body image before selfies became a “thing” in the early age of webcams and digital cameras. Every time someone took a picture of me, I looked basically awful; I am not highly photogenic and, thanks to the gift that is Aspergers/autism spectrum disorder, I have a difficult time composing what one might consider “attractive” facial expressions on short notice. Every time I saw a picture of myself, I thought I looked like a freakshow. I hated the way I looked. Selfies allowed me to, without any kind of extreme angles or special effects, see that yeah, I’m not a freak who can’t take a decent photo. I’m not someone who is ridiculously ugly. I am someone who is bad at having my photo taken.

Also, posting selfies doesn’t necessarily reinforce the idea that the MOST IMPORTANT quality that we have is physical attractiveness. Again, while there are certainly SOME people who post selfies because they’re most concerned about attractiveness, many of us post a LOT of different content, from links we found interesting, things that we created, jokes we found funny, shows or movies that we like, questions we’re curious about. And yeah, sometimes we post photos of our faces. To be drawn to connect with our own images, or the image of another person, isn’t exactly some new trend, and I don’t think it’s unhealthy for most people. It’s a way of completing your connection to others in a virtual space: you have seen my thoughts, and laughed or cried with me, and also, you get to see me sometimes. It makes us more three-dimensional.

But even if, even if people just post selfies because they like to post them and not because it’s a brave, therapeutic act (yes, it can require large amounts of bravery for someone to post photos of themselves–see also why I can probably count the number of times I’ve allowed people to photograph me since high school) or a way of connecting with people, who gives two shits what someone who doesn’t like selfies thinks about selfies? It’s not that hard to avoid selfies if you’re that put off by them. If they don’t make you feel good about yourself, don’t take them! If you’re following someone that you think may need support because they have low body image, for Christ’s sake, you can reach out to them (if you can do it in a non-douchey way) and ask if they need help! Or if you’re just tired of seeing duckface in your feed, you can unfollow people! Or hide their posts!

And if after you do all that, you still find a few selfies sprinkled into your feed to be so offensive that you have to write an essay about them? It might not be selfies that are the problem. Just sayin’.

I have news for you: the need for approval/acceptance is not something that you’re going to be able to breed out of humanity. We are social creatures; while some people have a pathologically-unsatisfied need for attention and approval, many of us just have the old-fashioned “hey, I want to be acknowledged as existing and maybe loved a little” brand of approval-seeking that everyone has. It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature. Selfies can actually help this cause by showing a variety of different faces and body styles that are out there, rather than just what the media feeds us. Young women can see other women who are brave and bold enough to post their faces, despite not being what you see in magazines or on TV, and think, well, if she’s confident enough to put herself out there, maybe I can be, too. This is a thing that happens. It is a thing that I have directly experienced.

“Hey, I have the right to complain about selfies,” the Jezebel post author might be thinking if they read the above paragraphs. Yeah, you do. But is it the Good Human Thing to do? The selfie doesn’t hurt you at all. It helps some people; in others where it takes a more negative role in their self worth, the selfie isn’t the cause of the problem, it’s a symptom. By writing a seriously biased, overgeneralized article on the topic, you may be preventing a number of people who could use selfies to bolster their sense of self-image in a positive way by making them feel like attention-greedy schmucks for daring to share a selfie.

And for what? What do you expect the outcome to be? The effect ends up being that you give some people a complex for doing things that they used to innocently enjoy; the completely oblivious privilege of being able to ruin for other people something you don’t even do just kills me. Since you don’t take selfies, it doesn’t make any damn difference to you, now does it? You have little-to-no credibility on this topic, but because you write for a site that puts out a shitload of click-bait (Christ, you’re the NEWS EDITOR?), people will be clicking, reading, and feeling ashamed for having done nothing at all wrong.

And that brings us to click-bait, which is all this selfie rubbish really was. I know, I know, you thought you were being some kind of culture warrior and standing up for YOUNG WIMMENS and the need for them/us NOT TO RELY ON WHAT SOCIETY THINKS OF HOW WE LOOK ZOMG. And yes, for SOME YOUNG WOMEN, and some people in general, the selfie is a reflection of that drive to gain approval. But you turned something that could have been thoughtful discourse into click-bait designed to go viral and stir up a lot of FEELS, which is not at all the same as stirring up a lot of thought.

Instead of taking a nuanced approach that could actually have helped anyone, you wrote garbage that will probably do more harm than good. Sure, the nuanced approach would have been more responsible and less bullshitty, but DAT TRAFFIC AMIRITE? Click-bait is going to end up ruining everything because, by design, it often takes something that is wildly popular (such as taking selfies) and stirs up as much controversy as possible by stating an opinion that is usually unpopular and highly over-generalized, which generates backlash, lots of opinions, and many shares. One can only hope that there aren’t many people out there taking these sites seriously… but given the level of heated response to this one, I doubt it.

And I feel for the person who used to take pleasure in posting the occasional selfie to her friends, but will probably end up deleting the next one before she posts it, because she feels self-conscious now. Her face will return to hiding for no good reason. She will feel a little worse about herself until she finds her courage again. I hope that was worth a shallow piece of click-bait.


Dear Parents With Special Needs Children

I wanted to title this post, “Dear Parents With Special Needs Children Who Are Active In Their Children’s Lives and Advocate For Their Kids”, but that was a little too long. Rest assured, though, this post is for you.

All I want to say is, I think you’re rad.

Well, that’s not all I want to say, but that’s the overall theme of this letter.

I don’t hang out in the special needs parenting community terribly often, because I’m not a parent; rather, I’m an adult with an autism spectrum condition. Sometimes I click on special-needs-parenting things that catch my eye. When I do, I occasionally-to-often see heated arguments about topics like person-first language, various therapies, studies, treatments, parenting methods, et cetera. While I know that you’re all looking for the right way to help your kids, it makes me a little sad to see. I understand why these discussions happen and are necessary; this isn’t a plea to stop discussing these issues.

Rather, I was thinking that, with all of the debates that happen, it’s probably really easy to start being down on yourself because you don’t have all of the right answers and you know it’s really important to have as many right answers as you can. To doubt yourself because there are so many differing opinions, and even just because you’re human and prone to mistakes, tiredness, and emotional roller-coasters. In case nobody has told you lately, I just want to tell you that you’re doing an awesome job as a parent.

Really! You are!

My parental situation sucked when I was growing up. My dad was so un-invested in anything that wasn’t my report card that he actually turned me down when, in 5th grade, I told him that I was depressed and I needed help. Just flat-out said no. This could have been a significant turning point in my life if I’d actually gotten help (and maybe an early diagnosis), but *shrug*. He didn’t hesitate to tell me I was stupid or put me down if I screwed up something that most NT people would know to do or not to do. He always expected me to be “normal,” if not “excellent”; I constantly disappointed him because I’m not “normal.” I sort of grew up in the song “Daughter” by Pearl Jam.

(This letter may or may not have been inspired by the fact that “Daughter” came on while I was in the car on the way home from work. Okay, it totally was.)

Try not to have all the feels.

If you’re actually trying to make a good life for your kid and trying to do things that will be healthy and good for them? If you show your kids you love them? You’re doing great; never doubt that. I see so many parents that I know are great parents just because they care enough to be involved and to learn about their kid’s condition(s). No matter if you have off days, no matter if you don’t make the kind of progress that you were hoping with this or that, no matter if you don’t get it all perfect, you’re doing great. Believe it. (PS, this applies if you have non-special-needs children, too.)

And, thank you. Maybe your little ones can’t tell you that yet; maybe they never will be able to tell you that, but, it makes a huge difference. All the difference in the world. I see a lot of really happy kids and I’m really happy that they’ve had it better than I did. I’m also thanking you from me because you’re giving me a better example to live by when I have kids of my own… and partially for bolstering my faith in humanity in general, because lemme tell ya, I need that from time to time.

So, don’t get so bogged down in debate that you forget that you’re all already doing a great job, differences aside. Pat yourself, and each other, on the back. You deserve it.

Go hug your kids for me (if they like hugs), okay? Hugs are the best.

Love,

Me


Why Bryant Miller should be the new @ColumbusYelp community manager.

Recently, our beloved Community Manager, Christina, stepped down from her position. (We’ll miss you, Christina!) The position of Columbus Community Manager is a spot that, in my mind, only one person could possibly fill.

Meet Bryant Miller.

Bryant Miller

Why yes, that is Bryant meeting his local idol Jeni Britton Bauer, ice cream goddess and proprietor of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. And yes, that is a genuine expression of barely-contained excitement. Also, check that dashing bow tie!

As a Yelper, I can’t imagine a better candidate for Community Manager than Bryant. Not only because he’s adorable (isn’t he adorable?), but because he has an amazing skill set that would translate perfectly into this position.

Bryant has a huge heart, a warm personality, and a great sense of humor–this makes him a great event host and a wonderful community ambassador! I may be biased as to Bryant’s general awesomity, being his friend and all, but his delightfulness is one of the reasons we are friends! I think the Yelp community here in Columbus will love him, too–I mean, most of us already do.

Bryant is already extremely active in the Yelp community and the Columbus community in general. A Community Manager needs to be “plugged in” to the city, and Bryant is more connected than anybody I know. He attends Yelp events, street fairs and festivals, openings of new local businesses (even if they’re expanding into other cities!), and community events such as Pride. He writes hundreds of reviews and goes out of his way to shop local whenever he can. Visit the albums of past Elite events, and you’ll see Bryant smiling in the photos.

Bryant is a Columbus expert and never quits adding to his knowledge. Want a recommendation for a new place to try? Need to know where to go in town to get something specific? Bryant can tell you! If there’s a hidden gem, he knows it. Even if it’s brand new, odds are he’s already been. He has the knowledge and the passion to be a great CM.

A good CM needs to be able to organize and plan events. Bryant can do that! Not only does Bryant thoughtfully plan events for friends and family–no friend of Bryant’s goes without a baby shower, birthday outing, or a feel-better brunch when they’re down–but he also,  along with current Community Manager Christina and others, helped found Columbus SOUP, a local organization that puts on quarterly soup dinners and gives the proceeds to a local cause. The first SOUP event was packed! Over a hundred people attended (including yours truly). If he can help make an organization’s inaugural event such a smashing success, he can make Yelp events successful, too!

A great CM is creative and adventurous, and so is Bryant! Bryant isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty (sometimes literally!) planning a broad range of events for people to enjoy. He’s just as comfortable picking strawberries on a farm as he is with a locally-sourced cocktail in his hand. By planning events that many different types of people would enjoy, Bryant can help attract even more people to Yelp! His world travels (yep, world!) will also help bring interesting new ideas to the mix.

Yelp needs community managers who are social-media savvy. Bryant has experience in that! Bryant not only has worked for a large company’s social media division, he has managed a whole team of people who directly talk with customers via social media. Afraid of social media boo-boos? That’ll never happen when Bryant is there! He also knows how to use social media effectively and represent a major brand in public.

Bryant can write! And he has experience writing marketing materials for major companies! At his current place of employment, Bryant has been tapped more than once to put together magazines meant to be distributed to hundreds of people; keeping up with the Yelp newsletters and writing materials to promote events will be right up his alley! Bryant’s writing is full of genuine voice that is entertaining, sincere, sometimes funny and sometimes heartfelt. But you don’t have to take my word for it–he’s written 373 reviews (and counting) for Yelp that showcase his ability.

So, why am I writing this blog post in support of Bryant Miller as Columbus Community Manager? Admittedly, I love Bryant–but it’s still not that often that a friend writes a public love letter to try to get another friend hired for a job. It’s not just that I love Bryant; I also love Yelp! (I’m a Yelper, too!) And I love Columbus. And I love being involved in Yelp in Columbus, which means that I want the best community manager I can possibly think of to facilitate Yelp Columbus. That person is unquestionably Bryant, so I hope you consider making him the next CM in Columbus, Ohio.

Thank you!

Love,

Susie, a Columbus Elite Yelper


That time I had a car accident and I was too “wtf” to even be mad about it.

My poor, poor abused car.

My poor, poor abused car.

So, for starters, if this information is new to you, I AM FINE. I did not at all get hurt. I was not going much more than 25 mph (if over at all, but let’s be real, I could have been going like 28. I’M BORING AND I DON’T SPEED) even before I slammed on my brakes, which I immediately did. I AM OKAY.

I was driving to work this morning. The first big-ish intersection that I come to is my street (we’ll call it Avenue M), which is a one-way, and Avenue B, which is a two way. Avenue B is subject to a two-way stop; Avenue M is not subject to a stop at all. HOWEVER, this is a recent change. There once was a traffic signal–your basic red-yellow-green style traffic light–at that intersection. Now, the signals are covered in black plastic, and signs saying “This signal is under study for removal” were installed. Stop signs face the appropriate directions on Avenue B, with big yellow signs underneath that say “Cross traffic does not stop.”

I was cross-traffic and I did not have a stop.

Still, because people are not always super-bright, I generally keep a lookout for drivers who look like they might be creepin’ through the intersection. Or confused. Or whatever. This lady was totally stopped, she didn’t seem to be uncertain, so I was breezing through the intersection like it wasn’t no thang until she decided it was her turn. Just as I was entering the intersection.

Slammed the brakes, laid on the horn. Still hit the rear side panel of her car.

I stayed still for a moment, with about a zillion things going through my mind. Nothing panicky, for once–mostly, “Oh my god, I’m going to be late for work and I’m opening the store. I don’t have my managers’ numbers. What do I do?” Then I swung onto Avenue B and parked, found my insurance card, and got out of the car.

The lady was not OLD old, but older. She and her friend were from–Africa? The Caribbean? Their accents sounded tropical and strong. They both started yelling at me. “Why didn’t you stop? WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP?”

” . . . . because I didn’t have a stop?”

“BUT LOOK. Everybody else is stopping!”

” . . . . but I didn’t have a stop? You had a stop. See, it says ‘Cross traffic does not stop.'”

“BUT I DID STOP! I STOPPED!”

“Well, ma’am, you have to stay stopped until traffic is clear. That’s how a stop sign works.”

“But you came out of nowhere! I didn’t see you!”

“Well, you should have looked harder!”

These are all actual things that came out of our mouths. And yes, I had to explain, as patiently as I could, HOW A FUCKING STOP SIGN WORKS.

oprah hankno at-at_faceplant picardfacepalm

She called the police while her friend yelled at me some more.

“I walk here every day! People stop! EVERY DAY I AM WALKING HERE.” [because, living a block and a half away on the actual street on which I was driving, I’m NEVER there myself . . .]

“LOOK THEY ARE STOPPING THEY ARE STOPPING RIGHT NOW THAT PERSON JUST STOPPED LOOK LOOK”

wtf angst

“But. I. Did. Not. Have. A. Stop. I was under no obligation to stop. I didn’t have to stop and look for your friend because I DID NOT HAVE A STOP SIGN. SHE WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO GO UNTIL I PASSED.”

(Granted, if I’d had time, I would have stopped rather than hitting her. It’s not like I wanted to be in a car accident and be late for work.)

When the police rolled up, the ladies were sitting in their car, presumably calming down. We’d already exchanged information, and my stroke of luck was that I got to talk to him first, so we didn’t have to go through the arguing-like-five-year-olds stage of dealing with this accident again.

“So, what happened?”

“I was coming through the intersection on Avenue M. She went in front of me as I was passing through the intersection. I tried to stop but I couldn’t in time.”

“You didn’t have to stop.”

BOOM.

fistpump Sean_connery_raction Colbert-High-Five beyonce-fierce

He took our information and let me leave. She didn’t have a current insurance card (she assured me that her insurance was current . . . frankly, I probably won’t get my piece of shit car fixed, so I personally couldn’t give two fucks about it), so she might have gotten a ticket or whatever. Maybe an additional one for running the sign.  Don’t know, don’t care. Am out of fucks to give.

On the upside, Progressive Insurance as just been delightful to work with. I did get one person on the phone who sounded like working for them had sucked her soul out of her body, but the woman who actually handled my claim laughed at my jokes, which counts for pretty much everything, really. My insurance rate shouldn’t go up at all. I pretty much win at being in accidents, as much as you can win at being in an accident. Unless winning means you are in the worst accident, and then I lose, but I’m okay with it either way.

The downside is that my car has a gnarly splinter coming out of the bumper now. I just know I will find a way to injure myself on it and maybe give myself tetanus or something. I already had a little dent there from where I hit a stationary object once (cough), so it kind of all matches now. The paint scrape from her car really brings the scene together.

TL;DR: I’m fine, the lady I hit didn’t know how to stop sign, my car is not that much more shitty than it was, and life is going on.


11 ways people are jerks when shopping.

browsing

The phrase “the customer is always right” is bandied around in a number of ways that may make it seem like… well… whatever the customer does, that is always right. Originally, that phrase was introduced to indicate to employees that they should do whatever they can to make sure the customer is satisfied, rather than sending them away frustrated and unhappy. This is good business.

One could, I suppose, if one were inclined, interpret the phrase to mean that customers can do whatever they want all the time and that they’re always right to do so. This reminds me of the saying, “If a person is nice to you, but not nice to the waiter, they’re not a nice person.” Abusing a customer service policy to act shitty toward real, live human beings isn’t the nicest thing, even if one is “entitled” to do so.

Wonder if you’re being a jerk when you’re in a store? Let’s find out.

Instead of putting something back where it belongs, or leaving it somewhere obvious where it will be found, you hide it to cover up the fact that you didn’t put it back where it belongs.

Ha, I bet you thought I was going to say, “You don’t put things back where they belong,” didn’t you? I’ve worked all manner of retail, and honestly, I’ve gotten used to the fact that as long as I work in a retail environment, I will be cleaning up after customers. In some stores, I’ve even left merchandise in the wrong places, myself, because honestly? I’m not trekking all the way back across a giant store to put one item back. Sorry ’bout it. (If it’s a smaller store or I’m still in the area, I will put it back, of course. But some stores are too damn big to make multiple cross-store trips.)

But here’s the thing: I expect, as a retailer, to have to clean up certain areas. When I worked as a bookseller, I always knew the kids’ area would be a disaster. I always knew there would be books piled up by the comfortable chairs. What I hated finding were the “surprises”: a stack of magazines hiding on the floor in the back of the business section, or sex books shoved behind some comics. I guess people do this because they’re uncomfortable being seen not putting away their stuff, yet they’re still too busy/lazy/tired to put away their stuff; but hey, if you’re going to leave your mess for me to pick up–and really, I realize some people will, I accept it–please leave it in a place where I can find it easily and not be surprised by it later when I may not have time to deal with it.

pissed

You get angry over mistakes that are easily fixed.

I used to work at a well-known coffee chain, and let me tell you, hell hath no fury like a person with a latte scorched. Many people whose drinks weren’t made right the first time got pissed. Off. We’re talking Incredible Hulk levels of pissed. Over coffee.

lolwut.

Look, it takes two minutes to remake your coffee, and most baristas are happy to do it if you treat them like human beings instead of malfunctioning mocha machines. Those baristas didn’t mean to screw up your coffee. The last thing they want is someone in their face about how their latte wasn’t hot enough, or sweet enough, or they didn’t get the dark roast, etc. They also just don’t want people to walk away unsatisfied, if they’re even halfway decent at their jobs.

The same extends to other retail jobs; a problem can often be fixed in ten minutes or less, and a mistake is just that–a mistake. It’s not something that anybody did on purpose to ruin your day. Promise. Plus–would you want your boss jumping your case every time you made a small, easily-fixed mistake? I bet not.

You get mad at me when I ask questions to make sure you are getting what you actually want.

My favorite example of this is the confusion over what a cappuccino is. Because a coffee house cappuccino is this:

cappuccino

which tastes like strong, deliciously bitter-as-fuck coffee and is not at all sweet. Many people who are new to the whole “coffee” thing, though, think of cappuccino as being this:

coffee-vending-machine

or sometimes this:

cappmix

which does not taste anything like the same drink you’re going to get if you order a cappuccino in a coffee house.

When customers seemed to be hesitant about ordering a cappuccino, or they ordered a flavored cappuccino, we would try to feel out whether the customer wanted a real cappuccino or the faux cappuccinos that you get at 7-11. I had one teenage girl spit at me, “I know what I want!” when I politely inquired about her order for a french vanilla cappuccino. So I made a cappuccino with vanilla syrup. The one that tastes like bitter-as-fuck espresso.

It turned out she did not at all know what she wanted. I could tell by the look on her face when she took a drink. If she hadn’t gotten pissed at me, we could have worked it out and she could have gotten exactly what she wanted, which was probably something very sweet and milky and not coffee-tasting. After being a snot, she was too proud to ask me to remake her drink, so she had to suffer with what probably tasted, to her, like battery acid with a hint of vanilla.

The people who work at the stores you’re shopping in usually know quite a bit about what they’re selling, and if they don’t, another associate there does. If you’re buying something or ordering something you’ve never had before, it’s a great idea to ask questions. If they’re asking you questions, it’s because they’ve run into confusion or problems with this particular product many times before and are trying to help you get what you want. No need to be upset.

You don’t know what you want, and you get mad at me because I can’t figure out what you want.

Let’s say you have a problem. Your thingawhatsit is broken, and you read on the internet that if you use a jig-ma-bob in just such a way, it will fix your thingawhatsit. The site says you can buy a jig-ma-bob at my store. So you come into my store looking for a jig-ma-bob. But I have no freaking clue what you’re talking about when you ask me over and over for a jig-ma-bob. I can’t help you find it. You stomp off, angry at me.

I think a lot of people put this down to ignorance. “God, that person who tried to help me was an idiot! Didn’t even know about jig-ma-bobs,” you might huff later. Here’s the thing, though: you just read about the jig-ma-bob on a random website and you may not have all of the information that you need to help the associate help you find it. What if it’s not called a jig-ma-bob at all at my store, but a flargle-forn? And it’s used for something else entirely? And the person who made the website didn’t bother telling you that? But if you had described the problem and what you needed, I probably could have taken you right to the flargle-forn section–or, maybe the person on the internet was full of crap anyway, and what you really needed all along was a sneeble-bog, and I could take you right to those instead.

If the retail person doesn’t understand what you’re asking them for, don’t assume you’re talking to a moron. Try describing the item; or if they’re new, see if there’s a more experienced associate who can help you.

You’ve made a mistake; you still treat me badly as though it were my fault.

How many times have you gone into a store and read the sale signs wrong?

sale

And then, when you got to the register, you didn’t have the right items or they didn’t ring up like you expected. Hey, it happens. Fine print can be easily overlooked. What’s not cool is taking your mistake out on the person behind the counter.

Because I want to be fair, I’ll give an example here where I was on the customer end of the transaction and I made a mistake. (Even retail-savvy persons such as myself–gasp!–make mistakes. It is true.) We checked into a hotel not long ago and I gave them my name–my married name, my current name–for the reservation. The guy behind the counter couldn’t find my reservation. The girl helping him couldn’t find my reservation. I waited patiently.

A supervisor ended up having to call Hotels.com to see what was up; she had them on speakerphone, and I heard very clearly when they said, “Well, we have a reservation for Susan [maiden name].”

Yep. I had totally, utterly forgotten ever to change my Hotels.com information when I got married. In 2009. Usually I print out the reservation so I don’t have to have them search it, which is how this has escaped my attention for almost four years. (Plus, we don’t travel a whole lot.)

Yep, I felt like an idiot.

And yep, I apologized for being an idiot. I wasted their time because I failed to take care of something. I caused them frustration and stress over something that I could have easily taken care of. Many people, out of embarrassment perhaps, not only won’t own up to their mistakes, but take it out on the person behind the counter. Don’t be that person.

You insist on getting discounts or complain about the price.

Hey, look, I have no issue really with people trying to get a better price for things. Ask me once, and I’ll tell you exactly what the deal is: no, I am not authorized to give you a discount unless you have a coupon or you buy a specific combination of items that allows me to give you certain discounts. No, there is no “better price” than what is listed on the tag. I cannot haggle, I cannot barter, I cannot discount other than what I’m authorized to do.

After I tell you all of that, and you keep asking? Dude. It’s not gonna happen–or if it does, if I cave under pressure, you’ll probably get me in trouble. You might even get me fired.

Complaining about the price will also get you nowhere. I don’t mind a little grousing–hey, I work retail, I’m on a budget just like you–but I have people get hostile with me over prices. Guess what? I don’t set the prices. I have zero control over prices. For that, you’ll either want to talk to an owner or corporate headquarters. And your feedback about the prices goes exactly nowhere after you get shitty with me about it; nobody’s acting on your complaint. Corporate does not call me up to chat and ask, “Hey, so, how are customers reacting to our prices lately?” This is a thing that does not happen. You’re blowing steam all over me when I have absolutely nothing to do with why you’re angry and cannot, in fact, fix your problem. Thanks a bunch.

You talk on your cell phone while trying to interact with retail employees.

Just don’t. Don’t. If I can possibly get away with it, I won’t even look at you if you’re on your phone. It’s not just that it’s rude, it’s that it’s SO difficult to keep up with a conversation when you’re talking to someone else the entire time. You’re either not listening, or I can’t tell when you’re talking to me or talking to the other person. Hang up the phone. Please.

You snap, with your fingers, at me to get my attention.

I’m not a dog, thanks.

You interrupt me when I’m with another customer.

Retail is first come, first serve. If you’re in a hurry, you’re welcome to come back later or another day; I will not, however, tolerate you pushing another customer aside in order to be served more quickly. You wouldn’t tolerate it if someone did that to you, I know it.

You pull a bait-and-switch by pretending you’re interested in buying something when you really want a different service.

The other day, a young man came in and wanted to buy a watch band for his watch. His watch was also broken; it was under warranty, so no problem, we could fix it. For some reason, he felt like he had to pretend he was super-interested in buying a $50 watch so that I would change his band and fix his watch.

That’s my job, yo. I’m going to fix your watch. You don’t have to pretend like you’re going to be a big spender to get me to do my job–and if you’re shopping somewhere where that’s the case, it’s a shitty place to shop and you should find another company that treats you better. And really, he wasted my time making me get out watches for him to try on that he had no intention of ever buying, which means it took longer for me to get the repairs done, so he wasted both of our time and created work for me later when I had to put all of the watches he tried on back in the case. He ended up spending nine bucks for the band, but it cost me a lot more than it should have in overall time. (This? Is the kind of thing that probably makes prices go up. Just sayin’.)

You don’t listen when I give you important information.

I hate opening in a mall kiosk because people hover. It’s not like in a full-sized store, where you can pull down the grate or lock the doors until you’re ready to open; nay, in a kiosk, you’re out in the open. Even though you’re clearly busy, people still come up to you and ask questions. And I say, because I’m under a time crunch and need to do things within a short time period, “I’m sorry, we’re not open until ten.”

Those people often come back within five or ten minutes. “Sorry, we’re not open until ten.”

“Oh. Well, when do you want me to come back?”

“Uh . . . after ten?”

[Actual customer interaction.]

Or, how about, “Your item has a warranty on this but not that; if that happens, you won’t be able to return it.”

“Okay. Let’s do it.” (rings up transaction, customer pays) “So, if that happens I can bring it back, right?”

dontwanttolive

BONUS: You leave your children unsupervised, or refuse to handle their behavior, and give them the run of my store.

I had intended to include this but COMPLETELY FORGOT! (Thanks to elenafay for bringing it up!)

I have worked in a few places where people bring their children. I work in a mall now and see many, many young kids walking around unsupervised (I mean young, like seven to ten). Retailers are not baby-sitters. We don’t have time to keep an eye on your kids to make sure some creepster doesn’t snatch them up; we don’t have time to clean up the extra messes they make because they’re too young to know not to make messes or to curb their desire to TOUCH ALL THE THINGS; and, frankly, your unsupervised children make the store environment bad for other customers, who don’t want to deal with noisy kids or a messy store.

Also, I don’t want to discipline your kids. I worked at Walmart for a hot minute, in the toy department (yes, it was the worst); people would let their kids ride around the department on bicycles, even after I told them that they weren’t allowed. I explained why they weren’t allowed. Did. Not. Faze. Them. I finally located the mom, who just shrugged when I told her they weren’t allowed to ride the bikes. Really? You’re not going to do anything? I guess since I asked you multiple times, you can handle the brunt of the lawsuit when your kid smashes into some old lady looking for a birthday present for her grandson and causes her to break her hip. She’s in a Walmart, so, I’m sure she won’t want more than a million or so. Good luck with that.

There are many, many, many other ways that people are jerks when shopping; this post is clocking in at some pretty heavy word-count damage, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. What about you guys? What ticks you off, as a fellow shopper or a retail employee, that people do when shopping?