Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When You Quit in a Huff

I've been thinking philosophically this morning. Perhaps it's a side effect of coaching a bunch of students through Plato, whose main character is Socrates, the inventor of the Question Everything method. Or it could be the new pumpkin spice coffee I'm drinking.

Either way, here's my question. When you go away mad, are you only hurting yourself?

I have a couple of examples I'm trying to string together. One involves the Halloween Horror activities that are in full swing at the local theme parks. Last year, one of the ad campaigns featured a truly creepy, blood-tinged, eyes-with-no pupils image that appeared on billboards all over town, including several I had to pass daily.

Although usually I'm on the side of free speech, this image tested my mettle. I changed my route home so I wouldn't have to drive by it. Because much as I hated it, it was hard not to look. And once I looked that first time, the image was in my brain so even if I didn't actually look, I could still picture it.

There was some pushback here in town by parents who said their children were upset by the images (so it wasn't just me). The last straw was when the same image started showing up as an ad when I checked Checking the weather by putting in my zip code triggered the ad, apparently.

I sent off a smoking (for me) e-mail to the Weather Channel, complaining that it was bad enough to see that horrible image around town, but having it come into my own home on my very own computer was simply too much. I told them I would be using another source for the weather until Halloween was over. It definitely made me feel better, both to write and to stay away.

I don't know if quitting did any good, but this year the billboards are decidedly less creepy.

A second example involves "The Writer's Almanac." I used to be a fan, first of the radio broadcast, and then through an e-mail subscription. A few years ago, the poems began to contain glaring typos on a fairly consistent basis. In a way, this was even worse than the billboards.

A poet invests a lot of time and energy into getting just the right words in just the right order. It's part of the magic of poetry that, when done right, the result becomes more than the sum of its parts.

To have the work published with errors is really a shame. It's doubly a shame when the source of the incorrect version is someone who glorifies language and English majors on a regular basis; in this case, that's Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame. I know he probably doesn't type in the poems himself, but maybe he should. It's his name at the top, after all.

I sent a couple of e-mails, politely requesting more careful proofreading. But the errors continued, and I quit in a huff. No more subscription. No more daily poems. A slightly smaller perspective on life.

Now "The Writer's Almanac" has come back onto my radar and I'm going to give it another try. I'm eager for the chance to discover a new poet or poem every day, and to open a window into the world from a different perspective. We'll see if the typo situation has been resolved.

As for conclusions drawn from these experiences? Still working on those. Right now all I can say is, "It depends what you're leaving when you walk away."


  1. Uh-oh. I hope my typos don't send you away in a huff! (carefully proof reading my comment) ;^)

  2. sometimes going away mad is the only way you will end up leaving

  3. I think that is true, that it depends on what you're leaving when you walk away, but I think it also depends on what you say, or don't say when you go.

  4. Hmm. Anger. I do think it's good to let anger be, and to express it if appropriate. You did it right, I think, to write both those entities and express your concerns. Whether you needed to be angry or not is another question, one I ask myself (and my husband asks me too) quite often. I am getting less angry these days, as I seem to be getting less attached to what others do and how they do it.

    There is a helpful anecdote about anger with a person (so a little off subject) that I read about G.I. Gurdjieff. He got angry at a person and went to his father about it. His dad told him to not respond to the person for a full 24 hours and see how he felt. Sure enough, Gurdjieff had no anger after 24 hours and did nothing to confront the person. His conclusion was that when we feel insulted, is that a reason to express anger? It's really just our ego feeling no one should insult us. As I say, this is not the same kind of anger as what you're expressing in the post, but I have turned to this advise many times since reading it.


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