Political Correctness

It’s hard for me to admit that I’ve procrastinated on this blog idea for almost a year…not that it’s even my oldest draft.  Admittedly, though, that’s a long time.  Even for me, who jokes about putting the “pro” in procrastination.

But I wanted to have a real good think on it.

More than occasionally, a drink on it.

And I say think and drink – and I mean it – but I also mean that I wanted to continue to observe what I perceived as a change in our cultural political correctness.

What a fortuitous year for the sociologically-minded observer.  Oh, and me.  

During this past campaign year, I have witnessed a shift in our struggle with political correctness and the evolution from that back toward overt racism and bigotry in my physical daily life and even more so in my virtual life.  

It’s all over my social media feeds.

So troubling to me as I watched this was that the more I saw it on line, the more prevalent it bled back into my actual daily life.

Why?

Media coverage of Trump and his supporters.

Flat out, 100% the reason I attributed as the cause.

But even as I make that statement, I find myself wanting to check myself and my own defensiveness on this topic.  There’s plenty of stories I can share – from my own friends as well as those that have been covered on and in the news/entertainment media.

That said, I was looking through my draft ideas as the hotel elevator descended the three floor between me and breakfast this morning and this one – from nearly a year ago – piqued my interest.

It was a slow elevator.

During that ride, I decided it was time.

…and then the strangest thing happened.  This hotel I’m at in Boise, where last night the very attractive and fey front desk employee comped me a drink in the bar for the slightest of inconveniences became – overnight – this to me.

Maybe just opening the Pandora’s Box of thoughts that I had been mulling over regarding this blog attenuated me to the upcoming foul, I dunno.

Anyway, I get to the hotel dining room for breakfast and one of the waitresses tells me and my elevator companion – who got on at the second floor – to just grab a table anywhere we like.  I watch him grab the further of two two top tables, noticing how his flannel and denim outfit blended with the rest of the mainly denim and tee shirt crowd in the dining room and I grab the closer of the two, right next to the kitchen.  

More to the point, I noticed how much my dress shirt and slacks stood out.  The next closest by comparison was a guy in a dress shirt with a bulky cardigan over it and – you guessed it – jeans.

I didn’t initially register any service weirdness from my server.  Sure, she took my order and took off while I was attempting some small talk, but she’s in the midst of a busy breakfast service.

But

When coffee service was noticeably different, my eyebrows went up.  In Seattle and Portland, I’ll nickname restaurants One Cup Diner if they don’t try to top off my coffee.  I mean, if you’re gonna charge me $3 for diner coffee, you better fucking keep it coming.  Now, you can get off on a technicality here, because my diner coffee needs additives and filling up too frequently can tend to make every swallow taste different.  I like to add one creamer and one Splenda (I know) to my coffee and then get a fill up around the half empty range.

Not three quarters full nor three quarters empty, half.

I know.  High maintenance.  It’s my one diner thing.  I swear.  Even being a picky eater, I’ll just usually order something else versus making a lot of special requests on a dish, so cut me some slack here.

So, coffee service here looked like my waitress making a pass and topping all her tables off, but not me.  Not a crisis, because I would have waved her off, I was only a quarter down.  However, I’ve learned to say something like “No, thank you…although I’ll take some on your next pass” just to avoid any misinterpretation.

Go away doesn’t always mean go away forever.

Second pass, same thing.  The flannel crowd gets coffee, old Xtopher gets grumpy.

Other Waitress passes by after filling her tables mugs.  I couldn’t even get her attention.

Now I’m getting kind of irked.

My waitress comes by and drops off my check.  She leaves before I can swallow my food and ask for a refill.  When she comes back for it – my plate is clean by now – I ask her for a refill.  “Oh, yes sir“.

I can’t recall hearing anyone else addressed as “sir” during my visit, so I was pretty sure there was a statement being made.  

However, as I sat there sipping my second cup of coffee, I tried to reign myself in.

This didn’t have to be bigotry at work.  

Maybe the other faces were regulars, frequent guests…or maybe just more than one day in to their visit.  

Maybe we were just different.  Me in my Brooks Bros slacks and Nordstrom dress shirt.  Frequently face down into my phone as I perused (and deleted) the prior night’s avalanche of “Cyber Monday Extended!” emails.  I’d over heard her and the other waitress discussing a Black Friday buy at Bed, Bath & Beyond as I ate. It was a Vera Wang bedspread that was on sale for $99.99 and she’d gotten to use her 20% off coupon.  She was so excited as I had rolled my eyes at the complete lack of discipline BBB has around their coupon redemption.  But to her, it was special…not to me.  Maybe that difference in world view was indicative of how they also saw me, the slick city guy.

It didn’t have to be bigotry and I was trying to be accountable to that distinction and withhold judgment.

A lot of my friends – ok, three come to mind, but still, that’s a lot for a town the size of and as liberal as the People’s Republic of Portland – have had homophobic slurs thrown at them while out after dark recently.

One friend had a surprising interaction with a racist customer at work.

My Facebook feed has daily national stories about people experiencing similar things across the country.

Daily.

If me not getting coffee was motivated by bigotry, I’ve gotten off much less easily in the past.

Still, trying to be accountable…I withheld beating the homophobia drum.  And I won’t.  I just walked away from the situation and forgot about it.

Until.

We were discussing open enrollment at work and what best practices we employed for following up with our teams to make sure no one misses their window.  The woman I’m working with this week shared a story about how she had posted the open enrollment reminder posters in the office and breakroom as directed, had personal conversations around the mailer every eligible employee received at home and followed up every few days via an email with any employee who still hadn’t registered as the sand in the two week enrollment clock slipped away.  She was sitting down with people who lacked the technical savvy to complete this task and asked for help.

Of course, someone screwed themselves out of renewing their benefits with their life change modifications from the past year.

Side note, in case you missed it:  the employee had a life change.  That employee could have changed their coverage following that incident and didn’t.  Open enrollment was their second chance to un-fuck this up.

They blew it.

Twice.

And complained about the woman telling the story, trying to make it her fault.  

Nothing happened, third try was the charm, I guess…but that would mean they went without full coverage for a year.  Eek.

My comment here was that if she hadn’t made that e-trail with emails about enrollment and the employee had gone to the labor board or asked for arbitration, she would have been stuck in a he said/she said quagmire.

My thought here was that this is how our culture has become undisciplined and even more unaccountable for their own behavior.  Complaining about a situation of your own creation and trying to pass the blame buck?  

Bullshit.  

I wished that we, as a country, had the judicial backbone for a judge or arbitrator to look at someone in this situation and say, “Sorry, bub, you screwed the pooch on this one.  Tough break.”

But I don’t think we do.  I think we have a culture that allows anyone to make their problem someone else’s just by playing the injured party.  The truth has gotten to be too murky a proposition any more.

It’s sad.

And I think that lack of accountability for ones own actions has been part of the apparent groundswell of support Trump received in this election.

Incredulous reporting on that very topic was seen as something of a media endorsement by his less educated base.  At the very best, if it was correctly interpreted as the condemnation it was – everywhere but Fox – then Trump supporters vilified the media and aligned with Trump against the so-called media elite.

Because being unaccountable in this day and age in America has become commonplace.  Finding a champion in a self proclaimed billionaire business tycoon – who conveniently happened to be a dishonest, racist, mysoginistic, tax dodging, self-aggrandizing and all around smarmy bastard – allowed Americans the opportunity to excuse their subpar behaviors by voting for a candidate who was worse than they were.

Which had the unfortunate side effect over the last 18-ish months of enabling even worse behaviors in Trump’s base.

And, well, now Bob is your fucking uncle and Trump is President-Elect.

Hoorah.

This vicious cycle scenarios is just my own observation and the result of just watching what has been going on in both America and my little fish bowl daily existence, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.

Maybe only partially right or wrong, but either way, I think there’s enough reflection on it at this point to share it with the universe and gauge reactions from here…

Really, though, is anyone shocked that it comes right down – basically – to it’s easier to be a part of the problem than it is to be a part of the solution?

Political Correctness

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