Good deeds can be a fickle bitch. Even if you have demon parents who taught you nothing but destruction and gloom, you're still bombarded from birth with messages of "Help your fellow man" from virtually every song, movie, TV show, and video game in existence. But if you've been alive long enough to read and understand these words, you've most likely hit a stretch where it seems like no matter how much good you try to do, no one appreciates it. Hell, many of you probably work jobs where good deeds and extra effort aren't even acknowledged.
The hard part about good deeds, even if they're something simple like carrying groceries or delousing the neighbor's yak, is dealing with the dark void of no recognition. Or at the very least, understanding why people didn't accept your gesture while belting out Journey's "Open Arms." It's hard to keep in mind that ...
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When I'm in public, I'm painfully polite. I let people pass by first in a crowded aisle. I allow the person holding four items to check out before I pull up with my massive cart full of Red Bull and dildos. And I always hold doors open for people. The door thing is a problem for me.
Nothing will 180 my mood faster than offering a kind gesture and not even receiving a "Fuck you and everybody who lives in your house" in return. If I hold a door for someone and the person walks by without even acknowledging me, I cannot stop myself from shooting a smartass comment at him or her as I walk away. It's usually something simple, like "The correct response is 'thank you,' fuckass." But I always want to follow it up with a suplex and maybe an elbow to the neck.
So now I've created this explosively awkward situation where I look like I have split personality disorder, going from polite guy opening the door to arrogant douche, bazooka firing curse words at old ladies. Yes, I know it makes me a horrible person. I'm working on it.
What's hard to remember is that most of us have grown up in a society that teaches caution toward and exclusion of strangers. And with the sheer amount of violence and crime that spackles the news, I don't really blame them. I teach my kids to avoid strangers like Nickelback avoids depth. But here I am, a 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound man with a three-day stubble and an unintentional "I've been stalking you for hours" look in his eyes, positioning himself directly behind a complete stranger under what could be the guise of politeness.
"Let me get that for you. YOU KEEP YOUR FUCKING EYES ON THE GROUND, GRANDMA!"
To me, the person walking past in silence is an uppity, entitled piece of shit, thinking, "Yeah, you better hold the door for me, peasant." But to them, it's most likely "Don't make eye contact. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit ..." Either way, I walk away pissed off, and one day I'm going to say the wrong combination of "fuck" and "yourself," and the recipient is going to charge me like a rabid moose.
Canadians may have to help me iron out that last simile.
Regardless, I'm trying to keep in mind that the whole point of doing good deeds in the first place is to make someone else's life a little easier. I didn't hold the door open for the specific purpose of receiving a thank you. But the second I don't get one, you'd think it was currency and holding that door is my job. I've been shorted a paycheck, and you can damn well bet I'm shitting on the boss's car in retaliation.
The only tough decision is "hood or seat?"
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The only thing worse than having to ask a friend for money is ... well, drowning or burning alive sounds pretty bad. But aside from the death things, it's having a friend give you pity cash. For the seven rich people reading this article, let me explain, because it may clear up some confusion about your ungrateful friend who keeps refusing your help.
We have a small gift exchange each Christmas at my grandmother's house -- it's not a big deal. We have a $20 limit on gifts, and we draw numbers to see who gets what because white people are weird. Several years ago, I was in a tight spot and couldn't afford a present, but since we're drawing numbers, that's an easy fix: I just don't draw one. So when it came time to do the deed, I excused myself to the other room because I didn't want to have to go through the shame of explaining that I worked a shitty job, all of my money went toward my kids' presents, and mustache wax doesn't pay for itself -- blah blah blah.
"I'm so sorry. I just had my hat rechained. I'm flat broke."
What happened instead was that my family got together behind my back and picked out a present from under their tree (one that wasn't a part of our gift exchange) and put a number on it for me. The gesture was as well-intended and gracious as any I had ever received. But I felt like complete trash because of it. It felt like I was being pitied. A pat on the head with an unspoken "Awwww, we have you covered, little guy. We know you can't live like the rest of the adults, so we'll just pretend you bought a gift like all the rest of us had no problem at all doing."
I hated that feeling, and it's one of the reasons I've worked my ass off for the last several years -- so I could keep improving my income and never have to feel that again.
Now, I'm in the exact opposite position. I have the ability to help my friends and family out when they get into a bind, but I find myself having to convince them that it's not a big deal. That I don't mind it ... that they don't owe me anything, and it should definitely not make them feel bad. And each time, I remember people telling me the same thing when they were trying to help me with an electric bill or just a little extra gas money.
Black market babies.
What we tend to forget -- even those of us who have been in both situations -- is that there is no amount of consolation that will ever take away the recipient's shame. That shit is lodged in there like an underestimated butt plug, and there is no shitting it out. In my experience, the ones who flat-out refuse the help aren't doing it out of pride. They're doing it out of positioning themselves as far away from that awful feeling as possible. And I can't say I blame them.
Understand that not everyone is like that, though. Some people take advantage of your help without batting an eye, and suddenly ...
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Every single "friend who is good with computers" knows exactly what I'm talking about here. A friend or family member's computer goes to shit because they haven't quite learned that not all boobs are free -- some are secretly malware cannons. Or they did virtually anything at all, because the Internet is a clusterfuck that requires 50 layers of protection in order to navigate. So they give you a call, and being the nice angelic person that you are, you merrily skip right over and spend the rest of the night unfucking their porn box.
Maybe they provide you with a free dinner or a few beers, but you don't expect much. If they could afford a computer repair person, they wouldn't need you. And it feels pretty good to help someone out.
Until they call you again the next week to come over and fix it again.
"Oh, this shouldn't take long. Can you bring me a hammer and a blowtorch?"
And then twice a month for the rest of your life. Even if you're not physically there, it doesn't stop them from calling and asking you how to do it themselves, which you know for a fact means that you're about to be on the most frustrating phone call of all time, most likely for a couple of hours, as they clumsily slap around their keyboard. You're pretty sure that at one point you're going to have to remind them that they can't eat the mouse.
It's not just "computer people" who get shafted with this. Any service-based profession is a potential target. I'm sure there are tons of mechanics reading this article thinking, "Yeah, sure, I can diagnose your car problem over the phone without ever looking at it, based on noises you're making with your mouth. And sure, I can make you understand what's wrong. Get comfortable while I teach you the entire inner workings of the combustion engine."
That's not a smile of joy. It's one of insanity.
It seems like the worst possible response to a favor -- to assume that it implies infinite future favors -- but it's less about them being greedy time leeches and more about assuming you now "own" this problem. When any problem comes up in the future, they (not unreasonably) just assume it's related to the previous one, so they think it's just following up on the last thing and that it'll thus be easy to fix. If their geeky nephew knows how to fix "their Internet," why start over from scratch with somebody else and have to re-explain everything? So the call goes something like, "Hey, my Internet is doing that thing again, can you do what you did last time?" "Sure, remind me what 'thing' it's doing?" "You know. That thing where it stops working properly. Remember? And you fixed it by spending 14 hours reinstalling every single piece of software I own?"
It doesn't take long to start regretting the initial offer to help once that cycle starts.