random thoughts

Tuesday Morning Coffee: Picking up Garbage

Ran out of time this morning since I had to go to the dentist. Hopefully you enjoy just as much with a Tuesday nightcap or your Wednesday coffee.

Photo by Jay Clark on Unsplash

Yesterday in a moment of annoyance after the garbage collector interrupted my minute-before-the-sixam-alarm-goes-off dreaming, I asked the internet about collection routes and schedules and if they’re always so damn early in residential areas. I came across this Reddit posting: “Recology pickup times – advice on getting them to come later?”

Now, I’m not a Reddit regular, so perhaps this wasn’t as unexpected as I should have realized, but I was quickly taken aback by the tone of the responses. Most of them were basically calling the person who had posed the question (who had it way worse than me, dealing with trucks at 4:45am) an idiot for not thinking about the fact that the trucks come early to not interfere with traffic and boo hoo your poor sleep put on a pair of headphones.

I know the internet is a rough place and that’s not the post I want to write. Read anything by Lindy West if you want to go down that path. And you probably should. Once you’re done here.

I want to understand why it’s so easy to tear down a complete anonymous stranger over a simple and relatively reasonable question online. Ok, even if it’s not reasonable. Still. What does it say about us that we can’t even be civil about something as routine as garbage collection? Why is it so hard to say, “Garbage trucks usually come in the morning to avoid messing up traffic, so you’ll probably have a hard time getting them to change the route. Here’s a brand of earplug and a white noise machine I’ve found to be the best.”

Perhaps you do feel the poster had a sense of entitlement, perhaps you read in their question an expectation that things should be different just because they are inconvenienced. Perhaps you think they’re the most unreasonable human on the planet and how dare they. Does calling them an idiot really get your point across? I would argue it makes you sound more entitled, because now you’re disproportionately angry about someone complaining about a garbage truck. I mean. This is where we are.

When did discourse become a way to prove someone is right and someone is wrong? Again, maybe I’m naive in thinking that someone went to Reddit expecting reasonable answers and not snark. But, why would they have asked the question if they didn’t expect some sort of useful information in return? I know I have a fear of appearing stupid in front of people, but even so. That seems a level of masochism that is beyond my imagination.

I’m sure that if I had a wider following or (gasp) posted this in response to the thread, I’d be told to lighten up or that I’m just as fill-in-the-blank as the OP. Which again, even if you think that, accusing me of being whatever isn’t a great way to make your point. My reaction would be a solid roll of the eyes and pointing out the comment J so we could laugh it off. And not just because I avoid confrontation. No, I also avoid blatent attempts of machismo and putting people in their place to make someone feel better. It’s lazy and a dead end. You’ll feel you made your point by calling me an idiot because you’ll never disagree with yourself or be open to another point of view. It’s schoolyard bullying and I’m too old and tired for that shit.

It’s all too easy online. We don’t have to deal with the consequences of releasing our snark and insults in an anonymous setting. Unless we’re celebrities in which case we’d offer some lame apology and hope the Twitterverse moves on.

It’s too easy to feed our insecurities and anxieties, things that have been rising in our culture, by attacking other people. What if we all took a look inside to see where those insecurities actually came from, and attacked the source. There is no way those responders are angry over garbage. Perhaps they don’t feel valued at work or at home or are dealing with insecurities they’ve carried since childhood. So yes, compassion towards them seems a valid response rather than stooping to their level. But we’re constantly being told we need to be perfect, so instead of facing our imperfections head-on by naming and dealing with them, we focus on naming imperfections in other people.

I will challenge myself this week to notice when I get irritated or self-righteous and ask, where is that coming from? I’d love to hear from you if you do the same.

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