Wednesday, February 7, 2018

"Would Ya?"

I met this guy on the Internet by mistake.   (There are better stories to write involving this setup but they would, unfortunately, be fiction.  For better or worse, I am stuck with limiting reality.)

I had emailed a friend, thanking him for making the cursor on my computer bigger.  (And has that ever upgraded my joie de vivre!  My original request was “Is there a way to make the cursor on my computer red?”  There apparently isn’t, so making it bigger is the next best thing, if you have trouble finding the cursor, which I invariably do.  “A red cursor.”  Isn’t that a sensible idea?  If you invent one, send me a dollar for stealing it from me.  Plus, simple instructions for making it red.  Thank you.) 

The Internet stranger I met my mistake – who knew a good friend of mine from Toronto – asked if I’d be willing to meet for coffee to casually chew the fat concerning my luminous career. 

Okay, before I move forward,

Okay, before moving forward –

Pick one.

“They’re both the same.”

I don’t think so.

Let us explore the popular maxim:

“It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Dollars to donuts, the person who concocted that fakakta maxim was not the person who was being asked.

Who it, in fact, not always but often, 

Does hurt.

Suddenly, through not fault of their own and entirely out of the blue, the accosted “Askee” is on the defensive.  They have to make a decision as to whether to comply, a decision they were entirely unburdened by before the person who believes it doesn’t hurt to ask – and they are right if they are the “Asker” – put them there.

Not all requests, of course, are equally troublesome.  Someone on the street asks you directions, what would it hurt to give them to them?  (Unless they are inaccurate directions, in which case it hurts the person ending up going the wrong way.  In that case, saying (a polite) “No” to their request is more considerate than saying “Yes”, although, for some, this is surprisingly difficult to pull off.  In England, where good manners are a national obsession, people will happily dispatch you on frustrating “wild goose chases” rather than “rudely” denying their (mis)directional services.  Oh, the places I’ve been!  None of them where I originally wanted to go.)

Imagine, by provocative contrast, this potential creepy scenario:


“Would you like to come back to my apartment?’

“No, thank you.”

Usually the appropriate – or at least reasonable – okay, potentially possible – response when two strangers meet in a bar.  Still, consider the unwanted pressure triggered by that unbidden requirement to say, “No.”

The bon vivant “Asker” feels great.  They courageously “took a shot.”  They might even feel righteously indignant.

“Oh!  Ms. ‘Too good to come back to my apartment!’”

Crossing the line from “suggestion” to “borderline harassment.” 

Depending on the situation – and the mode of the approach – “It doesn’t hurt to ask” is a felony posing as a request.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask”?

It can.  And, annoying often, it does. 

But don’t try to explain that the “Asker.”

They “innocently” haven’t got a clue.


I feel like a man pulling a lingering thumbtack out of his butt:

“I have been meaning to get around to that for some time.”

Unfortunately, I have run out of time for what I started to write about.

Wait, I’ll go fast.

I was concerned that this person I met by mistake on the Internet was going to ask me to read something they had written.  It turned out he was great and had no such intentions in mind.  But, you know, I’m a worrier.  And given his show biz credentials, it was not an unjustified concern.

Years go, when I was recognizably “big in the business”, I would sometimes read things someone asked me to check out.  Not because I was nicer back then – although I may have been – but because I was successfully doing it, and therefore had some idea of what that elusive “It” they were looking for was.

Today – get ready to “Boo hoo” – I am, from a commercial standpoint, doing nothing.  As a result, my standard response to the question,

“Would you read something I wrote and give me your professional feedback?”


“Sure, if you want to learn to be a capable sitcom writer in 1984.”

I can still skillfully tinker with “the mechanics”, structuring the funniest way to tell that particular story – because “optimal storytelling” is timeless… 

But from a comedic standpoint,

If I knew “What was what” in the current marketplace,

I would not be home,

Tapping out a blog.

Or maybe I would.

But at least I would have the choice.

By the way, my friend who I asked to make the cursor on my computer bigger?

He was delighted to help me.

Leaving the possible difficulty not the generic, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

But “It hurts me to ask me.”

And hopefully a few other people as well.

I would hate to think I am the worst person in the world.


YEKIMI said...

If you go to YouTube there are videos explaining how to change your cursor to red or any other color. I'd post a link for you but can't figure out how to do it for Youtube.

JED said...

Earl said,

"Would you read something I wrote and give me your professional feedback?"
"Sure, if you want to learn to be a capable sitcom writer in 1984."

I wish the current TV comedy writers could write like capable sitcom writers in 1984. Or even the '90s. If only they would ask you to help, Earl.

Stubblejumpers Cafe said...

I've decided to be more careful who I ask for what, because a lot of people don't feel comfortable saying no, and I know it, thus am on the verge of being manipulative when I ask! I mean -- I live in rural Saskatchewan, and people simply do not say no to almost any request, even if they really don't want you to walk down their country driveway where no one lives on the property, or if they don't want to volunteer for your charity ... and so on. I know it's up to them to say no if it's no they wish they could say, but ... I like to spare them the need, sometimes. - Kate