I’ve been watching a lot of Pokémon lately. Well, I’ve been watching a lot for the past two years, now. One character that always astounds me is Gary. Gary is also from Pallet Town, and is Ash’s greatest rival. At the end of the first storyline, Gary had 10 gym badges, and Ash only had the requisite eight. Ash placed in the top 16 at the Pokémon league championships at the Indigo Flats, while Gary washed out. In the Orange Islands storyline, it didn’t matter that Ash returned home the Orange League champion. That honor was belittled by Gary. Ash challenged Gary to a one-on-one match, and Ash lost. Gary has yet to make an appearance in the Johto League storyline, but Ash did start his pokémon journey in the Johto league if only to beat Gary at the championship. Why does Gary both Ash so much? I mean, Ash has accomplished quite a bit in his pokémon journeys, but it means nothing as soon as Gary shows up and makes a few nitpicky comments about Ash’s style. Ash then loses to Gary, Gary gloats over his win, and then vanishes. Why does this bother Ash so much, when Ash is clearly the better trainer? Why do these occasional losses to a hometown rival bug him so much? The thing is, I think I’m figuring it out.
In my work with the Liberal association, I’ve worked with this guy named Zuzu Fartypants. He’s in his 50s, a former teacher, and currently has his own little computer company. Do you watch The Lone Gunmen, or at least familiar with them from their appearances on The X-Files? He looks like Frohike with a bad comb-over and a goatee. He does very little for the Liberals. He shows up to the meetings. He pays his $10 membership every year. He occasionally attends the fund-raisers, and that’s the extent of his involvement. But why does he annoy me so? Because he’s a nitpicker. He always obsess over the little, inconsequential details. Here’s a sampling:
– At my first meeting as treasurer, I made a math error and was out by $0.30. I corrected my error, made my apologies to the group, and tried to move on, but he still wanted a complete report on it for the next meeting, in case I tried to embezzle $0.30.
– When we were planning our first fund-raiser, we were going to sell wine by the glass and by the bottle. We threw out some suggestions for a by-the-glass price and a price for the bottles. This didn’t sit to well with Zuzu Fartypants and a cohort of his. According to them, we should be setting these prices properly, not just making up numbers, and to do it properly, we needed to know how many glasses were in a bottle. So, the meeting ground to a halt as they forced us to debate how many glasses are in a bottle. Fortunately, we were having our meeting in a winery. To get them to finally shut up, we went and grabbed a bottle and a few empty glasses and determined it. It’s 8, in case you’re curious.
– One time I forgot to put the date on my financial report. He was sure to point this out.
– Once he started making a big deal about wanting to get a copy of the electors list for himself. This is a list of all the registered voters in our riding. When we got it from the Liberal head office, we presented it to him. This being the dawn of the 21st Century, it was on CD-ROM. This didn’t sit well with him. “Why did they put it on a CD?” he whined. In the Liberals’ defense, I said, “Well, it’s a huge file. It’s about 10 M.” That still didn’t sit well with him. “They could’ve put it on a floppy if they compressed it,” he grumbled.
– As the election drew near, the URL of the Liberal’s website was announced: albertaliberal.com. He hated this. He felt it was a huge breach of Internet protocols. If anyone’s curious, he’s currently cybersquatting on the “proper” URL: albertaliberal.ab.ca.
I remember when our president got tired of his whining. During the election, he was going to loan us some computers for our office. Halfway through the election, he finally calls us up, wanting to come to our office and install them. Our campaign manager lost it on him, and told him where to shove his computers. Since I’m the only other one there who knows a little something about computers, he sent me a whiney e-mail talking about all the time he invested in this, and that maybe another Liberal candidate could use them. I don’t think any other Liberal candidate used them because, like we wanted him to do, most other Liberal candidates had their computers installed 2 weeks before the writ was dropped, so the system would be bug-free and their staff trained on them by the election. And besides, we soon learned that during the last campaign, he set up his little network halfway through the election, and then it was down half the time as he worked out the bugs. We didn’t need a whole computer network for the last week of the campaign.
But for some reason, his nitpicks are always targeted at my financial reports. I am honestly awaiting the day when he gets up there at a meeting and says, “I really disagree with your choice of font, Mark.” True, he does occasionally come up with a legitimate question, but 95% of the time it’s whiney, nitpicky, nonsense. The last straw came at our annual general meeting.
For the AGM, a financial report has to be more detailed. I also need to present an inventory of our assets and their value on the marketplace, so a complete financial picture can be painted. When had our office up and running, we were selling various kinds of Liberal merchandise. I knew I had to present an inventory of what we had and what it was worth. I got the inventory from our president, and for the worth, I was just going to use the price list we used in our office. Sadly, through, as much as I looked through my records, I couldn’t find a copy of the price list. So, I estimated, based on my own fuzzy memories. Most of my estimates sounded reasonable enough; $5.00 for a coffee mug, $2.00 for a pin, stuff like that. But then I came to the book Shredding The Public Interest by Kevin Taft. I thought I had a sure-fire way to estimate it’s worth. I grabbed my own copy, flipped to the back cover, and read off “Suggested Retail Price $8.95.” That sounded good enough to me, and I used that number for my estimate.
At the meeting, representatives of the Alberta Liberal party were there to oversee things. Of course, they were selling Liberal merchandise, and I saw their price for Shredding The Public Interest: $0.50. My heart sank at how I overestimated, but I figured that I’d be OK if I just told the truth when I presented my report. I didn’t have the price list, so I used the suggested retail price as my guide. When I presented my report, I mentioned how I didn’t have the price list, so I estimated the values. The floor was then opened to questions. Zuzu Fartypants had two questions. The first one was legitimate. He wanted to know what kind of impact the election would have on us. The President fielded that question, and said that while the campaign treasurer is still finalizing her books, we are assured that we will not be in debt. That satisfied him, and then he had one more question:
Zuzu Fartypants>> How did you arrive at the value of $8.95 for the books?
Me>> Well, I didn’t have the price list we used in our office, so I used the suggested retail price of $8.95.
Zuzu Fartypants>> How did you know that’s the suggested retail price?
Me>> It’s printed right on the back of the book.
Zuzu Fartypants>> Don’t you think that there’s something odd with that number? I mean, the Liberals are here selling it for $0.50! I’m pretty sure that’s not the price we were using in our office.
Me>> I didn’t have the price we were using in our office, so I made an estimate, using the suggested retail price as my guide.
Zuzu Fartypants>> Well, it’s all fine and dandy that that’s what some publisher thinks it’s worth, but it can’t be what it’s really worth if it’s being sold for $0.50. Did we even pay $8.95 for it when we bought it to sell?
Me>> I don’t recall if that is what we paid for it. If I dig through my files, I could probably find the itemized receipt for you at our next meeting.
At this point our candidate stepped in. She pointed out that it was her who bought the merchandise and that she neglected to get an itemized receipt. Zuzu Fartypants then grumbled something about guessing he got his answer, but still wanting to know the truth. I was visibly upset, though, for the rest of the meeting. I don’t respond well to being grilled on the stand. When I got home that night, I had had enough, so I sent this e-mail to Zuzu Fartypants:
Hey Zuzu Fartypants!
You left the meeting in such a hurry I didn’t have time to say this to you.
I am sick and tired of your bullshit.
In high school, I had honours in mathematics. At university, I earned my degrees in physics and math. I could — and still can — do three-dimensional integral equations with skill equal to my professors. At work, I was just promoted to an assitant manager position, where one of my duties is doing the day-end bookkeeping for (on average) $20,000 in receipts. And throughout my young life, you are the only one who doesn’t trust my numbers.
Someone once said that you can do one of three things in life: lead, follow, or get out of the way. Since you did not stand for nomination in any of the executive positions, that clearly shows that you do not want to lead. Since you showed minimal support for our candidate during the election, that clearly shows that you do not want to follow. Since you consistantly whine about every decision at the monthly meetings, that clearly shows that you do not want to get out of the way.
I sincerely hope that by the next regular meeting you’ve decided what you want to do.
I got this response:
my, my, such vitriol.
Did you by any chance ever take a logic course? Do you see nothing odd with showing books valued at $8.95 while they are being sold for 50 cents on a table right in front of you? I don’t even remember seeing them listed at $8.95 when they were on the table in the campaign office during the election. And you call one question about this “bullshit”?
By the way, thank you very much for your insightful answer at the meeting. It is the first time ever that I have heard a financial officer say at an AGM that since he didn’t have the receipts he “estimated” the numbers. On your $20,000-a-day job do you estimate those receipts also?
I deal almost daily with senior financial officers of some relatively large corporations and a lot of them are going to get a chuckle out of that one. Don’t worry, I won’t mention your name.
Lastly, I suggest that you really should learn how to use a spelling checker. Whatever in the world is an “assitant manager position”? And I don’t do anything “consistantly”. If anything, I do it consistently. But then, I suppose, accuracy in spelling, like accuracy in numbers is just more “bullshit”.
Thanks for making my day. Please keep the drivel coming.
When you get an e-mail like this at 8 in the morning, it tends to make your whole day kind of crappy. And I began thinking about a response to this.
Firstly, he’s got a real short memory if he thinks that his one question was the only bullshit I was referring to. Secondly, if he was actually listening to the answer I gave, he would have heard that I made estimates because I didn’t have the PRICE LIST in front of me, not the receipt. The receipt only came into play when I was trying to find some answer to appease him. If I had the price list in front of me like he did, that’s the number I would have used. I’m sure that how well I did in logic pales in comparison to his hearing problems. Thirdly, I find no problem in using the suggested retail price as an estimate. If he were to walk into a bookstore, that’s what they’d tell him it’s worth. I would love for him to walk into a Chapters and argue with the manager that they shouldn’t be using that price because someone else sells it for less than half of that. And finally, he takes the time out to criticize my SPELLING? I was going to use that to question his knowledge about computers, but then my good friend Darmok reminded me that Microsoft e-mail clients do have spell-check, and that 60% of the world uses Microsoft. I use Eudora, and it doesn’t have spell-check. But I still question his knowledge about computers if he uses nothing but Microsoft. Plus, how anal retentive do you have to be to spell check your e-mail? Is he really afraid that he’ll lose friends because of a few typos? But then, if he’s going to hide behind words like “vitriol,” I guess he’d better know how to spell them.
I was going to throw all that into a response and fire it back at him, but then I started thinking, “What’s the point?” He’ll just twist my words again, nitpick my spelling again, rely on his selectively-heard facts and throw it back at me. But, it was still gnawing at me. I wanted the last word. I sought advice from my mother, the seasoned politician that she is. She said that when it comes to people like this, you’ve got to keep your answers short and to the point, so they have no more ammunition for their twisting. So this was the response he got:
I’m amazed at how completely you missed the point.
And that’s the one thing I can’t do: lose sight of the point. We are the Liberal association. Our job is create a viable candidate and win the next election. We’re not going to do that by figuring out how many glasses are in a bottle, or complaining about high estimates, or analyzing spelling on reports that will be filed and forgotten. We’re going to do it by getting out into the community and putting on our friendliest faces. We’re going to do it by getting the literature out there, and being the voice of the opposition, not by being a bunch of embittered salesmen grumbling about spelling. I forget who said it, but we have to let that which does not matter not matter. Zuzu Fartypants seems to have forgotten that, and I have to learn how to do it. Zuzu Fartypants is one which truly does not matter.
But it’s hard. People like this get under your skin and fester, like a splinter. Most days, it seems like they only exist to point out your faults. And I’m sure I shouldn’t talk. As I write this, I can’t help but wonder if people I know feel this way about me. That’s what we all have to do, let go. I have to let go of Zuzu Fartypants and focus on the big picture. That’s the only way we’re going to win the next election. Ash has to let go of Gary. That’s the only way he’s going to go on to become a true pokémon master. Rivalries do not matter. Nitpickers do not matter. We have to let go. People like Ash and myself, we still have long ways to go on our journeys. But we are going to get there. Until then, we just have to remember what doesn’t matter.