Egotists and Lightbulbs



Screwing in a lightbulb

It never ceases to amaze me how many shows depicting egotists are available on television. In fact we now have a term for these kinds of folks. They are “famous for being famous“. I am afraid though that the reason we like to watch them is because deep down inside of each of us is the notion that we are “special“.

There is a good sense in which we are just that, “special“. I see nothing wrong with doting on your children to give them a much needed sense of self worth. If they leave the nest without that life is much more difficult when the going gets rough.

I grew up in a family of five kids. I had three sisters and a brother. When my mother died by father remarried.  My stepmother had two children by her first husband and together she and my father had two more. In that kind of setting you quickly learn that doting is something that is a luxury for the middle kids. Being the eldest I guess that I got my fair share of “attaboys” from my parents, so I have no complaints.

My wife was the eldest of four siblings. She has a brother and two sisters. And we often compare notes about what it meant to be the eldest. You got all the initial attention that parents give their firstborn and then it became clear as you aged out of the “they’re so cute” stage that your lot was to be the older sibling who helped in raising the rest of the kids.

The very youngest kids are the ones who get all of the goodies. They not only get the adoring cow eyed stares of their parents but are the centers of attention for their older siblings. But again it is those who are in the middle of pack that are all but forgotten.

Reality My Arse

As I mentioned before there are people who have syndicated “reality” shows where they get to prance and primp in front of the camera week after week after week. And eventually you would think that the public would get tired of it all. But instead the producers slowly release upon their viewers increasing volumes of self-absorption that is almost suffocating. And just when you think that the show would collapse of its own weight, they ratchet up the silliness another notch and folks come back again and again just mesmerized by the thought that they too could be on television and make a fair amount of money and have all sorts of people their age worship the very ground they walk on.

I however am not a fan of the typical reality show where a group of sisters spend countless hours bringing home new boyfriends and husbands and in between dalliances engage in unending bouts of shopping on Rodeo Drive.

The Meaner Alternative

Nope. The show I watched for a while with fascination was one in which a father and son tried to coexist as builders of motorcycles. They fought like cats and dogs and left their crew of workers in a constant state of concern about where their allegiances lay. The father was the founder of the company. The son was something of a genius at design. Their staff members were awesome fabricators.

What caught my imagination was not the endless ragging on one another that the father and son engaged in but rather the insights into fabrication that resulted in watching them create custom bikes, each with a special theme. It was the fact that so much sloppy work ended up being so very gorgeous that really caught my eye.

In each episode there was always a creation of tension because they had a deadline to meet and everything was more or less rushed. Mistakes were made and sometimes they looked disastrous. And yet each week they managed to take what looked like a wreck waiting to be dumped into a gorgeous piece of equipment that glistened and shone for the cameras.

Eventually however the melodrama of personality get the best of the duo and they split.

The Softer Alternative

Long before she was tossed into prison for insider trading one of televisions doyennes of daytime television entertained me one summer as I recovered from a very nasty tear of my ACL. I watched her show in amazement not unlike that when viewing the motorcycle builders. It turns out that lots of things you take for granted are quite interesting when you get to follow along in the moments before the finished product is displayed.

It was her show and ones like it where cooking and crafts were featured that got me to thinking about the relative abundance of talent in virtually everything we see around us. Not every practitioner of their craft is especially committed to exacting standards but some really are and they are National Treasures.

Some People Labor In The Shadows

The channels that feature chefs who prepare food with love and intelligence are fascinating to me. I think that it must be wonderful to have a mastery of food that allows you to think of pairings which actually work. I used to think that it was a scam to have someone tell you that you could pair this wine with this dish and it would taste better. I no longer believe that. There really are people who have great gifts that people pay serious money to experience.

But finally there are folks who labor tirelessly with little acknowledgement of their gifts. If you watch shows about the English aristocracy before the Civil War and just following you can get wrapped up in the finery and elegance of their lifestyle. I have one show that we watch each week that conveys what it must have been like to have lived at that time and in that way.

But it is the folks who are downstairs, preparing the foods, mending the clothing and generally making the manor what it is that also grabs the attention. Likewise seeing movies like The Help and The Butler are necessary bring one’s focus back onto shall I say “real reality“.

Fast Forward To Today

On one of the forums that I frequent a bit of “Reality Television” has sprung up. This is probably better described as “Reality Kabuki Theatre” which I realize is a contradiction in terms. Kabuki is by its very nature not real. Men play all the roles (including those of the females) in the play. And while it can be delightful, it is still unreal.

Like show about motorcycle fabrication there are the gruff ones who act much like the father, and then there is the talented but rebellious son. Unfortunately, there are also those who function as the drug addicted younger son who flails around trying to find himself. And through it all you keep wondering who is suffering because of all this silliness.

Evidently, internet forums are resilient enough to keep chugging along despite the open and unfettered glimpses into their spates of “diva-like tantrums“. There is either the whine-fest that erupts because someone had to steer around a cop car or a delivery truck that was parked in the bike lane, causing them so much pain and heartburn that they had to vent for what seems like days. After a series of threats to get the cop fired or worse things die down until another “diva outbreak” erupts.

I Want More…

The most consistent theme on this forum is “I want more…” I sometimes wonder whether if it were possible to wave a magic wand over the group and suddenly have shiny new, pretty green bike lanes on every single street and segregated from the traffic lanes to their left by curbs, would that be enough to have them STFU? I kind of doubt it. Where would the fun be in being happy that what you were whining about is now reality? And besides their advocacy group would suddenly have very little to use as a fundraising cause, so that would be something of a minor disaster.

I get about 25 or more emails a week from my political party wanting me to contribute more money to defeating this or that action in the House. At times I almost laugh because while I realize that there has to be money coming in to keep the lobbyists and advocates employed there really is little in the way of imagination shown in making the newest threat seem truly real. But hey, “life is a cabaret…

So now the newest thing to whine about is what one gets paid for this or that activity.

And predictably this “Whine and Jeez Club” has those who are adamant about the fact that they need more money because, we because they are worth it. You can almost see guys in drag running their hands through long, wavy blond tresses with exquisite makeup on their faces and their lips painted a luscious red as they stare into the camera and coo, “because I’m worth it“. No advertising maven on Madison Avenue could possibly improve on this approach. If you want folks of a given gender to pony up for your cosmetics, just tell them that they are not being self-indulgent just make it seem that there is a hint of feminist bravado in buying yet another body moisturizer or hair dye or whatever and you can almost hear the cash registers ring.

Tell folks that dying their beards to rid themselves of the gray and popping yet another pill to up their levels of testosterone and whoops there go your profits soaring upwards. Make it seem as if you are doing all this for your Significant Other and it sounds more virtuous.

Capitalism Has Its Scripts

If you are working in our society on a given task, the degree of fear that the public has that failing your touch all hell will break loose, decides what you are likely to make. If you have anything to do with keeping people alive you can rest assured that yours will be a lucrative future. Add into the mix drugs and surgical procedures and you can find all sorts of ways to pad your bills to the insurance company “paying the freight“.

And if what you do is help people navigate through a legal morass you too can charge a good penny for your services. In fact if you can convince people that the cuisine you prepare is simply divine those legal types will trot to your door and shell out their hard earned money to sit alongside the medical types and swap lies about how hard everyone in your particular profession works until everyone has to drive home slightly buzzed or worse to lie between silk sheets alongside his trophy wife (or husband).

But let’s say that you are laboring in support of what everyone in the Cycling Movement calls the solution to all of the world’s problems, the bicycle. Now things get a bit iffy. In point of fact few people (including all the blowhards on your favorite forum) like to pay much for bicycle maintenance. They are often more than willing to have their bikes repaired so as to keep them rolling, but hardly anyone I know routinely brings in their bikes (other than once a year) to be cleaned and set aright after a brutal winter season. Nope, they usually like to wait until something goes horribly wrong before spending the money.

And when they come it with squeaky brakes or broken spokes or grinding crank arms you are expected to get them wrapped up quickly and out the door with most of their money in hand. If anyone is going to get wealthy in the bike business, it is likely the fellow that figures out how to open several shops and run them efficiently. Otherwise people are reluctant to throw money towards the upkeep of their bicycles.

I had to learn the hard way that riding a bicycle while overweight meant having to live with frequent wheel problems. So I learn to rebuild wheels, adjust derailleurs, clean and re-lubricate hubs, replace cables and their housing in a effort to keep my stable of bicycles humming along. In addition it meant learning to do the really simple stuff like replacing inner tubes, fixing flats and whatever it took to get a bike back home in more or less one piece to then fix whatever problems had erupted. Because my wife and I are both cyclists it meant being extra careful to have the proper tools on hand because we own twice as many bikes.

Life Is Not Fair

It is not a “rigged game” or anything. It is what it is. Some folks die with money in the bank and beautiful grandkids and fame. Others not so much. Capitalism is the engine by which the lucky ones achieve the fame and fortune. Some folks work quite hard at trying to achieve the American Dream and never really do. Some folks are known for the cocktails or fine cuisine they produce or even the motorcycles they fabricate at great expense to the buyer but none is any more important than the maids and butlers who service the wealthiest people.

You could be the head of the largest corporation in America and still die of a disease for which your money was not a means for your escape from suffering. Life is what it is. What you get paid is not the measure of your self-worth. It is nice of course to have people make enough money to feed their families and set a little aside for a Rainy Day. But even billionaires never seem to have earned enough. The more you make the more acquisitive it is likely that you will become. Strange but true.

Seeing The Bigger Picture

Everyone in the Cycling Movement is just certain it would seem that bike lanes are the answer. And yet it is clear that pay scales are important too. At least the kerfuffle on the forum in question would indicate that this is a possibility. So the question to ask is the exact some one that should be asked when we start whining about the lack of bike lanes, “where is the money going to come from?

If I am a member of a movement where a $25 fee for the licensing of my vehicle is considered an imposition I should not be surprised that the vehicles I work on are minimized in reality to the status of somewhat expensive toys. I know, somebody reading this just began to fume at that implication. But tell the truth.

If you really thought of bicycles as “real tools for travel“, you would demand of their operators the same level of proficiency in that operation as you do of bus drivers, truck drivers, railroad engineers, airplane pilots and even soccer moms who take kids back and forth to school.

We want all the considerations of these vehicle operators without any of the responsibilities. We want to be on  the roadways without a lick of training or at least testing to prove our sea-worthiness. Furthermore we want access to the same roads as everyone else without any degree of control over how well-equipped our vehicles are to travel those roads. We do not care to have anyone looking over our shoulders to make sure that we have reflectors, lights and working parts. With respect to our bikes we reduce them to toys by virtue of our unwillingness to have their operators be regulated.

So along comes a person who wants to be a mechanics who works on bikes and suddenly they say, this seems to be a valuable service but the pay rate sucks. Surprise. You have managed to trivialize the status of the vehicle you drive to that of a child’s toy and are unhappy that your work is not taken more seriously by even those who claim to be part of the movement. Gotcha!

The reality is that in the bicycle business most of the profits (such as they are) are made on aftermarket accessories. Once that bike leaves your shop only the most serious riders will return with anything approaching the frequency of a person who drives a car and depends upon it for their livelihood. And surprise, surprise most of those kinds of riders will be of the Lycra-clad variety. These are the very ones who are dismissed as dilettantes by those who consider themselves transportational cyclists.  And even then you have to be one who rides in urban settings to gain any credibility when visiting their “Whine and Jeez Club” forum.

Bicycle Maintenance Is Not Impossibly Difficult

You can manage to do a passable job of maintenance without ever stepping into a bike shop. But why not give your local shop the business? Eventually you are going to need some repair or maintenance that requires a tool you simply do not own and probably would never buy since the frequency with which you might use it would require you turning your hobby into a part time business. Spoke cutters are expensive. At least the ones that are worth using if you build wheels for a living. Don’t ask me how I know this.

For that matter photography is also relatively easy. You can take your mid-level camera and make images that suffice for the family picture album. But when you get ready to memorialize your nuptials or have the family portrait made it will no doubt require a professional photographer. You could always spend upgrade your kitchen to the equipment level of your favorite television chef. But why not venture out to a good restaurant once in a while?

And of course you could equip your garage workshop with the very same equipment as that guy on Public Television who makes all those wonderful pieces of furniture. Again, don’t ask me how I know all this. But at the end of the day your day job is what takes up most of your time. And likely too your skill set is limited more or less to what you do for a living. Yes, you can become proficient enough to enjoy doing something else as a hobby. But again you might eventually want to focus on reality.

If you have to have the finest camera made and yet you are not making a living as a photographer, you must have more money than brains. Sorry, but that is how the saying goes.

If you suddenly find yourself unable to live within the limited scope of your professional income then you need to consider owning the shop and having others work for you. But that in itself can be a headache. Some folks are smart enough to know when enough is enough. It is a rare quality in any human being but they labor at jobs not so much because of the money as the joy of doing what they love. It is a wonderful thing to be able to do for a living what you love. Most folks raising families had aspirations far beyond what they ended up doing to put food on the table and send their kids to schools.

We need to not live as if we are reality show actors. We need to focus on being content with what we have and yet eager to move to the next level when possible. It is necessary to have a certain level of discontent and dissatisfaction with our current lot in life to spur us to become owners of businesses or to seek new challenges in our professional lives. But I don’t think that whining about the level of pay we are given is always the most effective or the best thing for us.

I can certainly imagine that there are homeless folks who are jobless who would be more than willing to be trained to do what we do and succeed at it and be satisfied. I worry that sometimes we are like the fellow who is bitching to the legless soldier about the lack of definition in our calves and the fact that our shoes are not the ones everyone else is wearing these days.

Beware being a reality show diva in real life.

Being Thankful

Being Thankful