Have YOU ever deliberately “inconvenienced” co-workers or enemies?
A mayor declined to endorse his state’s governor during an election, so the governor’s top aides ordered a shutdown of lanes on a heavily used bridge. Delivery, maintenance, and fire trucks, as well as school buses, ambulances, and commuters, were mired in gridlock for days, causing outrage, scandal, and backlash. The perpetrators, who joked about the resulting chaos in emails, have since been found out. Check your local internet.
So what are your excuses for inconveniencing adversaries on purpose?
Oh, come on. Payback? You’ve never done that? No, I don’t mean shut down a bridge – I mean, impeded someone intentionally. Haven’t you ever waited to send your print job to the office copier until right when a co-worker needs it to prep for a meeting? Ever put off booking your boss’s flight ’til only middle seats at the back of the plane were available? How about crankin’ the thermostat? If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve George Washington Bridged someone. (Now let’s abbreviate that down to “you’ve GWB’d some fool,” or “you pulled a GWB.”)
People do it to each other in traffic every day: you signal and the guy in the next lane speeds up to prevent you from moving over, though he has no intention of maintaining that speed. In an even more pathetic display of passive aggressive powerlessness, sometimes those same people slow down once the other driver has fallen in behind them. I see this all the time on Los Angeles freeways. (And yeah, I’ve been guilty of it myself.)
Next hospital bed over from mine I once saw a nurse bring a guy dinner right after surgery because he was such a pain-in-the-ass patient. Post-op people are hungry. But it was just like they warn: the guy blew chunks on himself for twenty minutes. Nurse comes in and says, “Oh, what a shame!” True story.
We all know why we shouldn’t get mouthy at the Department of Motor Vehicles, right?
Here’s another one: Last week I was speaking with “Shins,” a neighbor who wears protective kneepads when working around his house (he never pulls them up, so to me and to his face he’s Shins). Shins asked me how angry I’d be if he had a tree trimming service show up the forthcoming Sunday at 7 am. My face answered before I could, which triggered a confession.
The trimmers could just as easily come on Saturday, said Shins, but this would be a perfect opportunity to mess with the family who lives behind him, whom we’ll call the “Dreadnaughts.” Shins can’t stand the Dreadnaughts. At the end of his diatribe I told him I didn’t care either way, but neither would I cosign his unneighborly behavior. It was his decision. So Shins apologized in advance and laughed at how much the Dreadnaughts “would be hatin’ life.”
Sure enough, the following Sunday morning the wood chipper fired up and the chainsaws screamed – for six straight hours. I was sure the Dreads were seething. Now, I don’t know the Dreadnaughts, but Shins hasn’t shut up about them for years. The father works seven days a week and owns a frequently investigated car dealership. The Dreadnaught teenagers are supposedly pants-sagging, porta-potty burning, sport-riot hoodlums. Everyone on the street can hear the four Dread dogs, so that much I can confirm. To hear him tell it, they’re all Juggalos who go out of their way to insult, endanger, and somehow impede Shins “every chance they get.”
Seeing how joyful he was about poisoning this family’s Sunday – I’m sure he imagined them turning on each other – inclined me to take a big step back in my own relationship with Shins, but seeing as he lives 15 feet from my kitchen door, the best I can probably hope for is only to engage him in small doses.
We learn – and teach – this kind of retaliatory thinking so early in life that I’d be willing to bet there’s some little gene of human deviousness none of us can avoid. So for the sake of argument, let’s say lapses in maturity and self-image occasionally tempt us all, eh? Perhaps wrestling with the excuses or reasons behind these temptations can help us limit our actual participation in GWB-related activities. Theoretically, working backwards from an excuse for pettiness should lead us to the core grievance. Then we can deal with it head on instead of resorting to juvenile bullshit that only makes us look contemptibly narrow in the end.
As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s people go, so go the rest of us.
The hope is that some of us GWB-slap each other less.