Thursday, July 17, 2014

Listen to the Monkey

I have always had a lot of respect for Mrs. Goober, because she is smart, hard-working, and willing to take on uncomfortable tasks and see them through to completion, whether she enjoys it or not.

She is competent and smart, and has a level head on her shoulders, which is why I was so shocked last night when she told me that she had done something stupid, and had bought an item from a door-to-door salesman that had come calling, with the promise that after he cashed her check that he would deliver the merchandise, pinky swear.  As she was telling me this, I Googled the name of the “company” and the first seven hits, before the company’s own website, were scam reports.

She told me that she had bought a volume of books for our daughter.  Selling things to people for their kids is a con-man’s #1 tool.  You aren’t saying no to a salesman; you’re saying no to your own child!

She told me that he told her that he was in a competition with other salesmen to win some prize, and that he was a disadvantaged youth trying to make his way in the world. Again, a manipulative sales tactic, rather than the truth. 

This is not something that I thought she would ever do, and it was so out of character for her that I really had trouble with wrapping my mind around it.  Then, I found out that, despite the fact that he made her uncomfortable, she had invited him into the house, because it was really hot out and she felt bad making him stand on the front stoop.  The guy is a convicted felon.  In my house, with my wife and daughter.  Alone.  

Up to that point, I was pretty cool about the whole thing, but as soon as she told me that she had allowed a man into our home who she didn’t know, while she was home alone with our three year old daughter,and who was making her uncomfortable, I got a little upset with her.

Chris Hernandez did a great write-up about this phenomenon afew months back.  Essentially, what he wrote about was the tendency for the civilized to worry so much about being rude, that they put themselves in compromised positions instead of doing the logical thing and taking care of themselves.  

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about my last “Knockout Game” post.  My friend made a statement that I think many people are saying in private: she’s worried about becoming a potential KO Game victim, but is also afraid that she’ll seem racist if she encounters a group of “thug” looking black teenagers and tries to avoid them....
...Many different actions can be pre-assault indicators. Generally speaking, these indicators seem harmless when viewed outside of the overall situation. The trick is to recognize them in context.
For example, if someone puts on a hood, that means nothing by itself. Simply looking around at their surroundings means nothing either. And if they cross a street, so what? But let’s say you’re walking down a sidewalk toward your car, late on a clear night after businesses have closed, and see a young man walking toward you on the other side of the street. The man looks around (possibly checking for witnesses or people who would interfere), puts on a hood (possibly trying to make himself harder to identify), and crosses the street toward you (the businesses are all closed; he’s not going toward them, he’s possibly directly targeting you).
Now you have a choice. Should you take evasive action, maybe change direction or head toward the nearest well-lit area? Should you maybe pull a small flashlight and shine it at him if he gets close? Should you put your hand on your concealed pistol, ready to draw and fire if he makes a threatening move?
Or, if the man is a minority, should you ignore his actions and blindly keep walking, because you’d rather risk death than seem racist?

Substitute the word "racist" for "rude" and Hernandez ten-rings my point with his typical mastery over the written word.  Seriously, that guy can write!

But people understand the world from their own perspective and their own bubble, and forget sometimes that not everyone sees the world the way they see it.  Not being predators with poor impulse control, themselves, they assume that everyone else is pretty much the same, and so even when a person is making them uncomfortable, they ignore their instincts and continue to be polite.  Don’t want to be a bitch, right?  Or racist?  I’m sure those black men walking down the sidewalk in such a way as to force me into a pinch point don’t actually mean me any harm, right?  And if I turned around and walked away quickly, I’d look like a jackass, right?  Not just a jackass – a RACIST jackass! 

But at least you’ll be a racist jackass with all of your teeth, your wallet, and who isn't in the hospital beaten into a coma, right? 

What we fail to understand is that we are equipped with a fully functioning early warning system about these things.  Coupled with situational awareness, this system works almost 100% of the time, because there was a time when human beings weren’t at the top of the food chain.  We were a prey species for a lot longer than we have been the apex predator, and one of the remnants of that is the early warning system that every one of us has in our brains, left over from our “tasty upright monkey” days.  That little monkey that’s screaming in the back of your head “THIS ISN’T RIGHT!  I’M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THIS! I NEED TO LEAVE, NOW!” is not there to hear itself talk.  Your subconscious is aware, even if you aren’t, of things that aren’t right in a situation, and YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO IT. 

What I told Mrs. Goober, I hope has stuck with her, so that she will not ever do something that stupid again.  But I think the biggest revelation that I’ve taken from this is that these sorts of things happen to people that you wouldn’t expect them to.  I always sort of figured these sorts of things happened to stupid people.  Not my wife, who is smart and worldly and even a little jaded about trusting people.  I told her last night, in the starkest words that I could, how I really felt about the situation. 

“I am disappointed in you.  You’re not a dupe!  You’re not a mark!  You’re smarter than this honey!  What the hell were you thinking?  How worried would you have been about being rude while he was violently raping you in front of our daughter?  Or when you both end up dead in a ditch somewhere, because you didn’t want to say “no thank you!” and shut the door?  Or do the smart thing and just ignore the door altogether?”

I’ve never had to make rules before, but last night, I made a new rule.  No one in my home is allowed to answer the door for a stranger if I’m not there.  Mrs. Goober is okay with that.  She just texted me a few minutes ago and told me that she feels completely stupid and helpless right now, and has a headache from beating her head against the wall all day. 

Don’t be stupid, folks.  Don’t beat your head against the wall for days because you managed to survive with an in-tact bank account because of luck, and nothing else.  Listen to the monkey. 

Oh, we canceled the check, by the way.  


  1. Canceling the check is The Right Thing.

    FYI, I've done well in my life financially, but I did turn down a job offer from Cisco in 1990. So the Mrs. shouldn't feel bad. There's no way that what she did is 1% of what I gave up ...


    1. Wow. That's almost weapons-grade regret, right there...

      Oh well. Maybe you'd have taken that job and started a chain of events that got you hit by a car the next day. You never know. Maybe things turned out WAY better than they would have if you said yes.

      Besides, whaturyegonnadoboutitnow? Besides waste hours of your life worrying about it?

      Like I am right now? I didn't sleep a wink last night thinking about that damn felon in my house with my family.

      I had those stressful, discontented dreams you get when you actually DO manage to slip off into sleep when you're distressed. I was back at my old job, working under my old sociopathic boss, but my new boss, the one I respect so much, was there, too, and he'd fallen under the thrall of my old sociopathic boss and ended up firing me.


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