I was calling a worker bee at government agency when I got this gem of a voicemail message, “I’m not available to take your call at this time, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I will call you back at my earliest convenience.”
I hung up the phone without saying a word. Voicemail messages like these really irk me. I know, I know, “my earliest convenience” is technically correct – most of us return calls when it’s convenient for us – but it’s impolite. Such messages also reveal something about the person who recorded them. Whether the motivation is conscious or unconscious, making sure I know that their time is more important than mine displays a lack of social and emotional intelligence.
Some peoples’ time is indeed more important than mine. That’s just a fact of life. My boss is a busy man who runs a city and, in the grand scheme of things, is more important than me so I usually make an appointment to see him. When I go to my cardiologist, wait times of two or more hours are common in his waiting room. That’s because his skills are in demand and mine are not. I don’t have a problem with that. Besides, if you’re a low priority in the heart doctor’s office, that’s a good thing.
But if my boss needs to break an appointment to tend to more pressing matters, he usually sends an email apologizing. My cardiologist is the same way, making jokes about how crazy his office is, using humor to signal he appreciates my patience. Both men know they’re in power positions but don’t feel a need to flaunt it. That kind of humility demonstrates a high emotional IQ – a prerequisite for a good leader. Worker bee’s message? It tells me he’s asserting a level of importance or power he only imagines possessing. It reeks of insecurity. If you say, “at my earliest convenience” on your voicemail – cut it out. It makes you look a dope.
Leaning back in my office chair I thought of a TV show called The Leftovers. The premise of the show is that 140 million people, two percent of the global population, had suddenly disappeared – leaving those left behind to figure out what happened. Alien abduction? Some quantum physics experiment gone haywire? Of course, some people thought it was The Rapture, that unfortunate piece of theological ridiculousness so many people buy into these days. God’s going to teleport a select, and presumably religiously pure, group of people into another dimension while leaving the rest of us scratching our heads while hellfire consumes us? I studied Scripture and I don’t remember that anywhere in the Bible. That shit’s just fear mongering by preachers using the anxiety of being “left behind” to separate people from their money. Me? I’m still waiting for Planet Nibiru to slam into the Earth. Wasn’t that supposed to happen last week? And I was hoping my Visa debt would get wiped out.
But then I wondered if God is also pissed off at people who say, “at my earliest convenience.” Maybe that explains what happened on The Leftovers – He just went Old Testament and made all those telephonically challenged people disappear in a celestial paroxysm of frustration. Let’s face it, most people talk to God when it’s convenient for them. So, maybe the Rapture won’t be a culling of the religious herd, just God getting rid of people who annoy him. Imagine all those people floating in the air, thinking they’re so good and salivating at the thought of eternal bliss, only to find out that they’ve royally peeved The Almighty. That would be a laugh riot.
Hopefully God will also beam up all the other idiots who annoy me – people who fraudulently use handicap decals to score good parking spots, hypocritical politicians, entitled restaurant customers, meatheads who slam their weights at the gym, clueless motorists, TV pundits, building contractors, OJ, airline passengers who insists on stuffing their oversized luggage into the overhead compartment, people texting as they cross the street, anyone who’s ever appeared in Housewives of New Jersey, prosperity gospel hucksters, clowns, elevator music producers, the editorial board of US Magazine, Facebook mavens, old people who don’t think they should pay taxes, secessionists, sedevacantists, false flag waving conspiracy theorists, baristas who tell me “It’s called Venti” when I ask for a medium coffee, most commenters on the NY Times website, and the entire Kardashian clan. Yes. My own private Rapture.
Then again, I know there are people out there who find me annoying. Moi? Unbelievable but true. (And you can find most of them in the comment section of this blog.) Perhaps somebody out there is also making a list of “despicables” for his own personal Rapture and I’m on it. I definitley would not find getting swept up in God’s shitty people removal program a laugh riot. Reminds me of something an old theologian once wrote – hell is populated with people we don’t like. Probably a good thing that human beings don’t have divine powers – we’d end up settling scores like those old gods on Mount Olympus.
As I closed my office for the day, I thought of something Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “If you don’t feel harmed, you haven’t been.” That was the old Stoic’s way of saying people can’t make you feel or do anything if you don’t let them. Though I often think that attitude requires an almost inhuman detachment from the reality of emotional life, old Marcus was probably right. I shouldn’t be dreaming of God magically removing exasperating people from my life, instead I should remember something else that Aurelius wrote, “What stands in the way becomes the way.” There will always be difficult people and they’ll only bother you as much as you let them. But I’m almost certain no one ever told that old Roman Emperor, “I’ll get back to you at my earliest convenience” either.
And Marcus never had to put up with OJ.