I’m right…and you’re wrong!

Fazoli’s has pretty decent food for an Italian Fast Food joint. I’ve always thought that the 10 minute wait in the drive-thru kinda contradicted the idea of “fast”…but all in all, I continue to offer my patronage to the place. It’s the site of today’s topic.

fazolis1

I pulled up to the window and received my food…and was curious as to why one soft drink was smaller than the other. “I thought I ordered two extra-large drinks,” I commented. What followed could be described simply as a one-way, minute-long, detailed commentary of exactly what I ordered, and why in the world I would even question such a thing, because obviously the drive-thru clerk is doing their job correctly and I’m not doing my job of paying attention.

I didn’t really answer back. I was flabbergasted. (Besides, I think they wanted me to answer back, and I wasn’t going there.) I received my food and drinks and drove away, too afraid to ask for the bread sticks they forgot.

What’s up with people lately? Cities, schools, small business and the like are being frosted with a condescending glaze of “right-fighters.” (An endearing term I respectfully steal from Dr. Phil.) Everyone is right…and don’t you dare confront them, lest you feel the lash of their scornful gaze and acidic rebuttals.

It’s not just adults in the workplace at 4pm on Friday at Fazoli’s…..named Jeff. More so, I fear we’re raising a society of right-fighters who are encouraged to stand firm. It borrows from the old adage of “if someone punches you on the playground…you punch back. That’s my boy!” These concepts, while strong-willed and I suppose in that regard, positive…are fueling an “age of entitlement” that will make everyone RIGHT…and everyone else WRONG, spinning us around in a never-ending rabbit season/duck season argument.

wabbit-season

Conversation…and dare I say, confrontation is like a dance. It takes two to tango, whether your partner wants to dance or not! You cannot engage in an exchange if you’re too busy being right!

As a drama teacher, I’d say this is one of my biggest challenges when working with my students. Entitlement issues are always present. (On the onset of auditions…as they mature from freshmen to seniors and climb the ladder of ensemble member to leading role…even in the most arrogant student and quirkiest wallflower I teach.) They are challenged with the demands of the stage and what it takes out-audition others in heated competition for the opportunity to do what they love onstage.

They are also challenged with living in a fish bowl onstage…and off. In school they walk the halls as the Cat in the Hat, Blanche or Stella, Sweeney Todd and Sandy Dumbrowski. You need tough skin to change into P.E. clothes every other day elbow to elbow with your peers, being referred to as the Magical Mr. Mistofolees. It’s a burden. To counteract that…they wind up protecting themselves with confidence, that sometimes overflows into brazen arrogance and conceit. These wind up being entitlement issues and they present themselves the very first time a prop is taking from the drama classroom knowing that “Mr. Ball won’t mind.” They’re not being malicious…they are just overly confident. This is dangerous ground. That same student will display that same confidence when ensuring a customer at their first job, that they ordered it wrong…and what they’re receiving is 100% correct.

So, what’s the solution? That’s a tough one. As I look at my graying parents and remember my childhood punishments of yesteryear…I recall a strict environment where school work came first and being polite or not was NOT my decision to make. I recall soap in my mouth…canceled vacations…and my father literally “pulling the car over.” I would be remiss to suggest giving someone “the belt” but I don’t think that’s the solution.

We now have a generation of adults, my age, who are raising children that are the product of a “wanna be a better parent” rebound. Parents don’t realize that they can certainly be their son or daughter’s friend…but they have to be their parent first.

I had a student absent from class this week…they were on their fifth cruise this year with their parents. Fifth. Another, a junior, has been home all week, alone. His parents away on business. I was in Marshall’s the other day in the sock aisle and could not believe how a 12 year old was talking to her mother. I actually heard the b-word. I felt embarrassed for the mom, angered at the child…and in totally disbelief that the mostly one-way conversation lasted as long as it did. Suddenly formal, black dress socks weren’t that important to me anymore.

My parents never spanked me as a child. My dad did, however, tell me of this paddle he made out of particle board that he hung in the basement closet. He indicated how large it was, and he said he painted it green. Pretty much a horror story for a 6 year old.

He said that he hoped he would never have to use it. Thankfully, he never had to. Around the age of 17 years old, in a non-related, high-spirited conversation, I asked my father if I could see this paddle. He told me it never existed. I couldn’t believe it. It never crossed my mind that it was made up. While this may be the reason for my sometimes obsessive/compulsive behavior and midnight paranoia about locking the door downstairs… I’m sure of it……it was whole fully effect in hindsight.

My parents had a level of expectation for every avenue of my growing up, and not meeting that expectation was not an option. Did I fall short? All the time. I was a kid…they do that. But, that standard, that house-wide understanding that we were to be at the dinner table at 6pm for dinner (for instance)….that starchness that forced it’s way into my personal teen routine…that’s what is needed today.

Parents today are not evil. They’re not stupid. They’re not careless. They are just…in their minds….right. Who’s job is it to evaluate the individual family’s parenting skills? Where’s that rubric? As a teacher, you can give As and Bs…you can re-do a seating chart…issue a detention. You can even sit down and “have a talk” with a student. But, in the end, they go home to a set of parents who are less concerned about “dealing with the issue with their children,” and more concerned about “skirting the blame.”

Another incident occurred when a student in my school was caught drawing graffiti on the bathroom walls with a Sharpie and given a Saturday detention. The parents called a meeting with the administration to explain how it was the teacher’s fault for letting the kid out of class.

It comes down to ownership. If you’re working in a drive-thru….why are you there? Ultimately to offer service to the paying patron, right? You dishing out pasta for $7.00 an hour. You’re not selling Cadillacs! Is the argument, or rather, forced “right-fighting” worth it? What do you gain? Entitlement?

If you’re a student auditioning for a play, and you don’t get cast…do you issue formal complaints regarding the cast list and the director’s choice? (Trying hard to find loopholes in the process.) Or, do you figure it’s part of a bigger plan and then go back to evaluate your audition offering and see where you need improvement. One is a little bit more pride-swallowing and labor intensive. (Isn’t that part of the actor’s job description?)

As a parent, would you rather support your student’s efforts in working hard to succeed…and if they fail, be part of the up-hill climb as their biggest support in the hopes that they will turn things around and make it o the top? Or, would you rather send a scathing email…leave an insinuative voice mail….or assume the teacher is out to get your child? I assure you that one path is easier to do than another…and I assure you…if teachers didn’t want your child to succeed, then they would have gone into real estate.

The bottom line is, right-fighting doesn’t work. You’re not dealing with the root of any issue. Instead your glazing it over with a sugar-coating that nullifies any positive effort on anyone’s part.

I call it sweeping it under the rug. Some people refer to that as “dodging.” Today I called it, “get out quick before the angry Fazoli’s man eats your face.”

Take the high road next time. Talk it out and work toward a positive solution. Be a part of a solution to find a resolve.  Succumb to the fact that you just might be wrong.

Who needs an extra large soda and carb-filled bread sticks anyways?

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5 Responses to “I’m right…and you’re wrong!”

  1. David Steiner Says:

    GREAT blogg my friend – my wife and I often talk about this very subject and how it is not only breaking down our current society but setting a very scary precedent for the future…
    My college improv proffessor (the most important class I EVER took BTW – and not just in regards to acting) told us that we all walk around with a “front” – a shell – that keeps the outside world OUT. A sheild that allows us to be “cool” on the outside – feel accepted – and keep our inner most personal feelings, thoughts, reactions to ourselves so as not to portray what may not be “acceptable”, “cool”. We were ALL “acting” already… everyday. And it was actually an Actors job to STOP the “acting”, to peel apart that shell layer by layer in order ot realize your full potential as a performer. I think of the the absolute greats, like Daniel Day Lewis or Sean Penn – actors that completely become their characters entirely…. and I thnk of the courage it takes to completely strip themselves away… I would eventually never be able to break my shell and was left to only admire those who could.
    I think perhaps those “shells” have gotten even thicker today – for so many reasons we could go on and on about, but it’s created the very issue you blogg about – millions of people out there doing their best “acting” jobs – only I’m not too crazy about the characters! : )

  2. Whew! I’m only guessing that when you completed this recent blog, you felt somewhat better, right?

    Just for your information, and I think you need to know this, Eric: that missing paddle you spoke of — it really did exist, contrary to what your father told you at the age of 17. That paddle resided in my Pastor’s Study at 316 Walnut Street, Aurelia, Iowa. That pastor was also known by another name – Daddy. Yes, I am just enough older than you that spanking was not only allowed, the mandate for use somehow came directly out of the Bible, I think. Something about “spare the rod…” The number of whacks are still fresh in my mind, so I must have been really WICKED! Ha – ask my younger brother Dan, who is a pastor in Portland, Oregon, and he’ll give you a list a mile long of the times that Daddy didn’t even know about something I did. Actually, I think Dan LIES!!!

    But, I digress – – I have a very soft heart and it hurts to know that there are so many times in your teaching days that you get the “junk” that you shared on this blog, thrown back in your face from students, parents, etc. I only got to observe you for 2 years, but, in that short time it baffles me how anyone cannot see the love and concern that you have for each student put before you. Hopefully, someday they will remember how much you “went to bat” for them and will either return to thank you personally, or maybe just drop a line on your blog. Sometimes it takes lots of years to come to our senses and own up to our own foibles.

    In the meantime, Eric, remember that you’re a servant in Christ’s Ministry and when you were commissioned to that position, you weren’t told that the life would be easy. Paul didn’t find it very easy either and the life of Christ, our Ultimate Hero in all of this, was truly uncomfortable, to say the least. But, thanks be to God forever for not saying, “It is just not worth it; I’m not going to do this anymore.” Instead, we hear the words, “It Is Finished!!!”

    Hang in there (really weak saying, right?); it really is worth it eternally.

    In Christian love,

    Rhoda Baldwin

  3. Kevin Ball Says:

    Hey…. wait a minute…. I never saw the green paddle either! How parents are tricky!!!!

    This is good! And true. I’m just thankful that I, seriously, do happen to be right all the time. Ok…..so maybe I should reread this.

  4. This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!

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