How to Behave when Life (hopefully, seldom) Does Not Behave as It Should

Oh my dear, there are so, so, many annoying things in Life. American airports. Microsoft Word. Public radio station fund-raisers. Things with no wit. No class. No style. No grace. AND they interrupt your very favorite programs to whine in pretentious, fake jolly and earnest voices. Oh, nothing is worse than being earnest. Never let me catch you at it, my child. But to all these problems there is usually a simple solution  – ignore the problem. The very first peep of a “error message” and you should close your values of attention like stone.

Think of dear Emily. (Dickinson, of course). When the godless airline ticket clerk has just announced for the fifth time that the flight is delayed and she has no idea when the airplane might decide to condescend to show up at the gate, rise (majestically), leave your coat on your chair and go buy yourself another magazine and another juice. Do not so much as look in her repugnant direction. The first syllable of the word ‘fund-raiser’ should have you dashing for your ‘radio-off’ switch and your CD collection. Of course you have already sent in your contribution because if you listen to public radio, you send in a generous contribution (remember diva edict: everything good has a price, monetary or otherwise). You do not fret and you do not fuss.

But some people find other things in life annoying. Dry cleaners who lose your laundry. Bad car repair shops. Medical insurance companies who get your benefits wrong. See the trolls standing at the coffee counter frothing because they asked for no whipped cream and there is the offending billows of creamy white offending the top of their hot chocolate. See the trools in line at the post office, tapping their fingers and grumbling. Home contractors who underestimate the bill by a factor of ten, waiters who screw up your order, doctors who keep you waiting, repair people who arrive three hours late, people who give the wrong directions. From the reaction of some trolls, you’d think everyone but themselves spent their waking hours thinking up schemes to annoy the innocents of the world.

Oh, it was only true. If all this rampaging incompetence was the result of malevolent tendencies, not sheer stupidity. The sad fact is that most of these problems are the result of trolls walking around this grand earth looking of things to get annoyed at, a small percentage is dumb people (let’s call it as we know it to be) and a tiny, tiny fraction is caused by people actually trying to be stupid.

And, of course, my dear, most of this unpleasantness could be instantly, I say instantly, eliminated if people would move out of troll-mode and into diva mode. A diva doesn’t wander out of the house, flinging herself into various projects without thinking through her schedule. Neither does she sit at home and wait for a service person (cable, dishwasher, phone, etc.) without arranging her tactics.

So let’s run through pro-active issues first. First and foremost, if you are out and about, you must have a book, a magazine or a plan. Doctor’s office visits, seeing the dentist, picking up the car, going to the bank, checking in at the airport – whatever it is, grand or small. Lines are a fact of life and thou must ever be prepared. Thou must NEVER complain about the length of a line or if you do not get to do what you intended because of the length of the line. Never. It is never a issue of “the line was too long” – it is always an issue of “I did not correctly gauge how long the wait would be. Silly me. Next time I will do better.” When people near you in a line, pout “Oh the vehicle registration people are so incompetent, they always take forever, last time it took me three hours!”, unfortunately you can’t have the pleasure of saying “Then why didn’t you come adequately prepared for a three hour wait?” And no whining about how you have a busy life, small children who need to be in bed at a certain time, a boss who watches you and the clock like a hawk. Figure it out. Sit down and figure it out. Where do you have to wait? How can you alter your schedule? What is most important?

Second, divas are always aware how little the universe cares for them. Therefore they do not indulge in infantile and baseless accusations that the IRS, the neighbors, the drug store clerks or the “customer service assistants” at her 401(k) plan are ‘out to get her.’ No one is out to get a diva, because she is so congenial and lovely, no one would possibly want to get her, except in the romantic sense.

I remember a troll once asked me if I had ever had my e-mail account ‘blown up,’ i.e. shut done be having received too many flame e-mails. Moi? Moi? Receive flame e-mails? Why would anyone want to send one to me? I’m so charming. Nasty sons-of-bitches certainly exist, but I don’t know any. And have so seldom met any. And even in the far and extreme case of someone actually intending to wish me ill, I would simply ignore them as they have proven themselves to be so mortally stupid as to put themselves outside the limit of human interest. (Exception is for scary, abusive ex-boyfriends and husbands – find a lawyer and a good cop, lock up the bastard and throw away the key. Keep him penned up like the jackal he is.)

All right, but what to do when there is a problem?

  1. don’t be lazy (this means you need to keep track of paperwork).
  2. your key words are “pleasant, persistent pest”
  3. make factual statements, no whining
  4. figure out, set and follow through with your limits

You desire examples? But of course, who would ever let a cherished niece out into the world without a proper foundation? Not I.

At the hair salon: Your hair appointment is for 11:30; you arrive at 11:30 (sugarpie, if you aren’t on time, you can’t complain about someone else being late, no exceptions). At 11:45 – get up and remind the receptionist that you are still waiting (rules 1 and 3). If the person at the counter is rude, decide if you simply can wait to get your hair cut at another time in another salon, if so – leave. No stomping out, just quietly get your things and leave. If you have to get your hair cut, don’t snipe back. Go sit down, lamenting the sad fact that the counterperson is a rude cur (rules 3 & 4). If the person is pleasant, then go sit down and wait another ten minutes or so, then go up again (rules 1 and 2). State how long you have been waiting (rule 3) and if you don’t see a resolution coming, leave (rule 4).

You call the bank after receiving four bounced checks and found out that the bank has lost your mail in deposit. Deep breath. Before you say or do anything, remind yourself that you will never receive a fair settlement from the filthy, pallid beasts. You’ll have to spend hours sorting out the mess created by the bank’s singular incompetence and you’ll get nothing for it. Clear? Right, now. Start fixing the problem, remembering to write down who you spoke to and when you spoke to them. Documentation is key (rule 1). As is keeping your temper at all times.

There are two main reasons this excellent system breaks down:

1) Trolls piggy-back other grievances onto the matter at hand – so it’s not an issue of one particular doctor being 15 minutes late, but ALL the time the troll has wasted in ALL the doctor’s offices she has ever been in and suddenly we need a grand jury, summary justice and an execution at dawn

2) Trolls demand compensation that is out-of-bounds. The flight (an American airline as likely as not) leaves late, the mean stewardesses bangs your leg with the food cart which is full of food you can’t affrod to buy, the plane arrives late and you can’t find your luggage. Your typical troll-face demands a full refund, the value of her luggage, 10 years penal servitude for the entire crew and the head of the airline’s owner on a plate. Ah, you laugh now, but wait until the plane you are on strands you on the tarmac for three hours. And the bathrooms stop working. And there’s no food. And all 16 of the babies have croup. Only a true diva can handle that kind of pressure without breaking.

Face this fact – when something bad happens to you, when a testosterone-maddened teenager wrecks your car, the dry cleaners shrink your best wool coat, your neighbor’s dog digs up your prize roses, the waiter forgets you ordered decaf and you don’t realize it until you lying awake, staring at the ceiling at 3 am, you will never get proper satisfaction. You will never have suitable restitution. Never. Now why the long face? Whence this pouty visage and drooping lower lip? This is an imperfect world and we must be strong about it. If this was a perfect world, we would know it because brown rice would be eliminated and there would be many men would look like Denzel Washington.

Let it go. Let go the notion that anyone can ever make amends for the wrong they do. Even if they want to (which they should want to). A diva does not expect that she will ever be suitably redressed for the pain other people’s incompetence causes her. She also knows that she has, in her life, caused (intentionally and unintentionally) harm upon other people for which she can never make proper restitution. This is what is called being mature.

Few things are as completely and utterly abhorrent as one of those pieces of walking pond scum who try to cheat insurance companies by over-exaggerating claims or making false claims. Yes, yes, my child, insurance companies are wretched dens of iniquity run by soulless twits, everyone knows that, but a diva never mentions this, or would think it within the limits of respectable behavior to engage in any transaction with such a company unless absolutely necessary and absolutely lawful. She would never make false claims. She would never exaggerate the cost of something someone else ruined, be it a shirt, a rug, a car, a piece of jewelry or a window. A diva would never exaggerate the time she wasted due to another person’s incompetence.

In other words, a diva tries very hard not to add to the sum total of greed, mendacity, pain, anger or filth in the world. Never. And she tries very hard not to mention it when others are doing such reprehensible actions, but she is quite good at altering the proper authorities when necessary.

What? Oh must we? Well, alright, we will discuss lawyers. One must think of lawyers as a plumber. They are (occasionally) better dressed and they have (usually) have worse manners but they are essential plumbers. They unstick unpleasant situations. You pay lawyers and lawyers will attempt to remove obstacles that are blocking your way to happiness, be they husbands, wives, insurance payments, terminations of employment or unfortunates removal of personal belongs from your person or dwelling. They are not friends, one does not hire ones friends; they can procure some remuneration for your loss or sufferings. They will hopefully get back what you have lost, or get rid of that which you want removed, and perhaps a little gesture to make up for the hours you spent fussing over the issue. That’s all. Not to say that you should not agitate to get every cent you deserve, but don’t expect to get enough money to ‘make up for it.’

Diva’s Inflexible Code of Complaint:

  • You may not whine in public.
  • You may not whine to strangers.
  • You are allowed to whine about a problem to your friends THREE times before you embark on a SERIOUS program to either change the situation or get over the issue.

The ‘rule of three’ is the benchmark of the Diva Creed. If the unspeakable troll at work has stolen your lunch from the fridge three times, it is your fault. He has proven twice that he is capable of such behavior; you chose to ignore the warnings given you.

Dearest friend shows up an hour late for brunch for the third time – your fault, ma chere. You knew she had it in her to be so rude. A diva would not scold, look at her watch pointedly, etc. A diva would either be on her third mimosa reading British Vogue, or she would have left the restaurant.

People upset you if you let them upset them. So don’t let them.