Monday, July 4, 2022

What Goes on in My Head, Part Whatever

Yesterday I passed a milestone of sorts.

Oh, it's not that I had my birthday --that was a bit ago-- or that I passed my six month mark since my brush with the hereafter* --again, that was a while ago-- but that I finally got down to only one of these left in my possession:

The names have been changed
to protect the innocent.

As you may have surmised, my wife went to Kinko's --they're called FedEx Office now-- and had a lot of these printed out. She conspired with one of my co-workers to chop these up into small cards and distribute them at my work** for... Well, it's pretty obvious, right?

My wife discovered that instead of printing up, say, 25 or 50, she could only get these printed in stacks of 500. So she bit the bullet, had a stack of 500 printed up, and then gave about 30 or so to my coworker, who cut them up and distributed them to the people on our development team as well as people I knew on other teams. All told, she distributed about 100 or more cards to people.

I, of course, was kept in the dark about all of this, and all I knew was that my parents were going to be over while we celebrated my birthday. My wife, however, had briefed my parents and that they should expect that a lot of people would be calling in to wish me a happy birthday.


Well, the big day arrived, and my parents came over, and I started grilling as usual.***

About an hour later, I got a call from a coworker and friend --whom I'd gone up with to the Dayton Hamvention the day before-- and he mentioned that he might have left his keys in my car. Sure enough, they were there, and he wished me a happy birthday.

"Oh, thanks," I replied, and told him I'd give him his keys tomorrow at work, which was fine with him.

A half an hour later, I got another call from another friend and co-worker, wishing me a happy birthday, and he added "I guess the phone's been ringing off the hook, huh?"

"Uh, no," I replied. "Just you and Rob, and he'd left his keys in my car by accident."

"Oh," my friend said in response, and he quickly finished the call.

By then, my wife had been looking kind of crestfallen but had perked up at the second call. I suspected she'd done something, but I wasn't going to say anything just yet.

But after another hour or two, including dinner, and no phone calls, she finally confessed what she'd hoped to do, and how it became instead a huge disaster. And this happened in front of my parents no less, who'd hoped to see this outpouring of affection for me from my coworkers.

I can't figure out to this day what was worse: that it hurt my wife who'd come up with this grand plan, or that I found out just what my coworkers thought of me the hard way.

And there were all of these fucking sheets still around, over 400 of them.

Given that they had my name and phone number --and my birthday-- on them, I'd have to shred them all if I wanted to be secure about it. That wasn't exactly going to be a fun afternoon, being reminded for an hour or two how shitty my 30th birthday turned out to be.

I decided to shove them into our desk at home and deal with it later.

Fast forward a decade and a move into our current house later, I stumbled on those cards while hunting for some scratch paper to use. "Well," I decided, "I might as well go ahead and use them for scratch paper and shred them when I'm done."

So for the past 13 years or so I've been steadily going through these as scratch paper. It was from a time --and a company-- I wished to forget, and I've long since put that time in the rear view mirror. But the thing is, you never quite forget something so humiliating like that, and the constant stream of these sheets has been a reminder for me to never do this to someone else. 


The thing is, it still hurts after all these years, because it wasn't the first time this sort of thing happened.

Back in college, my friends and I had agreed to put together a series of dinners for each other as a fun thing to do. Several of my friends lived in the Dayton and Cincinnati area, so it was relatively easy to set these up. Back then, I didn't have a car on campus, so I was reliant upon those who did to get to these dinners, but it never seemed a problem. 

However, on an upcoming dinner at a friends' house I didn't have a ride to get there, and I asked several of my friends if there was a dinner that we'd be going to, and they all kind of stayed mum on the subject, so I let it drop. 

I found out later from my friend who hosted the dinner what had happened.

They all arrived --and we're talking something about 6-10 people-- and the host looked around and asked "Where's Red?"

"Oh no," they exclaimed. "We didn't think he was invited."

"Of course he was invited! We were all invited to each other's houses!"

Did they go back and get me? Nope. They ate the dinner, and the one person from the group who said "Hey, we should check to make sure Red was invited before we leave" kept needling everybody else who was there. 

Some hours later, they all showed up at the door to my dorm room, but I kind of politely told them to get lost. And I rather quickly and efficiently began putting some distance between myself and them.


When the kids would have a shitty time of it in middle school, I knew exactly where they were coming from. I mean, I've lived that before.

And the memories of these sort of humiliations has also influenced my MMO playing, where I want to help out people who feel alone or ostracized from the group. I was reminded of that the other day, when one of my guildies found out that I was not planning on moving to Atiesh and she was not a happy camper. She whispered to me on Discord that I was the first person to reach out and befriend her in the guild (and raid), and she'll always be appreciative of that.

I just wish I could explain that I have these trust issues, and that no matter how hard I try I'll likely continue to have them for the rest of my life. It doesn't matter how good of a time I had in a video game, or playing board games, or in a face to face RPG session, some time later the whispers begin again in my head: you're no good, nobody likes you, and they're all leaving you behind to do things without you because you're not good enough. They all know you're a lousy player or a lousy person, so why try? You should go hide and do something else.

The best I can do is beat those whispers back for a little while, and I hope that's enough.

Maybe shredding that last sheet will help.


*I finally looked up the data write-ups found from my hospital stay, courtesy of an online application that the hospital and health network uses, and I discovered that I was in much worse condition than the nurses and doctors let on. They probably did that so I wouldn't freak out or anything, but it was a very sobering read.

**This was back when I worked as a QA Software Engineer.

***Yes, grilling during the summer is pretty much a thing for me.

EtA: Corrected a grammar error.


  1. Oh Red, those stories sound so awkward and painful... though I've got to admit, if I had been one of your co-workers in that situation, I probably wouldn't have called either, because I rarely call people for their birthdays and on a Sunday no less, when people are likely to think of anything but work-related things...

    Either way it always sucks when you expect people to care more than they actually do. I can see why those sorts of events left you hurting.

    1. If I were a new employee I'd likely have agreed with you, but I'd been working there for three years at this point and was pretty well known on the team. We'd even had several offsite fun activities at this point, so we'd gotten to know each other by then.

      But yeah, events like this have messed with my head, and I've frequently found it much easier to retreat and hide rather than engage with people because of it. If you're an extrovert, I think that you might have an easier time of overcoming these events, but if you have a natural tendency toward introversion or shyness you can learn all the wrong lessons from these things.

  2. You’re really working a lot of stuff out for yourself these days. Keep digging till you find a place where you see where you want your place in things to be. Nobody knows you like you, except for your most excellent wife, who has your back and your number. Big hugs, Atherne.

    1. Thanks, Atherne.

      It's never easy posting these things, but there are times when I feel like I have to get them out so that people understand where I'm coming from. And if it helps someone else deal with whatever they're going through, then I'll feel that these confessions (as they are) were not in vain.

  3. I so know what you mean. I'm a bit (hahaha) older than you and I used to feel the same. I finally realized one day they are the ones with a problem not me. So I'm a loner too. I got used to it. Not sure if that's good or bad.

    1. True. You and me are two peas in a pod, Ancient.