Thursday, April 29, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

I admit I do love to collect old adages, whether or not I believe in their truthiness.  I am quite sure I was still in middle school when I saw the flawed premise in "it is always in the last place you look".  & as for "if it's not one thing, it's another" well, duh.

There are a few I do come close to believing though.   "A penny saved is a penny earned" is still mostly solid, so long as you do not consider a penny in the stock market to be a penny saved, but shocking number of people DO think of the market as a big piggy bank.  & while it is not true that "you cannot cheat an honest man", it is a helluva a lot easier to cheat a dishonest one.

Which brings me to a long time favorite:  "Be careful what you wish for (because you just might get it)".   I am genetically related to a person who wished long & loud & hard that his children would just all go away.  & none of us have spoken to him for years; some of us are closing in on the end of the third decade of not speaking to him.  I have no idea how this worked out for him, but I for one am very happy with his wish fulfillment.

"Be careful what you wish for"  is also good business-planning advice.  I remember when it was possible to be in another room, far away from the television & not be able to tell from the jump in volume when the program had cut to commercial.  People who remember him fondly mostly remember Ronald Reagan for his pro-humanitarian activities: negotiating with Iranian hostage-takers, trading arms for drugs in Latin America, & busting the air traffic controllers union right here at home.  You could also remember him as the guy who removed any volume regulation from the segue between programs & their sponsors.  I am sure the advertisers thought this was all their wishes rolled into one --- until it turned out the blast was so obnoxious that people who had never used a remote control before learned how to work that mute button.  Nowadays, even the technologically delayed (hi Mom) routinely record their programs & speed through those commercials like they were never there.

There are other collective wishes that backfired big-time.  One of my favorites is the increase in anal sex among teenage girls who identify themselves as christian & want to  stay "technical virgins" until marriage.  Bill Maher calls this thinking outside the box.  I admit that christians often have me flummoxed but I think I am safe in saying that they never expected to have to include anal penetration on list of what exactly constitutes sex with their abstinence directive.  As one Catholic friend expressed it " I just cannot picture Father standing up at CCD & saying " 'this mean up-ay the utt-bay' although I would pay to see it ".  She was speaking in a different context, but I think it still holds.

Another favorite that really needs a footnote is "the squeaky wheel gets the grease".  I once worked with a programmer who waited until a project was at a particularly delicate stage (timewise, skillwise) & then started tossing out new demands.  I admit I was very aggravated to have to give in (which I did, completely without grace) & he made a big show of telling the entire staff meeting that it was the squeaky wheel etc.  When things flattened out a bit & I had some breathing space, I made a big show of introducing him to the new wheel.  He somehow never saw the next step in the squeaky wheel gets the grease ... until the driver is in a position to deal with the squeaky wheel, permanently.  If that old wheel wanted back on the wagon, well, he would have to work long & hard (& cheap) to convince me he is worth replacing a perfectly good, brand new wheel that is not squeaking.  I think that metaphor has just completely run its course.

Of course I like to keep my eyes open/ears up for the next "be careful what you wish for" moment.  I am seeing it in the Tea Party movement: we want to make a lot of noise & garner some attention to our causes which are...looking more & more like just a list of complaints without much in the way of suggestions, frankly.  They got the publicity wish & now experiencing the maybe we should have thought this thru some more follow-up.   I also see the wish part in parents first "I cannot wait until this baby is OUT OF ME & I don't have to carry this weight around" (every new mom I know has said this at least once).  As for the dads:  "I hope he starts walking soon" or "she'll be so much more interesting when she can talk".  

I think another big one is right around the corner though.  I know a lot of people who usually tread the straight & middle have shrugged their shoulders over Arizona's decision to further marginalize their undocumented workers (setting aside the anxiety they are causing people who might look undocumented but have every right to be here).  Not to take a giant leap over human right violations, etc., I wonder what Joe Q. Moderate is going to do when there is a fraction of who there used to be to harvest & processing his food.  & that fraction expects to be paid minimum wage, by the hour, not pennies for piecework.  I am quite certain, the guy who sneaks across the border to live in horrible conditions just to send money back to his family a few months a year is a much less expensive & much more reliable worker than the guy who will likely be replacing him.  Because there is one demographic for whom this law is likely to be very very good:  parolees.

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