A recent series of back-and-forth emails with someone I know and who I offended by challenging them quite "strenuously" about their assertions, brought home to me once again how different is the workaday world I inhabit. Two examples of what it is like to swim in a shark tank and grow accustomed to the sound of gnashing incisors:
1. I'm holding forth in a partners meeting on my position on a business matter about which I feel strongly, when the firm's managing partner interjects helpfully, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." I respond without missing a beat, "You're a man in love with the sound of his own voice and you expect us to believe that that was the dumbest thing you ever heard? Impossible." One of the other partners lets out a loud "ohhhhhhhhhh" in the manner of someone who had just witnessed a hole in one at The Masters, everyone laughs, and, no feelings being hurt, we proceed to dissect our differences.
2. In another partners' meeting, this one of a national law firm two decades earlier, I am listening while "Bill," the managing partner of the Denver office, in which I am also a partner, explains our reasoning for opening a satellite office in Dallas. A pompous partner in the international law section of the firm's D.C. Office sniffs, "Tell me, Bill: can one actually walk in off the street in Dallas and speak with an actual lawyer?" He knows the office is only staffed by attorneys visiting from Denver, and he is trying to squash the satellite office concept as being beneath the grandeur of such a prestigious firm. I respond, "We don't get much walk in business in the financial institutions practice area." There is much laughter, the gas bag attempts to recover by not looking at me and drawling in his best East Coast private prep school accent "Thank you, Bill", as if I had spoken out of turn. A partner sitting next to me, a litigator who had recently joined the firm from the US Justice Department, turned to me grinning and said "A three-pointer. Nothing but net."
I've also been on the receiving end of other people's bon mots, but why would I tell anyone those? It's my blog, and I'm going to slant every post my way. Deal with it!
I'm not saying this is the way human beings ought to interact with one another, but I am saying this is my world. After 38 years in it, I tend to be less attuned than I should be toward those with more delicate sensitivities, who take a straight forward challenge to their positions not as an occasion to fire back in their defense or to give as good as they get, but to collapse in a heap of quivering hurt feelings and aggrieved sensibilities.
I'm not intentionally being a jerk. I've just lost my way. If you can't bear up under the snark, you are right to avoid me.