Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Drained

So I gave blood last night, as part of an annual drive in memory of a West Sider who died very young and very abruptly. I went out with him once, so I thought that this year, the least I could do would be to donate.

Waiting in line to enter the blood bus, I noticed a local politician making her way down the row of chairs where I was seated. Ironically, I was reading about power (for my Advocacy class) and how to ingratiate yourself with powerful people.

I didn't do such a great job. She had a photographer snapping pictures of her shaking hands with people waiting to give blood. Without permission. That is a big no-no, as I knew from working on many newsletters and marketing projects. You always ask people before taking their photo. So I put my hand up to block my face as she got near me -- I'm not happy with the way I look these days, I don't like having my picture taken, and nobody asked me!

Despite my hand trying to ward her off, the photographer continued to snap photos. When the politician got to me, I said -- more shrilly than I intended -- "I don't like having my picture taken."

"Okay," said the politician, and moved on. Hey -- just because I don't like having my photo taken without permission doesn't mean I don't vote!!!

It really bothered me. I knew the organizer of the event, and she came into my blood bus while I was being drained. I told her I was really uncomfortable having someone take my picture without permission, and she apologized; she hadn't invited the politician, the New York Blood Center had.

I decided I would contact the politician and NY Blood Center, but not until my anger had attenuated. I thought it would be a useful exercise to write a really furious letter and then edit it down to something acceptable:

Dear Pushy Politician,

I am the woman who didn't want to be photographed at last night's blood drive. I am writing to let you know that I found your behavior and that of your staff both rude and unprofessional.

I didn't go to the blood drive to make you look like you care about blood donation; I went because I have type O negative blood and it's needed. However, had I known I'd be subjected to your paparazza, I would not have gone, and knowing there's a danger of being photographed without my consent by such as you has definitely dissuaded me from taking part in such public blood drives again.

Taking photographs without asking permission is both illegal and an invasion of privacy. When I told you I didn't like being photographed, you walked past and ignored me. You should have stopped to ask why I was uncomfortable with your behavior and apologized to me. That is what an elected official who actually cares about her constituents would have done.

I look forward to voting for the next person who runs against you.

Okay, maybe that's a little excessive. I'll tone it down. Won't be as much fun, but in the power game you can't go with your feelings -- you have to go with what's going to be effective.

After the blood drive I went to a picnic celebrating the anniversary of the release of Catcher in the Rye. It was organized by The Atheist, a guy I dated twice before he went from being very frum to very not. I was never sure if he said no thanks because he didn't find me attractive or becuase he knew he was on the verge of abandoning Jewish practice. Could be either or both.

Anyway, it was fun. We hung out, noshed, read passages from the book, and shmoozed. But after a point I started watching my own behavior and wondering how others were perceiving me. Was I a fount of wisdom or a pushy, pontificating, obnoxious know-it-all?

I know they thought I was funny -- they laughed, hard, at almost all of my jokes -- but was I working too hard to try to prove that I'm also brilliant? And did that obvious effort render my attempt futile? This is something I need to examine when I'm in small groups of people. I don't want to be the insecure, needy person who sucks all the oxygen out of the room by always demanding the spotlight.

Holden Caulfield wouldn't want me to develop my diplomatic, conciliatory side -- he'd want me to be 100% open and blunt with people I don't respect. But Holden's not exactly a role model for how to get through life. Someone at the picnic asked, "Where is Holden today?" and I said, "He's still locked up. He lacks insight."
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"

2 comments:

  1. i also live my life like this sometimes, watching myself as if i was in a movie. am i this? am i that?

    it doesn't do me any good. and i'm willing to bet it doesn't help you, either.

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  2. That picnic sounds fun! One of my favorite books (don't read too much into that).

    Fair point about the blood drive but I'd cut out the second paragraph. I can't imagine you will skip any and all blood drives because of one jerky politician. You don't want to sound too extreme--just skip straight to the point.

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