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A strange kind of shame

  1. Aug 17, 2004 #1

    Math Is Hard

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    There was a woman at our organization who was quite formidable and tyrannical.
    I work for the group that services everyone's computers and I was loathe to get a call from her. If she had a computer problem she would call in a fury screaming, "I am the director of this department and someone better get up here and fix my computer now!"
    Arriving at the scene, I was hollered at as if I were a lazy servant-girl who could not move fast enough to do her bidding.
    The last time I spoke with her was about six weeks ago. She said she was going on a trip so she needed all her remote access issues sorted out.
    There were times, in passing, that I grumbled about her and bad-mouthed her to a few of co-workers.
    "What the hell was this crazy woman's problem?! Geez!!"

    It is my job, I should explain, to add and remove people from our network as they come and go. I got a call from HR this morning to remove her accounts. ASAP!
    With a secret delight I thought, "Oh my! She has finally bawled out the wrong person and has gotten the boot."
    I called HR back to let them know that I had completed the request to deactivate the accounts.
    The HR person who submitted the request was not there so I spoke to someone else. "Which employee are you talking about?" he asked. I told him. "Oh, yes." he said, "She died."
    Words cannot describe the feeling that came over me. He explained that she had been very sick with a terminal illness for some time (at least as long as I had known her).
    "But I just saw her!" I said, "I was helping her get her laptop ready so she could go on a trip."
    "Is that what she told you?" he said. "No, that wasn't exactly the case. She was at a point where she couldn't work from the office anymore."
    Guilt overwhelms me now. I had always considered myself a compassionate person until today.
    When people cut in front of me in traffic I just assume that there is a very important reason they are in a hurry which I do not know.
    I have failed to be compassionate this time. I never considered that this woman might be going through something so tragic.
    This is a very strange shame that I feel. Has anyone else had an experience like this, when someone you didn't much care for is suddenly gone, and you wish you hadn't thought all those bad things about the person?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2004 #2
    Your conscience has emerged, that's all. and it is good it hasn't got lost.
  4. Aug 17, 2004 #3
    I suppose anyone with a terminal illness might resort to desparate behavior if they're freaked out, and this would have explained alot if you'd known. The fact you had no idea, though, pretty much vindicates your irritation with her. I've known quite a few people who acted like her who were nowhere near death, and there is no reason for anyone to automatically suppose someone acting like that must be terminally ill. In 99.9 percent of cases that would be an extreme thing to suspect.
  5. Aug 17, 2004 #4
    its not a thing to bother about, i feel. its just a matter of rare chance that such an experience has haunted you. different people have different traits. they have their own ways of interacting with others. its best not to dissect someone's character. Instead try to think that..he/she has been 'trained' to lead such a life on earth and succeeded in that mission. philosophy explains everything.... except philosophy.
  6. Aug 17, 2004 #5
    This might be out of the subject.

    A few years ago in France, there was this guy on the radio who was so clever, cultivated and yet the funniest. He always had strong opinions on "hot" topics going on. Well, one December month he began making fun with people suffering from cancer. It looked horrible. People calling on the phone would sometime shout at him and get mad because of that. He also ended his broadcast at that time with the intriguing sentence
    "As for March, I tell without political preconception idea, but I guess it won't go through winter"

    Indeed, he died of advanced cancer about March. I loved him. His name was Pierre Desproges, he is famous in France. Nobody knew why he kept laughing all along with cancer. In any case somebody speaks french :

    Not a single journalist in the country had any idea of his illness. Imagine the lesson he taught to people thinking he was a bastard, because them (or a related) were suffering.
  7. Aug 17, 2004 #6
    There is some serious psychological crap in this guy's way of handling it: denial and dissociation. He wasn't the spirit free of pain and fear you think he was. The fact he didn't tell he had cancer and made fun of others who also had it was just plain cruel to them and their relatives. There is a certain percentage of comedians like this: they joke because it is the only way they know how to handle anything. They don't seem to be able to stop even if they want to.
  8. Aug 17, 2004 #7
    Sounds like me.

    I joke around a lot with friends and they take the insults and jokes sportingly and I get them back in the end. But I came across one person who was softer and didn't show it. They were also a bit stupid so I used that. She just laughed and so the insults got worse.

    Most people took them with no problem and we would joke about it. But this one female finally cracked and told me she was soft and that I was bullying her, which I wasn't; I was treating her the same as anyone else. She said she would go to the police if she had to and I felt really bad that I hadn't realised.

    I wouldn't worry about it too much. People get to you and you react the same each time. It is not in human nature to ask why. It is a question you need to ask more and more. Make sure you have a reason for hating someone rather than doing it on face value. If people took me on face value I would have very few good friends.

    The Bob (2004 ©)
  9. Aug 17, 2004 #8
    I might not be able to explain in a foreign language how a brillant mind he was. But I swear he was. He really had a philosophical message behind it.

    But anyway, I am pretty sure Math_Is_Hard is hard with herself. You do not look like somebody used to fastly judge people. Maybe you made a few mistakes.

    PS : by the way, Math Is Art :tongue2:
  10. Aug 17, 2004 #9

    Are you sure you don't work where I do?;) I do what you do and I have some people here I wouldn't miss too horribly. Not that I wish them dead, but I wouldn't miss them.. hehehe

    In your case, plausible deniability is king, and ignorance is bliss. You can't be held responsible for what you didn't know. That person would have died weather you loved or hated them. They CHOSE to act that way, and so illicit your reaction. Don't let it get you down.
  11. Aug 17, 2004 #10
    Tres interressant...

    On the one hand we have a man who played on people's emotions to illicit a reaction. On the other, we could ascertain that he was trying to teach a very valuable lesson about jumping to conclusions and how we judge people.

    qui connais la couer de la mourant......
  12. Aug 17, 2004 #11

    Math Is Hard

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    thanks for your comments on this. I sure learned a lesson.
    That is an amazing story about the radio host, humanino. He had the "last laugh" on everyone, I guess.
  13. Aug 17, 2004 #12
    Important rule of comedy: Know Your Audience. There is no humor that is inherently funny in and of itself that everyone should be expected to find amusing. A good comedian knows that you don't tell the same kind of jokes to a ladies club in DesMoines, Iowa, that you tell to kids on a college campus, and that you don't use the same kind of humor on those kids as you would on a bunch of prison inmates. Treating her the same as everyone else, you were neglecting to be sensitive to your audience. (I speak from experience, here. I've performed alot of comedy in front of a wide variety of audiences.)
  14. Aug 17, 2004 #13
    What's the use of his brilliant philosophical message if he just ended up hurting the feelings of alot of people who were dying of cancer? It's nice that you can sit on the side lines and observe the whole thing with detached intellectual curiosity, but the people he was making fun of didn't have that luxury.
  15. Aug 17, 2004 #14
    Ah but all of us use the same comedy still in the Army Cadet Force. I do apply for audiences though and so it is just one person in an audience to apply for.

    The Bob (2004 ©)
  16. Aug 17, 2004 #15

    Math Is Hard

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    It is very dark humor, but it sounds a bit like something Andy Kaufman might have come up with. Didn't some people think it was all just a put-on when he was dying?
  17. Aug 17, 2004 #16
    That's what I've heard: alot of people wondered if the announcement that he had terminal cancer wasn't just another of his bizarre put-ons.

    As for this French guy, the fact he had a mordent punchline waiting doesn't excuse the involuntary use of people on their deathbeds for his joke. I knew a guy who died of cancer and for two years he basically lived in a state of low grade fear.
  18. Aug 17, 2004 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    It seems to me that one possibility is overlooked in all of this. It is always possible that she was a terrible and nasty person. Your reactions might have been right on in spite of her illness. Even mean and nasty people get sick and die.

    I don't mean to sound heartless or unsympathetic, but the assumption that while in good health, she was other than as you perceived, is unfounded.
  19. Aug 17, 2004 #18

    Math Is Hard

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    There's been some subtle clues dropped on me that this was actually the case. That she was always a "difficult" person even when she was feeling her best.
    The thing that bugs me is that when I first got word to take her off the network, I felt a little pleasure thinking that she had gotten herself in trouble and was getting her come-uppance for snapping at people. :devil: I was expecting the HR person to tell me a scandalous tale of how she'd finally gone nuts and told the Dean to go to hell or something like that. I was not expecting anything like the news that came next.
  20. Aug 17, 2004 #19
    Same thing happened to me once. A boss I had who was on the "difficult" side, and whom I wished were not there, get into a bad car accident and had to stop work indefinitely. You just end up feeling really yecky because you're glad they're gone but you certainly didn't want it to happen that way. You may hope they get fired, but you'd be really happy if they just quit and went somewhere else. Then, if they're gone because something really bad happened to them you get thrown into guilt.
  21. Aug 17, 2004 #20

    Math Is Hard

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    And then there's that subtle but illogical gnawing feeling that perhaps you actually wished that person into the cornfield. <shudder>
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