Too busy? Oh yeah
About those people who always seem too busy to give you the time of day, but maybe later, if you’re sympathetic with how busy and important they are: I haven’t much use for them.
It’s their shtick, self-aggrandizing and defensive. I wish I could say I came by this insight on my own, but I inherited it from a famous Navy admiral for whom I wrote speeches. He always answered his own phone, and once I asked him why, since he had a personal yeoman and aides. Not even God is too busy to answer his own phone, he replied.
Whatever the theology of his reply, there was no doubt his career benefited from his personal accessibility. I think the truth was he thought it pretentious and even a bit incompetent to hide behind secretaries and aides. He liked to confront friend and foe head on.
So too with cursory answers. I think people who characteristically say, You got it, I’m on it, Gotcha, See ya, Later, etc., are just ducking out on real human interaction. They don’t have the stomach for it, and they don’t give enough of a damn about the other guy to say anything meaningful. At best, their demeanor is a stonewalling tactic. Usually they’re busy doing nothing but jerking other people around.
I don’t waste time on them. Life thrives on ordinary courtesies. A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, an insight can mean the difference between a painful day and a hopeful day for someone. If you’re too busy to indulge such niceties I’m too busy for you. I notice this about restaurants and all sorts of stores-no matter how enticing their wares, if the help doesn’t treat people right, they fail. Customers instinctively see that the help reflects the owner or manager.
I’m not sure the cell phone era has done much to change this picture. I see loud exhibitionism wherever cell phones are in use. Hiding behind voice mail is surely less civil than hiding behind a secretary, but perhaps the antisepsis of voice mail takes some of the sting out of being put off by a human being. Telephone trees serve the same function-they seem designed to frustrate and dump you. They’re employed by businesses determined not to give you the service they promised you; in short, they’re determined to give you the business.
I have much to do, many things to keep me busy. Books to read, books and poems to write, flowers to plant, ideas to entertain, business to attend, but when I’m too busy and too important to be kind to you I will have become the kind of person you don’t need to know. The only people who are that busy are phonies. But will we remember that when we vote?
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latte first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller’s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del’s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal Latte’s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother’s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt’s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com