There was a period in Spanish history between the beginning of the eighth century and the end of the fifteenth century known as the Convivencia, which, roughly translated, means the time of living together, when the Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in relative peace. Not to say that Spain hasn’t had a past checkered with as much violence and intolerance as any other country, but there was that enlightened period, at least in the southern part of the country, and that has always appealed to me.

I try really hard to live in Convivencia, not just in terms of tolerating other religions, but other philosophies and lifestyles as well. One of the most beautiful things about being well traveled is that you learn that your way isn’t the only way, and it may not even be the best way. Once you realize that, you become a lot more open minded.

I have never understood people who use the term “politically correct” as if it were an epithet. They assume that that tendency must be insincere and false. That speaks volumes about them. It really is possible to accept diversity without being disingenuous about it. It might take effort sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be unnatural. It may not be your custom to fast during Ramadan, for example, but how hard is it not to eat in front of someone you know is fasting? It’s common courtesy and it shows that you have the maturity to be aware of those around you.

I’m always befuddled by people who get angry every year when someone says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Why is it so unpalatable to them that you want to include everyone in your well wishes? I personally appreciate any well wishes that come my way.

For that same reason, I don’t get people who oppose gay marriage. What they are basically saying is that they don’t want “those people” to have a chance at the same happiness that they have. That makes no sense to me. Why do they care?

The tendency to embrace the wider world is much more positive than practicing a xenophobia that not only limits you, but pours the acid of hatred on your very soul. Allowing for other points of view can only increase your emotional intelligence and open you up to a broader range of experiences. Try it. You might learn something.



Swimsuit Calendars and Naked Women Mud Flaps—Why Go There?

Here’s the thing (yeah, yeah, there’s always a thing): those who chafe at being politically correct are people who don’t care about anyone’s feelings other than their own, so there’s really no point in arguing with them. But.

There are moments when I’m given the choice of either biting my tongue clean off or speaking up, and in that case I will speak up every single time, because, sorry, I like my tongue. I’d like to hold on to it for a while longer if at all possible.

Case in point: the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar that showed up at my place of work a few years ago. Granted, I am in a male dominated workplace, but does that mean I am forced to watch them slobber over silicone and collagen all shift long? Really? Do I have to be made to feel uncomfortable so that they can feed their testosterone?

I could go on and on about the objectification of women, blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it and dismissed it all before. But in this case I’m talking about me and what is brought into my world. And it is, after all, all about me. Or rather, it should be as much about me as it is about you.

I don’t have a problem with people having these calendars in the privacy of their own homes. They can wallpaper their bedroom ceilings with them for all I care. But in a work environment, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a portion of your employees not be forced to feel awkward.

When I brought it up, my boss at the time, whom I don’t miss, decided I was being a silly and hypersensitive little girl. Rather than handling it discreetly and professionally, just telling the employee in question that it was inappropriate and needed to be taken down, instead he said that Barbara was whining about the calendar so it had to go. This turned me into the bad guy and the trouble maker. Thanks boss. Way to go.

I’m always befuddled when I walk into a place of business and am confronted with one of these calendars. Really, can’t you hold off for just 8 hours and look at these things at home? Is it that hard to control yourself? Are you trying to alienate a portion of your customers, or are you just stupid? I’m never sure which is the case, but neither scenario bodes well for my repeat patronage. I may not speak up in that situation, but I sure as hell vote with my feet.

Then there are those ubiquitous naked women mud flaps that you see on semi-trucks. Who thinks that’s a good idea? I can only assume that these reside mainly in the realm of independent truckers, because I can’t believe that any large company wants this as part of their corporate image. But isn’t that sort of like shooting yourself in the foot if you’re an independent trucker? Because you sure aren’t going to be hauling my products while sporting those mud flaps. No way, no how.

When your very livelihood depends on not offending people, why is it so important for you to go there? Why is it so difficult to take the high road? I just don’t get it.


Security Guard Blues

Times being what they are, I was feeling the need to expand my career skills, and Security Guard work seemed the way to go. As the economy gets worse, crime goes up. As crime goes up, there’s more need for security. That was my thinking, anyway. Here in Florida, even unarmed guards must take a week of training to get licensed.

The first day of security guard class was surreal. The place was locked, so we were all waiting in the hallway. Then this guy comes in wearing a sleeveless vest over his polo shirt, and the vest was covered in patches. Auto patches, swiss army knife patches, things like that. And he said, “If you’re here for security guard school, follow me. March!” And I’m thinking, “Okay…” And it’s just me and three other students. The first guy I’m calling KGB. He’s this big Arnold Schwarzenegger- sized Russian guy who doesn’t say anything. Then there’s another guy I’m calling Bull Dog. He’s retired Marine. Then there’s the guy I’m calling “Twitch”. Now Twitch worries me. He’s fresh out of Afghanistan with such a bad case of PTSD that the poor guy practically jumps out of his skin if you even sneeze. And he keeps asking the instructor how much deadly force he can use in various scenarios. And then there’s little ol’ me. WHAT THE HECK HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO????

The class was predictably easy, but it was often an assault to my sensibilities. The instructor peppered every lesson with personal stories that often had nothing to do with the subject at hand, and were almost always offensive. For example, stories about how his wife, the “little woman” is such a bad driver that she can’t be trusted. How he thinks having to teach a sexual harassment module is ridiculous, but he has to make “those politically correct types” happy. But he just HAD to show us a hilarious foreign commercial in which a father was worried about his son because he played with Barbie dolls, but he grew up and was lying in bed with two blonds. Whew! What a relief. Oh and those damned Democrats! Don’t get him started on them!

Twitch and Bulldog were eating this stuff up with a spoon. KGB, I suspect, didn’t understand a word that was being said. During the first aid module the instructor was giving medical advice that is contrary to all current medical thinking, and he was drawing from his experience in war time. He suggested that you write what treatment you performed on the victim’s forehead, even if the patient was still conscious and was likely to remain so! As if a helicopter would drop out of the sky at any moment and whisk them away. Can you imagine how well that would go over? “Sit still, ma’am, while I write on your forehead.”

Once I figured out that the class was really all about celebrating what a hero, what a raconteur, what a guru, what an all-around great guy the instructor was, I was able to just disassociate myself from all of it, pay the hundred bucks, get through the week, and get my license. We all did. Even KGB.

License in hand, I quickly discovered that Security Guards in this state are paid for shit. It would cost me more to get to work than I’d earn while there. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m better off being a bridgetender! But before I discovered that, I did go on one disastrous interview. It was for a gate guard at a gated community. I pulled up at the gate and they told me to pull through, do a u-turn, park across the street and come in for the interview. I’m halfway through the u-turn when I see a Mercedes barreling toward me. So I try to speed up the turn to get out of the way, and my old land yacht takes out a plastic decorative light post with a big glass globe, which, of course, shatters into a million pieces. I pull into the parking space and I have one of those interior conversations. Maybe they didn’t notice. But if they did, and I don’t speak up, I definitely do not get the job. But if I do speak up, I probably won’t get the job. Oh, hell.

So I walk in and say, “In the interests of good first impressions, I just took out your lamp post.” Crickets. Okay, so no sense of humor at all. That’s good to know. We spent the next 10 minutes filling out an incident report. I considered making a quip about instant on the job training, but thought better of it.

Then he asked me if I had any military experience. “No? Oh, then you won’t make a good security guard. You probably wouldn’t know the difference between day patrols and night patrols.” “Does this job include patrol duties?” No. Then I told him my experience dealing with the public, and working traffic accidents and dealing with the criminal element on the bridge. And I told him the time an old lady got stuck on the rising bridge and I had to rescue her from the equivalent of an 80 foot cliff. (That’s a story for a later blog entry, come to think of it.) He scoffed at that, and said that was something any good Samaritan might do, but that wasn’t security guard material. Mind you, this is a man who had seen my resume and called ME to drive an hour for this interview in the first place.

At that point it was fairly obvious I wasn’t going to get the job (to my everlasting relief), but he asked if I had questions, so I asked about benefits. That sent him off on a rant about “obamacare” and how none of these people (indicating the staff who were across the room, listening to every word) deserve health care. His face turned beet red and spittle was flying from his mouth.

I left there feeling as if I was crawling out of the rabbit hole. I don’t think Security is the field for me. I could never be that humorless or self-obsessed.