It’s Your Body

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post called Tickling, about how tickling can be a form of aggression, and how it can often be very unwelcome and inappropriate. That blog post resonated with a lot of people. It’s short and to the point, so I hope you’ll read it.

I thought of that post recently. I was really impressed to discover that one of my nieces is teaching her two-year-old daughter that no one should get to touch her in any way, shape, form, or fashion, without her permission. Forget about good touch, bad touch. It’s her body. She gets to say who touches it, good or otherwise. We all have that right, but we often forget that.

Just because Uncle Fred is a touchy-feely guy does not mean that he gets a free pass just so you can avoid ruffling family feathers. If he’s making you uncomfortable, that’s never okay. Not ever. Even if you love Uncle Fred to pieces. And that applies to recipients of those touches of any age, not just children.

Also, just because someone is in a position of authority, such as a doctor or a dentist or a teacher or a boss or a politician, or even an older relative or a spouse, that does not mean they get to decide how you are touched. Absolutely not.

I’m not saying that every person who is touching you inappropriately is automatically a sex offender who is grooming you. Some people are just clueless. But it doesn’t really matter. If you aren’t comfortable in a tactile situation, regardless of your age, orientation, or relationship, it’s your body, not theirs, and you get to dictate what happens to it.

Your body is truly the only thing in life that you will always have all to yourself. That’s why it’s such an extreme violation when someone abuses it. I love knowing that there are children out there who are being taught their own agency practically from birth. That’s how it should be. I wish it had been taught to me.

Always establish your own boundaries and make them crystal clear. That’s not being rude. It’s appropriate. And I think that you’ll find that most people are a lot more comfortable, knowing the rules in any given scenario.

Never forget that your body belongs to you and you alone. Always.

Inappropriate Touch

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Several Days of Bureaucratic BS

Pedestrian safety on drawbridges is a huge issue. Without naming names, I was asked by a certain organization to write some drawbridge do’s and don’ts that would help people increase their chances of actually surviving around a million pounds of moving concrete and steel, and I did so. They took these suggestions, sanitized them a bit, and made them into an oversized postcard with a gorgeous, souvenir-worthy picture of one of our drawbridges on the front side. They made several thousand copies. I was very proud of this work and knew it would make a difference…

Until someone further up the chain of command of that organization decided that they shouldn’t be distributed to the public. And now they’re gathering dust in some closet somewhere. No comment.

In other news, after I got married, I had my middle name legally changed to my husband’s last name. This caused a whole host of interesting bureaucratic encounters.

I had to pay a fortune to show up in court and swear that I wasn’t making this change against my will. (You can change your last name when you get married without the court hassle, but not your middle name.)

I went to the Social security office to have my information updated with them. I brought my court ordered name change with me. I had to wait an hour to see someone. While working on the change, he gave me a print out and asked if everything on it was correct. I said no, my mother’s maiden name was spelled incorrectly.

I was told that they wouldn’t be able to fix it in that office, and I was only given a vague indication of how it could be done, elsewhere, with more paperwork. Screw it. I’ve gotten this far in life with them having that incorrect information. And I did try.

I had to apply for a brand new passport, even though my old one was only a few years old, because now my middle name on my passport did not match my middle name on my ID. We went in with what we thought was all the necessary information, and met with a brick wall in the form of a bureaucrat who was in a foul mood. Rather than tell us how to jump through all the necessary hoops, he decided to tell us why we couldn’t accomplish our goal. We left there frustrated.

We came back the next day with everything we needed, and got the same guy. But this time he was in a good mood and everything went smoothly. See, now? Was that so hard?

But before that, we had to get a new passport photo at Costco. We went in, waited about 15 minutes for the lady in the photo department to get to us and take the picture. She said it would be about 20 minutes to process. So we went shopping, and bought a bunch of Costco stuff that we really didn’t need, as one does. Then we returned to the photo department. No photo.

There was a different woman working the counter, and she told me that the photo would have to be taken again, because with passport photos, you cannot be showing any teeth, you must have a neutral expression, and most of your ears must be showing. So we took the photo again, and had to wait another 20 minutes for it to be processed.

While processing the photo, we decided to bring our groceries outside to the car. The person who was checking the items against the receipt at the exit discovered that the cashier had forgotten to ring up one of our items. So we had to go back to customer service and have that straightened out. Good save on her part. We believe in paying for what we buy. But after days of dealing with stupidity, it kind of rankled.

Again, a certain organization is desperate for bridgetenders, and I know the perfect person, who would happily start tomorrow if given the opportunity. So we submitted the resume, and middle management would love to hire him. But upper management is being… well… You can imagine. Several of our positions have been vacant for more than a year.

I went to the county courthouse the other day with my husband, and we had to place our items on the conveyor belt and pass through the metal detector. I got yelled at for picking up my husband’s items in an effort to hand them to him and speed things up. Like I was some kind of criminal. Like I was stealing my husband’s wallet right before it detonated, or something.

So I made a point of walking on the grass on my way out.

Power to the people.

Zootopia Bureaucracy

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I Don’t Have to Respond

It’s really weird when it suddenly occurs to you that you’ve been operating under a self-imposed rule. Because, just like that, you realize that if you were the one making the rule in the first place, then, hey, you don’t have to follow it anymore, do you? Ah, the freedom!

For example, if you live alone, you don’t have to make the bed if you don’t want to! Woo hoo! If you’re the only one who ever sees the back yard, you only have to mow it when you feel like it. Sweet!

I had one of those epiphanies just the other day. Here it is: I don’t have to respond to everything. That’s huge.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in common courtesy. I make it a point to say thank you and excuse me. That’s the type of lubrication that’s required to keep a civilized society running smoothly.

But I don’t have to respond to unsolicited advice. I don’t have to correct rude behavior (unless I’m looking for closure). I don’t have to explain myself or justify anything. (But I still believe in doing the right thing.)

Just because someone asks an idiotic question, that doesn’t mean I’m obliged to answer. Not every comment requires my input. Not every insult needs to be avenged.

There’s also really no point in carrying your side of an argument if, when all is said and done, it’s not going to change a thing. Your energy is limited. Save it for the positive stuff.

Sometimes it’s okay to let the other person have the last, stupid, selfish word. Whoa. What a concept.

Boy, oh boy, am I about to save myself a heck of a lot of time!

rules

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Examining Irritation

True confession: I get irritated by stupid stuff.

It’s not that I enjoy irritation. In fact, it irritates me. But sometimes it feels beyond my control.

The good news is that the older I get, the more level headed I seem to become. I think part of that is due to the fact that I can’t work up the energy to be annoyed as often as I could in my younger days. I just can’t be bothered.

Oh, but there still are things. Someone cutting ahead of me in line. People blocking grocery aisles to chit chat. Rude individuals. All things Trump. The common denominator here is that people aren’t playing by my rules. I have no idea why so many people have overlooked the memo that I am Queen of the World, but there you have it.

Another thing that has improved with time is my self-awareness. I am getting better at seeing the physical warning signs of my irritation so as to nip it in the bud. Is my heart rate increasing? Am I feeling adrenalized? Am I starting to fidget? Uh, oh. Time to evaluate the situation.

First off, am I already Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Then I need to H.A.L.T. Because any one of those four states are bound to cause me to overreact. At times like those, I’ve been known to look for a reason to be irritated. How stupid is that?

Next, I need to really look at what I’m feeling. Sometimes irritation is a mask for other, less comfortable emotions. Fear. Fury. Depression. Grief. Disappointment. Dissatisfaction with your relationship with the person who is triggering your irritation. A feeling of being disrespected. My own stupid impatience when someone doesn’t comply with my self-imposed time line.

In many cultures, we are taught to suppress “negative” emotions. But emotions don’t hold a positive or negative charge. They are what they are. You feel what you feel. If you suppress that, it’s just going to find a way out in other ways, such as irritation when your boyfriend leaves his dirty socks in the coffee mug. It helps to check in with yourself about what you are really feeling. (For example, you’re annoyed, and frankly a little scared, that he doesn’t care enough about your feelings to put the mug in the dishwasher and the socks in the hamper.) If you aren’t adept at that, and many of us are not, I suggest that you consider therapy. I highly recommend it.

Another thing I try to do is a reality check. When I get irritated, I try to figure out which one of my rules is being violated. (As in: footwear and kitchen utensils don’t mix.) And then I try to remind myself that a) people are not mind readers, and b) not everyone goes by the same rules. (If both the footwear and the kitchen utensil are dirty, perhaps your boyfriend doesn’t see their intermingling as a big deal.) Then, maybe the two of you can discuss your versions of these unspoken rules and form a consensus. That would be ideal.

Probably the most important thing to think about, though, is that you are never going to be able to control other people’s behavior. Never. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t partially to blame for not hearing you when you tell them, however ham-handedly, that their behavior triggers your irritation. What it does mean is you have total control over your side of the equation. You can change the way you react. You can examine it, deconstruct it, and make alterations within you. You might be surprised. That could lead to changes in the other person, too.

But take your irritation seriously. It’s horrible for you and everyone around you. Here’s when irritation gets out of hand:

  • When you find yourself annoyed at what you know, logically, is a trivial thing.

  • When you get aggressive by yelling or being hostile or becoming violent.

  • When you have a chronic problem, such as getting annoyed, over and over again, at the same thing. (How is that working for you?)

  • When your temper gets worse when you drink or take drugs.

If any of the above applies to you, you have an anger management problem that you should take seriously, and I encourage you to seek help. Your life doesn’t have to feel like a miserable nightmare, and those around you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells, either. Life is too short for everyone concerned.

irritated

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The Stink Eye

In order to get to my designated parking space here at work on the drawbridge, I have to drive along the bike lane for the whole length of the movable span. Most people are used to this, or don’t care. But every once in a while someone gives me a dirty look. And in Seattle, dirty looks seem to come with disapproving head shakes.

Do they apologize when they finally realize I’m parking? No. Never. That would be tantamount to admitting that they behaved as pompous know-it-alls when in fact they know nothing about the situation. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Come to think of it, glares, as a general rule, are pretty arrogant. They mean, “I think I have the right to sit in judgment.” They mean, “I think I make the rules.” Or worse, “I am the social norms police.”

And giving someone the stink eye rarely achieves your goal. It just makes people think, “A$$hole. Who do you think you are?” And then they continue doing whatever it was they were doing. So, congratulations for setting off a negative energy domino effect. Do you feel better now?

It must be awfully stressful to believe that you have to be society’s moral enforcer. Me, I have a hard enough time keeping myself in line. The last thing I need is to have to control total strangers, too.

Here’s an idea: Mind your own business. I don’t care who you are. The stink eye is never a good look.

Stink Eye

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The Dark Shadow Cast by the Golden Rule

Most societies seem to have some version of the Golden Rule. That only makes sense. It would be hard to live amongst one’s fellow humans without one. I really do try to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I can’t imagine functioning any other way.

The thing I struggle with is my huge disappointment/bitterness/frustration when others do not do likewise. “Oy! I’m playin’ by the rules here! Why aren’t you?”

Just the other day I got royally screwed over by 5 people. Without going into detail, we’ve all had long conversations and they agreed with my interpretation of events. But when this brought on an investigation, rather than tell the truth and have my back, these people chose to pull their pinheads into their tiny, soft, little shells and leave me out there all alone to be crushed by the bus.  I feel so betrayed. I could never do that to someone. Not in a million years.

Be that as it may, the situation isn’t going to right itself, so now the only thing I can do is cope with my feelings of disappointment/bitterness/frustration. On close examination, I realize that I wouldn’t even have those feelings if I didn’t think that these people were not holding themselves to a standard that I swear by.

So maybe I should blame the Golden Rule for all of this. Maybe I should stop expecting others to follow it. Heck, maybe I should stop following it myself, since it does not seem to have done me any favors.

But the day I can’t even count on my own integrity is the day I give up entirely.

crushed turtle

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On Being a Contrarian

Nothing makes me thirstier than being told there’s no water available.

If a book has been banned, it goes to the top of my reading list.

When someone tells me that this is no place for a lady, I suddenly feel as though I weigh 1000 pounds. (We shall not be moved!)

If I’m asked, “Why on earth would you want to do that?” my instant response is, “That’s why.” My default reaction when told I can’t do something is shock, confusion, then determination.

I’ll stick my neck out every time when those around me are cowering in the foxholes. It’s a wonder I haven’t been shot.

Traditions make me chafe.

Zigging makes me want to zag.

Rules that aren’t founded in logic make me want to screech. “Because I said so,” or “Because this is how we’ve always done it” is why I grind my teeth in my sleep.

Many of my sentences begin with the word but.

My mother telling me that life’s not fair did not comfort me at all. It should be fair.

I like to invite people to join me outside of the box.

I tend to be quite polarizing. Love me or hate me, I hope that you’re challenged, at the very least.

Unique

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Off Limits

There’s nothing on earth that makes me want to do something more than being told I cannot do that thing. Not that I’m going to disobey The Law writ large. I won’t even shout “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Laws are generally put into place for the protection of society. But some arbitrary rules and decisions are just absurd. And some long-standing traditions with no basis in logic could stand to be modernized.

Even as a child, when I would hear that a book was banned by our school district, I’d make it a point to read that book. Fortunately my mother was very supportive of this. She believed we should have access to a variety of points of view, and then form our own opinions. So I read quite a bit.

I once met a man from another culture who was horrified that I was “allowed” to work the graveyard shift. “They let you go out alone at night?” First of all, who is “they”? I’m a 52 year old woman who lives alone.

I experienced that same look of horror when I rented a car in Turkey. They made me drive it around the block to prove I could before they’d let me have it. And sure enough, in the rural areas in particular, I soon noticed that I was the only female driver.

So imagine my thought process when reading about Mount Athos, in Greece. It’s a region that has 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and women aren’t allowed on the entire peninsula. And it has been thus for nearly 2,000 years. I’ve never wanted to go somewhere so badly in my entire life.

Their reasons for this ban are very strange. They claim that the Virgin Mary once was on a ship that blew off course, and when she landed on Mount Athos, she liked it so much that she asked her son to let it be her garden. And so it was decreed, somehow, from on high. (As they say, it’s who you know.) And because of that it became out of bounds for other women.

Whatever.

But these monks really take it to the extreme. They won’t even allow female animals there even though they do a lot of farming, so their eggs and milk must be imported. They do make an exception for female bugs and songbirds, because, let’s face it, that would be a bit difficult to control. But they also make an exception for female cats. I’m guessing that has to do with rodent control. (Come to think of it, what keeps out the female rats? It’s a slippery slope!) Who knows what their rationale is.

So I’m lower on the pecking order than a bug. Nice. I’m that big of a danger to their society. Insane.

A few women have made it to Mount Athos, I’m happy to say. A Serbian Emperor once brought his wife there to protect her from the plague, but she wasn’t allowed to touch the ground the whole time she was in residence. Cooties!

One woman, Maryse Choisy, once disguised herself as a man, and lived there for a month. She then wrote a book about it. Good for her! A Greek beauty queen then followed her example in the 50’s, and it was such a scandal that it was written up in Time magazine.

Three women landed there that same year and caused a big controversy. And there have been various movements to allow women in since then, but none of them have taken hold.

It’s not like they are against modernization under certain circumstances, when it suits them. Some of the monks are now taxi drivers, mechanics, and computer IT techs. But women! Gasp! Can’t have that.

But then, they also insist upon maintaining Byzantine time, which commences at sunset each day. That means that their clocks need to be regularly readjusted because sunset isn’t at the same time every day. Talk about stubborn.

And they’re all about doing what’s right for them, and to hell with everyone else. To avoid WWII, they asked Hitler to place them under his protection, and oddly enough, he agreed. So they referred to him as “High Protector of the Holy Mountain”. And that was while he took over the rest of Greece. Wow.

The reason I’d most like to visit, though, is that these monasteries are the repositories of so much medieval art, codices, relics and icons that even though they are trying to catalogue and restore them, they say it will take decades. Such rich history would be a joy to behold.

Men can visit. But only if they have short hair and are over 18 and get all the proper visas, and are preferably, but not necessarily, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  That means even Vladimir Putin got to go, but I can’t. (One assumes he had to keep his feminine side strictly under control.)

If this is what faith has to offer, I’ll stick with logic.

mount athos putin

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Idiotic Policies

I had a weird conversation the other day with Bloodworks Northwest, my local blood bank. It seems that I can’t donate next time because if I do, I’ll have given blood more than 6 times in a 12 month period.

Me: “Can’t you give blood every 8 weeks?”

Them: “Yes.”

Me: “6 x 8 is 48, and there are 52 weeks in the year, so sometimes you’re bound to be donating more than 6 times in a year.”

Them: “But you can only give 6 times a year.”

Me: “So you’re saying you don’t want my blood?”

Them: “Not until after June 22nd. Would you like to reschedule now?”

Me: “No. I’ll get around to it. Maybe. Later.”

WHAT AN IDIOTIC POLICY!!!!

This makes absolutely no sense. By doing this, they are alienating their most faithful donors. They are rejecting every 7th donation. That runs entirely counter to their mission.

I could swallow it if there was a logical reason behind it. But nothing makes me chafe more than being told, “That’s just the way it is.” There are some policies that I deal with at work like this, and they make me want to scream. Someone needs to tell the emperor he has no clothes. “Your highness, not only are you naked, but you’re also stupid.”

So, Bloodworks Northwest, if you wonder why you’ll never be seeing me again, it’s because I’m taking my blood down the road to the American Red Cross. They let you donate every 8 weeks, full stop. Just like every single solitary other donation center I’ve used my entire adult life. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

giving blood

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How to Piss Off a Bridgetender

I have spent a great deal of time writing about how much I love my job. I really do. I swear I do. Just… not today.

Perhaps it’s because we are marinating in the last, bitter dregs of the holiday season, and everyone is getting cranky. Perhaps I’m the bitter one, because everyone is out on the water, celebrating in their Christmas light bedecked boats, and I’m stuck in this poorly insulated tower, alone, and will never own a boat. Perhaps my nerves are on edge due to political dread, or because I haven’t really seen the sun in weeks. I don’t know. But I’m in a foul mood.

I think everyone should be allowed to vent once in a while, even those of us who realize that in the overall scheme of things, we have a great deal to be grateful for. So fasten your seat belts. I’m about to rant all over you.

After 15 years as a bridgetender, I think I’ve pretty much seen it all. But here are some of the more annoying things that come up time and time and freakin’ time again. It’s enough to make me turn into a bridge troll.

I shall divide my rants up into the various forms of stupidity involved, just for clarity’s sake.

Boater Stupidity

  • You wouldn’t buy a very expensive car and hop into it without knowing the rules of the road, would you? Well, a distressing number of boaters seem to do this. If you have achieved enough financial success to own a vessel, kindly take the time to know what the hell you are doing. The life you save could be mine, or that of someone else.
  • If you can afford a boat, you can afford to invest in a working marine radio and learn how to use it. First of all, this isn’t a convoy. We don’t use “10-4” or any of the other 10 codes. And if you call me and have your own volume turned down, I can respond all day long and you’re not going to hear me. Don’t blame me for that.
  • My voice isn’t that deep. Why do you assume I’m a “sir”?
  • Do not call me on the phone. This isn’t a date. Contact me via the CORRECT horn signals (which you’d know if you read the Coastguard regulations), or call me on the radio.
  • Be polite. I’m not your servant or your minion. If you “demand” an opening “immediately upon” your arrival, there is nothing on earth that will be more apt to tempt me to make you paddle in circles for a while. As in all other parts of your life, you’ll be amazed at how far a simple “please” and “thank you” will get you.
  • Don’t tie up the radio with unimportant chatter. Someone could be sinking out there.
  • Know your mast height. A shocking number of boats don’t actually require a bridge opening. Operating a bridge costs the taxpayer money. And slowing down street traffic for no good reason is never appreciated.
  • Know where the hell you are. You should get charts, but even a Rand McNally map is better than nothing. The other day, I had boats calling me the Ravenna Drawbridge and the Washington Drawbridge, neither of which exists in Seattle.
  • And just calling me “drawbridge” doesn’t work, either. There are often several drawbridges within the sound of your radio. And no bridgetender, to my knowledge, can read your mind.
  • All drawbridges are bound by the Coastguard Federal Regulations. This means that many of us have time periods in which we cannot open for most boaters. Don’t argue with me about it. That won’t change anything. And don’t take it personally. I was not put on this earth to make you late for your golf game.
  • And by the way, if you’re on a sailboat, why on earth are you so impatient? You. Are. On. A. Sailboat.
  • This isn’t my first rodeo. If you ask for an opening and I tell you that I’ll start it upon your approach, continue your approach. I’m timing it based on your rate of speed. If you come to a dead halt before I’ve opened the bridge, that will just make the time the bridge has to stay open for you that much longer. Your lack of consideration backs up traffic for miles. Surprise! The world does not revolve around you.
  • Don’t call me for an opening when you’re still 10 minutes away. I can think of a million things I’d rather do than stand at the operating console, idly waiting for you to show up.
  • Don’t assume I’m asleep. It’s insulting. I’m never asleep. I’m a professional.
  • It is every bit as illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated as it is to operate a car in that condition. When you are drunk, I cannot effectively communicate with you. Ineffective communication on the water can be deadly.

Automotive Stupidity

  • The average drawbridge opening is only 4 ½ minutes long. And you knew you were taking a route that took you over a drawbridge. So there’s no reason to throw a tantrum when you have to wait while a drawbridge opens.
  • There’s also no reason to do a u-turn. By the time you take your detour, that 4 ½ minutes will have passed. It’d be far more pleasant for you to just step out of your car for a minute and enjoy the scenery. Life’s too short.
  • Turn off your engine. Why pollute the atmosphere, when it’s been proven that idling more than 30 seconds is much less fuel efficient than turning your car off and restarting it again?
  • You can honk at me all you want. It’s not going to make the bridge opening go any faster.
  • Rude gestures just make you look like a jerk.
  • When the bridge closes and there’s a pause before the traffic gates go up, it’s not that I’m up here picking my nose. The bridge locks are being driven beneath the street. Just because you don’t see anything happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Hold your freakin’ horses.

Bicycle and/or Pedestrian Stupidity

  • If you see lights flashing and/or hear gongs, that means STOP. Don’t cross the drawbridge. It does NOT mean stop halfway across the bridge to take a selfie. It doesn’t mean stand there and take in the view. It doesn’t mean slow down. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should crawl under the gates. The rules apply to everyone, including you, and they’re there for your safety.
  • Barges can’t slam on the brakes. You need to get out of the way.
  • Cursing at me won’t speed up the opening any more than honking at me does.
  • Projectiles are not appreciated. People in Seattle don’t throw as many eggs and rocks and beer bottles and tomatoes as the people in Florida did. But I’ve never been in a bridge tower anywhere in the country that hasn’t been shot at at least once. What have I ever done to you that merits my death or injury?
  • Please don’t vandalize the bridge. We are proud of it. And many of your fellow citizens are, too. Also, please don’t vandalize my car. I’ve done nothing to you except work hard to ensure that you are safe.
  • Climbing over an opening drawbridge might look cool in the movies, but it can get you killed. And I’ll be the one who has to carry that for the rest of my life. Be a daredevil someplace else.
  • There is nothing more terrifying than being all alone, and going into one of the machinery rooms below the street only to find that someone has broken in and is still there. And it happens just enough to make me jumpy. Can you just… not? If you’re curious, ask for a tour.

Hoooo! I feel cleansed! Now, back to work.

But don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of the boaters, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians are polite, friendly and easy to deal with. I only wish the rest were as cooperative and pleasant. Bridgetenders really do care about all of you. That’s why we’re here, doing what we do. So you’ll have to forgive me if I sometimes get irritated that there are a few out there who don’t care as much as we do.

Oh, and did I mention? It’s my birthday.

bullet-hole