Trusting Forward

Times they are a changin’ – so sang Bob Dylan back in 1964, and he’s just won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year (2016), so he’s still valid, and what he sang is still valid too.

The times are indeed still changing. It’s a big change in itself that Bob can win a literature prize when he’s not working in that field.

I suspect that the biggest change is in regard to trust.

When you think about it, trust underpins the majority of changes we all hear about these days.

Labour Party supporters lost trust in their own party and voted in Corbyn. The public lost trust in the Labour Party and voted for other parties instead. The majority of Brits lost trust in membership of the European Union.

People have lost trust in Big Business, Big Pharma, Big Banks. They have also lost trust in politics, religion, economics, sport, climate change, and the media.

Corruption, Fake News, Drugged athletes, VW’s rigged emissions… it’s difficult to find anything we can still trust in.

This idea intrigues me, so I’m thinking it through here on this blog in front of your very eyes.

I was once told that marriage is a relationship based on trust. That it requires a buy-in from both parties, and is based on continuance-without-question. This is close to the work ethic in that you get up and go to work each morning without thinking – it’s automatic, it’s what you do. You do not have to stop and decide to choose to go to work each day. Same thing with marriage – you decided to marry, and don’t need to make that choice every day. Until that trust is broken.

Can trust in work or marriage, once broken, ever be regained? I have heard it said that once trust in a relationship is broken, then a decision is continually made – that there is a choice every morning. You do not automatically assume subconsciously to continue. Broken trust is when that comes to the fore and is considered however fleetingly. Maybe this fades over time? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Yes, we all know relationships can continue – but the point is that the trust is not there; something has changed. Perhaps more often than not, continuance is because there is no clear alternative, and the choice is forced rather than freely made.

OK. I know what you’re thinking – that relationships have different areas of trust, and my description is too narrow.  You’re right but only to a certain extent; some people don’t trust their partners to drive their car, others don’t trust their significant other with handling the money or children.So we can have working relationships containing distrust, but it seems to me that it works only when the distrust is known to both, and actively managed (not ignored or avoided). That’s the important difference I think.

What can be done when trust is broken?

Well we can vote for change. We can vote against the establishment. We can revolt. We can fight back.

I know that Air B’n’B is all about trust; people are in your home – your private and personal space.  Uber is another new business that is very trusting too.

This is the new trust way.

We always had a social contract, a trust that the taxi driver would take us to our destination. We maybe didn’t have a great level of trust that the fare would be correct or that the taxi would not break the speed limit. But with Uber and Air B’n’B it’s a two-way street in that you can review your experience, and they can review you as a customer.

The result is that service provider and customer behave better, and trust is currency.

Reputation becomes the biggest and most important commodity.

Councils provide housing for people who do not take care of the property. Perhaps if there was a system like the Uber/ Air B’n’B model, reputation would make councils repair and maintain properties better, and tenants would keep their homes better?

Banking and investing have always been about customer reputation – credit scores and ratings – but that is one-sided. We need the banks and financial institutions to care about their own reputations, we need this to be a two-way street to rebuilt trust.

Politics is too far gone. The old party politics system is no longer fit for purpose. Council members, MPs, MEPs and MSPs have never been rated and reviewed on their performance, their delivery of manifesto promises nor even on their attendance/ involvement. There have never been Key Performance Indicators nor targets against which they may be measured. It’s deliberately complicated and opaque.

I can’t think of anything that can’t be improved by changing to a reputation model – including work. I hope this is the future.

 

How to Get an Instant Divorce

I was once witness to the terrible consequences of loose talk, and have been very careful ever since.

This happened years ago. John and I were in the pub trying to chat up two girls who had already told us they were married.

I had seen this all before – girls who were married didn’t go out on the town by themselves. If they weren’t lying, then they were unhappily married. That was John’s theory, so we continued undeterred – and they seemed to like it (and us) – however, as the drinks flowed, talk got looser.

It turned out that Julie was indeed unhappy in her marriage, her husband was a useless unemployed drunk. She was fed up earning all the money and working long hours just so that he could lie on the couch all day drinking.

John had had a few by now. He knew he was too drunk now to make good any amorous advances, but his mind still worked, albeit without the usual constraints of caution, propriety and inhibition. This was one of those turning points. A game-changer.

He leaned forward and spoke so softly that we all had to lean in to glean what he was saying.

“I say you dump this guy and move on; you can do better for yourself and you’re not getting any younger.”

“But I can’t – he needs me, he depends on me…”

“No, no, not at all; you’re actually keeping him down. Cut him loose; it would be the best thing for him. Believe me.”

“But where would I go?”

“Go? No, you go nowhere – he goes.”

“But I can’t just throw him out without a reason.”

“Is he bad to you?”

“No, not really, he’s bad FOR me. As I said, he just does nothing. He’s always just lying there zonked out on the couch in front of the TV, a waste of space…”

“If I could tell you how to get rid of him in the quickest, easiest and most painless way possible, would you be interested to hear it?”

“I’m telling you he won’t go just like that, it won’t be easy …”

“But it could be; I know a way – and you’d be the hero too, you’d be the good guy and he’d be the bastard. Would you be interested in hearing the plan now?”

“Yes, I flippin’ would, because that’s nigh on impossible, John, seriously!”

“OK, here’s what you do: you go home, you find him zonked out on the couch as usual, dead to the world, right?”

“Right.”

“Right, so you carefully place the lamp on it’s side on the carpet, and do the same with ornaments, pictures, and whatever else you have. Make it look like there’s been a struggle and things have been knocked over. You can even extend the idea to another room, pour something on the carpet, whatever.”

“And all this while he’s drunk asleep on the couch?”

“Exactly. Now you need to rip your blouse, get your hair pulled this way and that, ruin your make-up. Girls can do wonderful things with make-up. All that matters is that you have to look like you’ve been beaten up in a big struggle. Then pick up the phone in the other room and cry and sob and wail down it that he’s gonna kill you and plead for help to the police.”

We all stopped and looked at John. Julie’s eyes were as big as her surprise could make them.

“But the police will arrive and wake him up – he’ll just say he didn’t do it…”

“Ah, but,” John said, “They won’t believe him – they’ll see you, they’ll see the state of the place, and they’ll drag him out of there in two seconds flat.”

I chipped in: “Just say he passed out waiting for you to come out from hiding or something.”

“But – and I’m only asking for the sake of argument – what would happen next? Wouldn’t he just get let off a warning or something” Julie asked.

“Well, the police will warn him not to visit you because you would have seen a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?”

“Yes, a lawyer – to stop this violence once and for all…”

“What violence?”

“All the months and years of suffering that he’s put you through, and that you so skillfully hid from the world. The physical and mental torture you kept behind closed doors, you poor thing!”

“Jeez. He’d deny everything…”

“Yeah, and who’s gonna believe an unemployed drunkard who beats his caring wife and then blacks out?”

And that is how the evening went. Drinks were drunk, thoughts were thought, drunks were ejected onto the street, into cabs, and home to sleep it all off. It was just chat, it was pub banter. We knew she wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a nefarious plan – who could?

Look, she must have loved the guy to get married in the first place. She must still love him if she’s been putting up with him as he is. And like most women, she probably thinks she can change him. And like most wives, she’ll be long-suffering.  If they don’t survive, or prevail, after a fashion, they’ll eventually split up somewhere down the line – because that is what happens.

That is what is supposed to happen.

But Julie did listen, and what she heard resonated within her. She had the power now, and she liked that. She could be proactive, she could pull the plug any time that she wanted, and that was excitingly empowering.

When she got home to find her once-beloved lying on the couch pissed, and beside him was a half-finished takeaway curry and a splash of vomit drying into her good carpet,  she realised that she was no longer in the mood for all this.

.oOo.

It was six months before I was back in that particular bar. I was early to meet up with a couple of pals I hadn’t seen since uni, and there she was in a booth. I caught her eye and nodded in polite recognition – the usual cursory acknowledgement before turning to the barman. She was suddenly beside me.

“I did it!” She pulled on my elbow.

“Eh? What? You did it?”

“Yeah – I did it. I got rid of Charlie!”

“Charlie?”

“Aw, don’t you remember? We were all here a few months back and your pal John came up with a scheme to help me get rid of Charlie…”

“Nah! No way! Are you saying you did one of John’s madcap schemes? You took all that seriously?”

“I am – and I did!” She beamed.

“Jeez. You seem happy on it…”

“I am indeed. Never been happier – I have a new man too.” She indicated a chap over in the booth. “He’s great. We’re great. Together. It’s night and day. John turned my life around – when’s he coming in?”

“Oh, he’s not – I am not meeting up with him tonight, just other pals as it happens.”

“Ah, well, I wish he was coming because I would just like to than him for being a genius!”

“Did it all go to plan then?”

“To the letter. Charlie didn’t know what hit him! You know what’s most funny about all this? Charlie believes he’s been blacking out and battering me. He believes it himself!”

“You’re joking!”

“No – it’s been the best thing for him too; he’s dried out, sorted himself out, turned his life around. He’s even about to start a wee job! I just cannot thank you two enough! If Charlie knew, he’d probably thank you too!”

And that was that. From a careless, half drunken rant, a dream schemed up on a lager’d evening to pass the time – an amusing diversion… to wham! And lives have changed forever! Cause and effect. Consequences.

And before you think that it all worked out for the best – just as Julie told me – it didn’t.

Julie’s was only one side of the story.

Charlie’s version was rather different as we found out later… but that’ll keep for another time.

 

Bereavement and The Work’s Phone

I heard that James had died. It was sudden and unexpected. Everyone in the office was astonished – and then felt sad for his family. His daughter’s wedding day was near.

It had nothing to do with us, but someone at Head Office would have to sort out everything. The company car, mobile phone, clear his desk, do something with his e-mail and hard drive and who-knows-what-else – all would need to be dealt with as soon as possible to allow his family and friends to get on.

It’s not too callous, I hope, but the workload increased, and we were all too busy to dwell on such things.

Time passes quickly, and the company recruited a few new people who had never known James. I thought Alan was one of them, but it turned out that he did know James – and that he had worked at this company with James for years, many years ago.

Alan went through the usual forms and inductions, and was given a company phone, car and a desk with a laptop. Nothing unusual in all of this until last week.

Last week he started receiving weird phone calls from a sobbing woman. After a while he discovered that it was James’s daughter.

The company had given Alan James’s old phone and phone number, and James’s daughter had been regularly calling to hear her dad’s voicemail message – to hear his voice. This was a comfort to her. She’d been talking to him, leaving long and emotional messages about her wedding and then about her pregnancy.

When Alan answered, she got such a fright. She then realised that Alan could hear back her very personal messages – and that she would never again hear her daddy’s voice because Alan had erased the outgoing message with his own.

Of course, Alan, immediately erased all her recordings, and apologised as best he could.

Surely there ought to be some kind of procedure for this sort of thing? Something better than what happened here.

Is it better that Alan knew her, that he knew and worked with James? Or would it have been better had he been a complete new start to the firm?

A modern world brings modern ails.

 

Unattractive Opposites

What’s the opposite of Black?

The answer is usually White. That is what my children answered. But when this comes to people, does that suggest that people of different skin tones are potentially in natural opposition? Now there’s a thought.

What’s the opposite of Man?

My children offered: Woman. Really? Are women and men OPPOSITES? It seems an odd thought considering that we are human beings – we’re more the same than we are different, we are – in my opinion anyway – certainly not opposite or in opposition. Maybe I am nuts; everyone seems to answer the same way.

I don’t really understand all this – I get that the opposite of up is down, of left is right, back is front. But when it comes to colours or genders, I am far from being quite as certain. I did some experiments with the children, and it turned out that day was the opposite of night, sweet was the opposite of sour, coffee was the opposite of tea, brother the opposite of sister, vegetables are the opposite of meat, water was the opposite of fire, and a car was the opposite of a bike!

It is daft to think only or mainly in terms of opposites; it’s more often than not just unhelpful. Perhaps the opposite of man is fish, or vegetable – or machine. If black is the dullest colour, then perhaps the opposite is the more vibrant colour – and that certainly cannot be white! I’d go for orange myself.

I suggested the opposite of a circle was a line, and my children laughed at how silly I was – the answer was, to them, obviously a square.

I hear all the time that opposites attract – an idea that, in my view, only ever applies to magnets and nothing else. In relationships, I would suggest that the word ought to be “complement” instead; people that are a good fit, who complement each other, who achieve more together than individually and so forth. Complementary is not opposite.

Here’s a thought to end on: the opposite of placebo is nocebo.  In a placebo, an inert substance produces a positive effect (a fake medicine or procedure).  It is the power of the mind to believe.

However, for a nocebo, we have an inert substance that produces a negative effect.  People read of side-effects and start having symptoms. It’s the same thing – a placebo and a nocebo act in the same way, yet they are said to be opposites. They are not complementary either, the relationship they have depends on the end effects, rather than the means. Now that’s weird!

The Bird Murderer

When she walked into the public bar, Bill darted for cover.

“Hide me!” He whisper-shouted, nodding in her direction, and hoisting my coat from the chair back, up in front of his panic-stricken profile.

“It’s OK, she’s just passing through to the lounge bar” I said.

Bill peeked and looked relieved. He stopped pretending to be putting on my coat, and relaxed back into his chair to gulp down a large draught of his pint as my face lodged an enquiry.

“Bloody budgie!”

“What did you say?”

“She’s got an evil budgie – it ruined everything, but she’ll not believe a word of it!”

“What on earth are you going on about?” I was mystified. He explained:

It seems that he had chatted her up at a local “Divorced and Singles club”. They had danced, talked, drunk and got a taxi back to hers.

They sat on the sofa, dimmed the lights, turned on some Barry White, and began smooching by candlelight. It was going smoothly and according to The Plan.

She told him she was going to “freshen up”, and left.

“I’ll only be a minute”

He sat back and chilled to the music – suddenly he suffered a sharp pain in the back of his head.

Then again.

“Oucha!” he jumped to his feet, waving his arms at the wee budgie that was intent on pecking him to death.

This fight continued for a minute of two, when it sounded like she was coming back.

As she opened the door, the bird vanished.

“You alright?” she said, surprised to find him on his feet.

“Yeah, I just need to nip to the loo myself.”

He checked the damage in the bathroom mirror – there was blood. This was not good.

He returned to the living room and joined her on the sofa. It wasn’t quite the same, and she sensed it, so he decided to casually raise the topic of the bird.

“Do you ever put the budgie in the cage?”

“Oh hardly ever! He’s perfectly house trained – even when the front door is wide open, he never tries to escape; he loves it here! Don’t you?” She asked the bird, making kiss-kiss noises. The bird hopped onto his head.

“Oh look!” She exclaimed, “He likes you! – Oh let me get a photo of this! Wait there! Don’t move!” She gave up looking through her handbag for a camera, and turned to look behind at the dresser.

The bird took the opportunity to peck his scalp while she was looking away.

“Ouch!”

She spun round, “Did he peck you? Oh, naughty boy, naughty boy” she said to the bird.

“Can you get him off?”

“Oh he didn’t mean it. A small peck means he likes you…”

“No, please get him off, please?”

“Oh don’t be silly…”

And at that he snapped, he jumped up and battered off the bird, which pecked him before flying off to perch on the centre light.

“I have to be off anyway” He said, “I’ll call you tomorrow”.

She was pretty upset at what he’d done to her pet.  He called her and explained that it had drawn blood and pecked the life out of him when she was out of the room, but she didn’t believe him. She called him a coward for making up stories instead of flat out being a real man and telling her straight.

This annoyed him, so he made another date with her. It went well, and they went back to his place. A few more dates, and eventually they wound up back at hers again, and again, he was attacked when she left the room. He couldn’t make her understand, and he was staying the night.

During the night he paid a visit to the loo, naked, and when it flew at his penis and pecked it, he chased it and flattened it with a thick Bible.

Breathless, naked, and with a sore appendage, he sneaked back into the bedroom, got his stuff together, and crept away, never to return.  He left her a note, apologising for killing her bird, and ever since, he’s been on the run.