Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Tangled Web We Weave Out of Dumpster Fire Neckties

There's a running joke at work, and on my Facebook, about the ways that people who contact me manage to misspell or mispronounce my name. You name the medium (phone, fax, email, hand-written note, etc.) and at least one person a week will refer to me as Jole, Jule, Troll, Charles, Joyle, or some other previously unimagined variation on the theme of "Joel", but there's one version that comes up most often: at least a hundred people in the last decade have referred to me as Jewel. In my head, I tend to hear it the same way Bette Davis hisses it in "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" whenever she screeches about Jewel Mayhew.

I get called Jewel so often, usually in conjunction with some sad butchery of my last name, that last summer someone sent me this shirt:


They forgot to add a note, though, or the seller didn't let them, so I posted it on Facebook with a thank you message, and then a funny thing happened: two different friends said, "You're welcome."

Odd, right?

Neither one of them contradicted the other. Neither said, "You didn't buy that! I did!" This left a few options in my mind: maybe the one who bought it didn't feel like arguing, or maybe the two of them went in as a pair to buy it for me, or, unlikely but logical, neither one of them actually bought me that shirt. It's the only thing that makes sense to me, but I didn't want to force the issue, and just let it go.

Another running theme at work, especially for the last year, has been the use of dumpster fire memes. I have posted photos of dumpster fires on my Facebook page so many times in the past year that my friend Jocelyn bought me a dumpster fire Christmas ornament, and also I was asked to stop posting them in relationship to workplace issues. This wasn't a written rule or a reprimand, just a strongly worded suggestion.

A few weeks ago I was seething about something unrelated, as I sometimes do, and I started thinking about the unofficial, unwritten rules of our workplace, "No pictures of dumpster fires, Joel. Wear a tie every day, Joel.", and suddenly a lightbulb went on over my head: What if the two rules contradicted each other? If both rules were in the same place at the same time, what would happen? Would one trump the other? Would I have to take off the tie, or would I be allowed to present the dumpster fire to the world?

Determined to find out, I went online to Zazzle and designed and ordered my own dumpster fire tie, using some artwork I found online:


A funny thing happened the night that it came in the mail, though. I was super excited to wear it, and was going to Facebook to post about it, but when Facebook opened the first thing at the top of the page was a Facebook memory of one year ago: the Jewel Kiammer shirt photo. I looked at it, and immediately remembered how two friends took credit for sending me that, and thought, "Could that happen again?" I decided to perform a little experiment, and posted a note on Facebook that I'd received a lovely tie without a note, and did not know who sent it to me. I then texted several friends to ask, "Did you send me a tie?" Since they didn't send me a tie, they all answered, "No."

Except that one of them, my friend Meghan, said, "Yes."

I was immediately skeptical, because I bought this tie for myself, and asked Meghan what was on it. Meghan sidestepped the question by pointing out that part of showing my gratitude should include a Facebook post of my gift with a nice thank you note. I promised to post such a thing, but mentioned again that I did not believe she had sent me this particular gift. Meghan mentioned that my skepticism hurt, so I apologized, thanked her for my gift (which I bought for myself), and promised to tag her in the morning.

During the night, six other friends took credit for my tie. Some of them were clearly joking, but Meghan was holding firm to her story.

Prior to posting in the morning, I offered Meghan the chance to retract her statement, but she did not. I posted a lovely thank you note to Meghan, regarding the tie I purchased for myself. When we got to work, I told her again that I did not believe she had purchased this tie, and not only did she insist that she did, but she told other people in the office that she did. Meghan was all in on claiming to have purchased the tie that I purchased and lied about. I couldn't tell the truth without revealing my lie, but I still gave her repeated chances to retract hers.

Meghan stuck to her story, and I looked like a terribly ungrateful person who couldn't just take a nice gift and be happy.

Around noon I asked Meghan again if she wanted to confess, and texted her a screencap of the order confirmation email, claiming a friend had sent it to me. I carefully cropped it to remove the header that was addressed to me, the person who had placed the order. Meghan responded by claiming that it could be photoshopped, or someone could have logged in and gone through the entire process of ordering to take that photo without actually paying. I posted the cropped order confirmation to the Facebook thread, and Meghan continued to claim that she had ordered me the tie.

I again invited her to confess, and she again stuck to her story.

This left me in a difficult position. Should I go ahead and reveal that I ordered the tie myself, exposing Meghan as a fraud, or was I, as a friend, now obligated to support my friend by covering for her lie? I met some friends for dinner on Sunday and explained my dilemma, and they were unanimous in their answer:

"Dump her out, Joel."

So here I am, dumping out both Meghan and myself, but I did give her another chance on the way to lunch today to confess before I wrote this. She says that she meant it as a joke, but once she started she was just in too deep and couldn't figure out how to get out.

There's probably a moral in there somewhere.

Or this whole thing could just be a long, messy dumpster fire.

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