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I’m a laid back person, I’m a bit proud of that fact, but I’m finding more and more that it gets in the way because I have little-to-no experience in standing up for myself.  It kind of goes along with the way that I cannot get deals from people in retail either when I complain about something defective, or just when I ask nicely, but extends into the rest of my life where I just cannot complain about anything and get satisfaction.

I was raised on the ethos of hard work–nose to the grindstone, take care of yourself and you’ll go far kind of thing.  Well, maybe you won’t go far, since my parents seemed to never want me to be anything more than middle class (perhaps not even comfortably middle class), but that should be all you want!  Ask for too much and you’re just greedy.  Because this is ingrained in me, I just stiff upper lip my way through life not letting things get to me, and now I’ve gotten to the point where when I try to get worked up about things and stand up for myself, it really comes off insincerely.

About five years ago, I had just started running semi-regularly.  I bought a pair of proper shoes, and was up to about three miles on the treadmill.  I was feeling pretty smug about it.  Then one day, I felt an incredible amount of pain in my left foot.  I stopped running, started walking and it subsided a bit, but as soon as I tried running again, it became unbearable.  I switched to the elliptical machine and used my heel rather than front part of my foot, and it seemed to work out.

Later that night, I went to Target, and my foot started hurting so badly, I could barely make it out of the store.  The following morning, it was completely swollen and a lovely shade of greenish purple.  Because I never go to the doctor, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the situation, so I called my father.  My rationale was, he’s been running marathons for 20 years, certainly he must have had or seen something like this in his life before, he’ll advise me.  Basically what he ended up telling me was, “quit complaining, just keep running.”

This is not the first time my father has given me terrible advice, and my protestations that I couldn’t even get a shoe on my foot much less run in this condition were ignored in favor of repeating the same few words over and over “quit complaining, just keep running.”  So I decided to take my mangled foot to the doctor in the hopes that if nothing else, he or she would give me good painkillers (which usually give me a headache, but it’s worth a shot).  The doctor determined that it was a stress fracture, said there’s nothing he could do about it, and sent me home with a bill.

This is why I don’t go to the doctor.

Despite these setbacks, I’m trying to keep up with my quest to be a little less laid back and a little more assertive, but the problem is that I just keep forgetting.  A while ago, a car was parked illegally in my street, blocking part of the road in a way that was both unsafe and annoying. I remembered Jewish Friend telling me that she frequently calls the police for vehicular complaints, so I tried to do the same.

“The car is in the middle of the street!” I asserted.

“It’s not pulled over to the side?” the police man asked.

“Well, it is pulled over, but it’s a really narrow road.”

He just sighed, “We’ll get it when we ticket at 2am.” Then he hung up on me.

Are the police supposed to hang up on you when you’re not a deranged, hysterical person?  It seems wrong, and it hurt my feelings.

Last night at work, there was a huge booming sound on the roof followed by a power outage in half the building and a post-apocalyptic hum.  We lost the phones, and one of the children’s librarians came running down the steps saying, “we need to evacuate, there’s a smell.”  So my co-worker told me to call the fire department.

I scanned the phone book looking for the fire department non-emergency number.  Turns out that there is no such thing, and if you need the fire department, you call 911, which does make sense when you think about it.

So I made my first 911 call, feeling like at any moment I would be arrested for tying up an emergency line, and almost apologizing to the woman on the other end for wasting her time.  It was an emergency, we had a building with 100 people in it and no idea what was going on, but I still felt like well, I don’t actually see flames/no one is bleeding from the eyes, surely this doesn’t warrant a 911 call.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers the other day, where he discussed a couple very famous plane crashes and determined that a lot of the crash could have been avoided had the pilot in contact with the tower been a little more assertive and emphatic about the state of emergency.  While reading it, I scoffed at the pilots, amazed that while a plane runs out of fuel before crashing into John McEnroe’s dad’s house they would nonchalantly tell the tower “We’re low on fuel” instead of “We’re out of gas!  Emergency!”

I would never make it as a pilot because I probably would have done the exact same thing.

I’m a work in progress.

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