Can of Worms

I’m such an idiot.  I go and drop an in-joke for a couple of friends about people getting insulted.  I neglect to make it especially clear that this is a joke based on something that recently happened to me, and not any genuine feeling or thought that I have.

Anyway, at this point, I just sound like a babbling idiot without at least a little context.

I recently went to my high school reunion (10 years).  Somehow, I became involved with the planning, particularly with planning/creating a facebook with updated information.  In the interest of compiling everyone’s information in a clear, easy way (with the ultimate goal of doing a mail merge), I created a form/questionnaire for people to fill out with specific, detailed data points.

There were four sections of the form for people to give the information I was looking for.  For instance, there was a “Personal Info” section that asked for name, maiden name, address, email address, date of birth, phone number (home and cell).

There was a family info section that asked for spouse’s name, anniversary, spouse’s birthday, children’s name and birthdays (I put four lines for this, figuring four was the max # kids someone might have at this point).

There was a professional info section that asked for undergraduate school/degree/graduation year, graduate school/degree/graduation year, profession and employer.

Finally, there was a “Fun Facts” section that was about 10 blank lines for people to write in something funny/cute/interesting about themselves.

I sent out the form to the email addresses that I had for the class (all but a handful) and asked them politely to help me assemble the info and return the completed forms.  I said I understood that some of this info may be deemed private to some people, and they shouldn’t feel obligated to fill out any part that makes them uncomfortable.  I even filled out a form with my own info, and attached it to show people how it’s done.

I started getting back completed forms, with various bits of information either completed or left out.  Nobody seemed to have an issue.

Then I got an email from someone with an extremely agressive tone, telling me that my form was extremely insensitive, for having such a “focus” on the family information, and not enough devoted to other “accomplishments.” (Meanwhile, this person put nothing in the blank space for free writing about other things/accomplishments, so I wonder).  I emailed back saying I didn’t quite understand what the problem was.  There were four sections of the form, and if the quibble was that more space was allocated to family info, that was simply a matter of function and not emphasis (four lines for kids, etc).  I was attacked for not putting “if applicable” next to the family section, even though I had made exceedingly clear that the entire form was optional.

I questioned whether those people that didn’t have a graduate degree might be offended or insulted at my inclusion of that info?  What about homeless people being asked about their address?  Someone who doesn’t have a cell phone being asked for a cell phone number?  I replied that the concern in the email was overstated and that I had done nothing objectively wrong, in my opinion.  As I said then “[t]he simple fact that the entirety of your concern boils down to the inclusion of ‘if applicable’ speaks to its triviality.” 

This person subsequently emailed back that there was no surprise that I responded in that way, continued to attack me, and tried to get the last word by saying “I don’t want to go back and forth on this.”  I emailed back saying that I thought this was an important issue and didn’t mind continuing to discuss it, and if there was no desire to “go back and forth” then the person should stop emailing me.  Nothing since.

The next morning, after getting and responding to the first email, I brought this up with my trainmates, who, while some agreed with me, many told me that there truly is a sensitivity there that I should have thought of (mind you, I thought about it when I made the form, then rejected it).  I did, and still do, think it’s ridiculous to have to bend over to every person’s flights of over-sensitivity, when the objective middle is that there’s nothing wrong.

Anyway, that’s the genesis of the joked I dropped here.  Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.  I wonder, though, what your thoughts are.

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18 responses to “Can of Worms

  1. You’re such an insensitive prick!

    Interesting though, as a commentary on our Orthodox (dare I say, Five Towns?) culture, that people are so sensitive to that sort of thing. The person who responded to your email is not alone in getting defensive over such issues. Sad.

    I disagree with your trainmates but am not surprised that that was the prevailing view on the Woodmere line. 🙂

    Funny how you responded to that email with typical Noyam gusto.

  2. “What about homeless people being asked about their address?”

    That line just kills me.

    Anyway, I’m amazed that someone was offended at all by the form and its allocation of lines to each respective question. In fact, maybe that’s why they’re not married!!! (KIDDING)

  3. Noyam – can you post the emails with all names redacted?

  4. Noyam – can you post the emails with all names included? (just kidding – don’t post private emails even with the names redacted b/c this person will get further enraged)

    Seriously, that is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Is the emailer offended when they fill out their tax return or just about any other form they ever fill out? Were all the males offended by the maiden name question?

  5. Would Prince or Madonna be offended by the Surname box? We can go on and on about how stupid this complaint is.

  6. I bet Noyam included a “Blog” box – so everyone would see this site on his sample form – in a shrewd attempt to increase eyeballs 😉

    Of course, a retired blogger such as myself would have been completely offended by such a box.

    “You think you’re better than me??? Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!”

  7. Were there any words at the reunion itself? Were the two of you friends in Highschool?

  8. Let’s just say you’re not responsible to worry about everyone’s idiocies. I’m jobless, but I’m not gonna cry if I have to fill out a form that asks where I work.

    Dan’s joke is probably very real. This guy/girl has issues and that could explain why he/she has nothing to fill out in the “family” section.

  9. Everyone on this blog thinks Noyam is right, but his trainmates apparently didn’t. It’s a cultural thing.

  10. Rob’s right, I won’t post mprivate emails, even with names redacted.

    This person and I were not friends in high school, and this person did not attend the reunion.

  11. I’m a “train-mate” and I think it’s ridiculous.

  12. So it’s OK to describe the email in great detail, but not OK to ensure accuracy by posting the email itself?

  13. I didn’t describe the email in great detail at all. I quoted two or three specific words, and that was it. I described my own email in detail, which is fine, since it’s my own.

  14. Trainmates didn’t opine as to whether or not what Noyam did was right or wrong. It seemed to everyone that it was certainly in bounds. The issue was more whether or not Noyam is correct to totally blow off the potential and apparent very real sensitivity. The Orthodox (based on what I’ve heard from people in the class who are not Five Towners, this is not limited to the Five Towns) culture focuses on marriage and children and girls, in particular, are sensitive. This should not surprise any of you. You may think they shouldn’t be so sensitive but it’s certainly a judgment call. And the fact that none of us can empathize doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sympathize. The people who have posted are not females.

  15. Kenny,

    What about the several single women (among even more single men) who responded and filled out the form with the online equivalent of a smile and with nary a single complaint? Doesn’t that suggest that this person’s response was out of line/not normal behavior?

    If we agree that the response isn’t normal, then there should be no obligation or thought to modify the behavior to suit it.

  16. The issue was more whether or not Noyam is correct to totally blow off the potential and apparent very real sensitivity.

    The issue was whether Noyam’s form was insensitive as drafted. Nobody else seems to think so.

  17. You can’t be responsible for everyone’s hypersensitivities. This is a single girl from the class of 1997 – not 1987.

  18. You can’t be responsible for everyone’s hypersensitivities. This is a single girl from the class of 1997 – not 1987.

    It would be even less problematic if it was the class of 1987 because then the overwhelming majority of members would have families, so Noyam would definitely need to put in a family section.

    It’s not like he only invited married people back to the reunion. Any form that requires people to talk about their current life will have a prominent family section because most people have families.

    People need to develop thicker skin.

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