A Lawyer’s Guide to Turning Down Work

I’m a lawyer.  I really am.  I have been for 26 plus years.  I’ve always been able to attract clients and must have done a competent job for most of them since I’ve had a lot of repeat business.  This doesn’t make me an expert on business development, as we call it.  Honestly, I’m not sure how best to go about that.  Moreover, the legal world is chock full of advice on building your practice, marketing and generating new business.  It’s doubtful that I have much to add to that vast sea of information, or misinformation, as the case may be.

I once worked in a law firm that was concerned to the point of obsession about generating new business.  “Origination” was the term they used.  If one “originated” enough business, he or she became a “rainmaker,” the most valuable of all lawyers, regardless of legal acumen or lack thereof.  The rules regarding origination credit were Byzantine and ever-changing.  For example, you might think you deserved credit for a new client, only to find out that aged partner had represented an employee of the company on a DUI many years ago.  Thus, he was entitled to the credit.  After all, he had planted the seed decades ago.  As one of my partners once noted:  “The Origination rules aren’t written down.  That’s understandable since they change every day.”

Although I have created my share of personal marketing plans, I claim no expertise.  I’ve thought both outside and inside the box.  I’ve been proactive.  I’ve networked.  I’ve schmoozed and small-talked.  I’ve even found time to practice quite a bit of law.  None of this sets me apart from other lawyers.

The one area where I believe I have something to contribute is in turning down business or knowing when existing business is turning sour.  For a long time, I wasn’t good at this, much to my chagrin.  Now, though, I know the red flags that warn me to stay far away from a potential client or to at least understand my situation.  I’ll share a few of those with you.

1. PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL

At least that’s what it says somewhere in the Bible. It doesn’t really apply here, but I like saying it. Any the who, it goes without saying that we don’t want to represent folks who will refuse to pay us.  Now, this is different from a client who suddenly can’t pay.  I’ve represent several clients–individuals and companies–who sunk into dire finances during my representation of them.  This is a professional risk.  It’s happened to some of my favorite clients.

The ones I’m talking about are the ones who won’t pay.  Here’s a bad sign:  You are the third lawyer they’ve hired on a particular matter.  This is a person who doesn’t play well with others.  Just as important, this person has had bad relationships with other lawyers.  Why?  It probably has something to do with money.  Ask this potential client if he owes the other lawyers money.  If the answer is “yes,” run!  A client that will stiff one lawyer will do it to you.  At least ask for an upfront deposit against your fees.  If they aren’t willing to invest in their case, you shouldn’t either.

Related to this is the client who doesn’t want to discuss your bills.  Oh, he or she paid you regularly for a while, then slowed a bit and finally stopped paying.  You ask about it and are told that the client will be caught up soon.  Don’t worry.  When you hear that, worry. A lot.

Lawyers are an odd breed.  We don’t like to push our clients about bills.  Perhaps we are embarrassed by the amounts we bill.  Maybe it’s just an uncomfortable topic.  Regardless, when you don’t confront, it gets worse.  It’s Business 101 that the older a bill gets, the less likely it is to ever get paid.

The question, of course, is: When is enough enough?  There’s no way to state of rule of thumb here.  Large law firms are able to carry large receivables for a long time.  Small firms like mine can’t.  Here is an exchange which should end your representation immediately (I’ve had some variation of this multiple times):

Lawyer:  Carl, we need to talk about your bills.  We haven’t been paid in six months, and we need to get this caught up.

Client:  I know.  I know.  We have cash flow problems, but we’re working on it.  I don’t know when we’ll be able to get caught up, but we’re good for it.

Lawyer:  I appreciate that, but we can’t commit substantial time and expense without some assurance of getting paid. 

Client:  What do you mean?  Are just going to quit on me?

Lawyer:  I don’t want to do that, but I’ll have to if we can’t get paid.

Client:  You’ve insulted me.  If you don’t want to work on the case, that’s fine…..

See what we have here?  You–a business person–have addressed the most basic need of your business–income.  Your client is insulted by the prospect of having to pay you.  You must run from this client with all haste.  If you don’t, don’t expect to ever get paid again.

2. DON’T REPRESENT CATS

Of course, it’s well-known that there are no cat herds.  Cats don’t do that.  They just scatter about.  Some of your clients are like that.  They aren’t dogs.  They don’t have a leader.  They are cats, scurrying about with no one in charge.  These are not good clients.

The Cat Client comes in various forms–corporations, families, virtually any collective of people.  No one is in charge.  The point person, your “client contact,” as we call it, seems to be the boss until real decisions have to be made.  Then, no one is in charge.  In a corporation, you may hear from the President, the CFO, the in-house attorney or the janitor.  They all have differing views on the goals to be achieved.  If you need a question answered quickly, good luck.

I’ve represented several churches in my career.  Each was a fine organization headed by fine people, but no one was in charge.  The minister works for the church at the pleasure of the Elders or whatever group is supposed to be in charge.  That group has no leader.  They make decisions as a collective.  Getting direction is almost impossible.  You’ll end up frustrated, and so will they.

Families are even more difficult.  Most families are like mine and have no structure whatsoever.  No one is in charge, and they like it like that.

Here’s what you do.  At the first sign of cat-like behavior, set some ground rules.   A contact person is a good start.  Get a list of folks who need to be updated on your case.  You might have to paper or email them into submission, but it’s worth it.  Better to keep too many in the loop than not enough.

3. IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY

This isn’t about the money. It’s the principle.” These words send a chill up the spine of all experienced attorneys. It is, after all, about the money–at least most of the time.  The sooner your client comes to that realization, the better off you both will be.

Unless it’s a criminal case or, possibly, a divorce, it’s all about the money. If you sue someone, you want money. If you’ve been sued, you don’t want to pay money. In fact, you may not even want to pay your own lawyer.

Let’s say your client is in a $500 dispute. A good lawyer (or even a bad one who wants to get paid) explains that the client will pay the lawyer far more than $500. If the client responds that he or she would rather pay the lawyer, you must pause, tamp down your greed and repeat your cautionary warning. Slowly and clearly.

If your client persists, go forward but be realistic. At some point, your client will realize that it is, in fact, about the money after all.  When they owe you more than they do the adversary or more than they can possibly recover, they’ll know it’s about the money.  At that point, you may well be the adversary.

4. THEY DON’T REALLY WANT A LAWYER

Given the general public’s disdain for the legal profession, it isn’t surprising that a lot of people–maybe most–don’t want to hire a lawyer.  This is especially true of trial lawyers.  There is a subtle but important difference between needing one and wanting one.

Good clients want to hire you.  They want your advice and expertise.  Some folks–thankfully a small percentage–hire you only because they must.  They do not recognize you as having any specialized knowledge or skill.  Indeed, these clients are prevented from doing your job only because of their dearth of education and lack of professional credentials.  Nevertheless, they know how to do your job better than you do.

They’ll plot strategy for you.  They know the best witnesses.  They even know the questions you should ask during depositions and trials.  During trial, they will hand you helpful notes such as “Ask him if he’s lying!” They will disagree with you about the law.  You will calmly explain a basic concept such as the abolition of Debtor’s Prison, and they will contend that it is unfair.  You will explain that a certain position is not legally sound, and your client will disagree based upon nothing more than his or her idea of what the law should be.

This client will not be pleased with your work.  Monday Morning Quarterbacks rarely are.  If you are prepared for this, by all means go forth.  Such clients are best represented once.  The good news is that their displeasure with you likely means that they will move on to new lawyer anyway (See Item No. 1 above).

I suppose other professions deal with similar issues.  Perhaps cancer patients demand that their oncologists provide certain medications or ask to assist in surgery.  In that case, I’m sure the doctor will continue to prescribe what is best.  Lawyers must do the same.  Keep advising even if your advice is ignored.  Besides, isn’t it just a wee bit satisfying to get to say “I told you so!”?

5. BE A CRIMINAL LAWYER, NOT A LAWYER CRIMINAL

Criminals are entitled to lawyers just like everyone else.  That’s one of the great things about America.  Even if you are guilty, the government still has to prove its case against you.

Where a lawyer gets off base is when he or she becomes the criminal.  Hey, if your client breaks the law, it’s your job to help.  By that, I mean help defend your client, not help your client break the law.  It’s real simple:  If your client is doing something illegal, strongly advise against it, and don’t participate in it.

It’s bad when your client goes to prison.  It’s worse when you go, too.

6.  YOU WANT A WHAT?

Sometimes, people aren’t looking for a lawyer.  They want a “bulldog” or “pit bull.”  Someone once told me that he was looking for “Someone who will get down in the gutter and fight to the death.  Win at all costs!”  Beware of folks like this.  Why?

First, if your self-image is that of an animal or you imagine yourself wallowing in the gutter, you may need therapy.  Second, this type of talk is often code for:  “I want an unethical and, if necessary, dishonest lawyer.”  Third, they want you to engage in all manner of harassing shenanigans that will likely make their fees grow exponentially.  Then, you run into Item Nos. 1 and 3 above.

The best lawyers I’ve known are polite and professional. They zealously represent their client like human beings, not animals.  They don’t harangue their opponents or needlessly fight about every detail.

If you need a lawyer, I’m your man.  If you need a dog, go to the Humane Society.

7.  DEVELOP A NUT ALLERGY

I can’t emphasize this enough.  It is, after all, the most important point of all.  Nuts need and want lawyers just like regular people.  In fact, many nuts require legal representation far more than normal people.  This is because they are frequently embroiled in controversies in which only nutty people are involved.  Identifying nuts, however, is most difficult.

Here’s one sign:  There’s a conspiracy.  A large group of people (often the Government) have conspired against your client.  These conspiracies can involve the judiciary and all other levels of government.  Remember:  If there really is a conspiracy–which does happen sometimes, it will usually be pretty easy to crack.  If it is hidden under layers of impenetrable silence, consider this very real possibility:  It isn’t true.

Another sign:  Vast amounts of paper.  I have had cases involving hundreds of thousands of documents.  Believe it or not, that’s not uncommon.  What is uncommon is a client who presents you with piles of irrelevant paper.  Often, these papers are carried around in their pockets or cars.  You don’t know what they mean.  Neither does your client. But they are important.

A final sign:  The case no one will take.  This is a potential client who describes to you an impossibly lucrative case which no lawyer will take.  These cases involve millions of dollars.  There’s usually a conspiracy and a mountain of irrelevant paperwork associated with the case.  Here are few real life examples that I’ve either heard about or experienced myself:

  • The DeGroot Patents:  These are a series of 19th Century land patents from the Commonwealth of Kentucky under which someone claims vast mineral resources.  You are likely to find that they are junior patents, inferior to the entire rest of the world’s claims.
  • Forced Homosexuality:  This was a guy who sued Eastern Airlines (and many others) for being involved in a nationwide conspiracy to force him into homosexuality.
  • Nigerians:  These folks really need lawyers, usually to help transfer funds stolen from some government enterprise.  If you fall for this one, you deserve it.

Often, you won’t know your client is a nut until deep into the representation.  Be patient.  They will rarely see things your way.  Remember that if they ever come back around.

I guess you noticed that I didn’t really say you should turn down all of this type of work.  Times are tough in the legal profession, and none of us are as choosy as we’d like to be.  That said, if you do turn down this type of work, you won’t be sorry.  After all, sometimes, it really is the principle of the thing.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

JFK Fifty Years Later: Asking the Unanswerable

Like all Americans, I’ve been overwhelmed by coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  There have been movies, reenactments, documentaries, docudramas and replays of contemporary news footage.  I have concluded two things:  1) JFK is dead; and 2) Someone or some thing shot him.  The rest is subject to debate.

Unlike many scholars who have devoted decades to detailed analysis of the evidence, my research has been limited to two or hours of disinterested television watching.  Much of that has been obscured by the mad cacophony which is a sort of background theme music in my home.  Nevertheless, I am now armed with enough information to wildly speculate about those tragic events.

The Warren Commission was the body charged with investigating JFK’s assassination.  Headed by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, the Commission concluded that  Oswald, acting alone, shot JFK and Texas Governor John Connally from the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas.  Oh, if it were only that simple.   It has become quite clear to me that I know more than the Commission, plus I have no fear of reprisal since I don’t know what the hell happened, either.

This “single gunman” theory has been largely rejected by many erudite scholars, students of history and crackpots.  It is just as likely that JFK was killed as part of a conspiratorial cabal which may or may not have included Lyndon Johnson, the Mafia, the Teamsters, Fidel Castro, Commies, J. Edgar Hoover, the Amish, the Boy Scouts, Israel, the John Birch Society, Opus Dei, the Kiwanis Club and Joe DiMaggio.  I am willing to consider–and embrace–any and all theories.

In 1969, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison tried Clay Shaw for conspiring to kill JFK, resulting in an acquittal after less than an hour of jury deliberations.  Garrison was either a visionary who dared take on the establishment or a complete crackpot.  You decide.

With 50 years of study behind us, you might think that there are unexamined issues left.  Of course, you would be wrong.  I now am willing to ask the tough questions–the real ones–from which others shrink.  Among the questions which no dares ask are:

  • Why was LBJ conveniently in Dallas on that fateful day?
  • Why was Lady Bird Johnson so quickly dismissed as the likely second gunman or gun person, as it were?  From her position in the car behind the President, she alone had a clear shot at his head.
  • Why was suicide ruled out?
  • Earl Warren was a well-known champion of so-called civil liberties.  Isn’t at least reasonable to assume that he may have been a communist sympathizer?
  • How come no one killed Jim Garrison?
  • Where are the suppressed photos of Oswald and LBJ at Jack Ruby’s strip joint?
  • How do you explain the deaths of Earl Warren and Clay Shaw within one month of each other in 1974?
  • Speaking of Earl Warren’s death, why doesn’t Wikipedia tell us the cause of his death at the relatively young age of 83?  Who is editing that page to delete all references to his mysterious passing?
  • Within a year of Warren’s death, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared and mobster Sam Giancana was murdered.  Coincidence or silencing?
  • What deal was struck with Warren Commission member Gerald Ford for his complicity?  Could it have included the Presidency of the United States?
  • Only one year after Warren’s untimely passing, Lynnette Fromme and Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate President Ford.  Why have they never denied being part of a conspiracy to wipe out all Warren Commission members?
  • Why didn’t Richard Nixon ever publicly address his relationship or lack thereof with Jack Ruby?
  • Why, when filming such an important event as a Presidential assassination, was Abraham Zapruder’s film of such poor quality?
  • What kind of name is Zapruder, anyway?
  • Why are so many assassins known by three names?
  • Is there anyone under age 50 in the United States named Lee Harvey?  If so, why?
  • How was Jack Ruby so skilled in human anatomy that he knew that shooting Oswald in the stomach would be fatal, as opposed to a head shot which he would have likely survived?
  • Fidel Castro has said that killing Kennedy would have been an “act of insanity” insuring the immediate destruction of Cuba.  Why would anyone believe that Commie?
  • By the way, how in the Hell is Fidel Castro still alive?
  • When Oswald was arrested, he was watching the film War Is Hell  starring Baynes Barron.  Barron was born on the same day as JFK.  How do you explain that?
  • Was Oswald’s wife really as big a nag as portrayed in the TV movie Killing Kennedy?
  • If Oliver Stone’s film JFK isn’t true, how could he make a movie out of it?
  • How powerful is Oliver Stone that no one has killed him yet?
  • What better way would there be for the Mafia to get the Feds off their backs than to murder the President?
  • What is a grassy knoll?

If you can answer any or all of these questions, you may be on to something.  Or not.  We know JFK is dead.  Oswald? Dead.  Ruby? Dead.  LBJ?  Dead.  Connally? Dead.  Warren? Dead.  Garrison? Dead. Lady Bird?  Dead.  Are we seeing a pattern here?  I’ll ask the questions.  You answer them.  It’s safer for me that way.

©thetrivialtroll.com 2013

Are You Mad? The Five Signs of Lunacy

If you’re anything like me, you occasionally wonder if you are going insane or, perhaps, are already there.  “Insane” isn’t really the right word.  That’s actually more of a legal term, requiring some sort of adjudication of your condition. Few of us will ever reach the point that such measures are necessary.   Madness and lunacy are much better terms.  Regardless of whether you call it madness, lunacy, bonkers or just plain crazy, we all think about it from time to time.  (We don’t?  Hmmm.  Maybe it’s just me.  That’s not good at all.)

In any event, I have identified certain markers of madness that may benefit others.  These tell-tale signs should be used as warnings  that we are close to veering off the path of the well-balanced into the median of lunacy.

I have had experience with all of these at various points in my life.  In fact, I’ve had days where I’ve experienced them all.  Those were not particularly good days, by the way.

I must qualify all of this by disclosing that I am NOT a mental health professional.  Indeed, I have no medical or psychological training whatsoever.  I am particularly unqualified to diagnose any condition or to offer any advice regarding appropriate treatment.  So, should you actually be a lunatic, do not contact me for advice.  In fact, don’t contact me at all.  You could be dangerous, you know.

1. YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT

Have you ever thought that you are a very important person, a VIP as it were?  Now, I’m not talking about being important to your family or friends. Don’t confuse this with being important to your dog, either.  Your dog thinks you are the lead dog.  If you think you are a dog, that’s another set of issues altogether.

I’m talking about general importance.  Your opinions are important, for example.  If people disagree with you, it is an outrage.  They are fools, because you are always correct.  Those who disagree with you are Communists, racists, homophobes, anarchists, ne’er do wells, welfare queens, robber barons or many other such disagreeable sorts, depending upon your particular view of the world.  These people lack your intelligence and insight.  They don’t know as much as you know.  Not only are these people wrong, they–and the rest of us–MUST know your opinion on everything for you are important and must be heard.

Chances are that you are like most us and only want to listen to people with whom you agree.  It’s likely–almost certain, in fact–that the only people who want to listen to you are those who share the same views as you.  Everyone else doesn’t want to listen to it.  Sorry, but that’s how it goes.  If you can’t accept that, madness lurks just around the corner.

Have you ever had the urge to say “Don’t you know who I am?”  I know I have.  Sadly, I’ve even said if before–and not just to myself, either.  Perhaps, if I were–say–George Clooney that would make some sense.  But, if I were George Clooney people would actually know who I am, and I wouldn’t have to say it.  Even thinking that is bad.  Thinking it may be even worse, because you might believe people do know who you are when they really don’t.  Then, you just walk around thinking that you shouldn’t have to stand in lines or wait in traffic or pay your bills or wear pants.  Maybe, we all should say it out loud every now and then just to be reminded that they don’t know who we are and don’t care.

2. YOUR JOB IS REALLY IMPORTANT

This could be a subset of the first sign above.  Your job may actually be important.  If you’re a firefighter, cop, oncologist or teacher you certainly have an important occupation.  People depend on you.  That is a good thing.  Don’t confuse that with your job making you important.

I am a lawyer.  I think that’s an important job.  My clients depend on me to get them the results they want.  Each case I handle is extremely important to those folks.  Many people don’t think much of lawyers.  We rank slightly above crack dealers and slightly below pimps in the public’s view.  Used car dealers and insurance salesman are viewed largely the same.  Yet, we all think we’re important.  The painful truth is that a lot of people can do our jobs just as well–and even better–than we do.

Mathematician/Philosopher and all-round know-it-all Bertrand Russell once said that one of the signs of an impending nervous breakdown is the belief that your job is extremely important.  He was a lot smarter than I am, but I’m not sure that’s correct.  What I am sure of is that the belief that ME doing that job is extremely important is a bad sign.

I’m not irreplaceable.  Neither are you.  If you think you are, try this:  Go in to your place of business and quit.  I did that once.  Guess what?  They were fine without me.  Someone else started doing the stuff I had been doing, and everything continued on as usual.

I’ve worked with people who died unexpectedly.  People were really upset, some because they were human beings and others because death disrupts the workplace, what with the grieving and funerals and what have you.  Soon, though, we were trying to figure out who would get the deceased’s furniture or office.  Some of us were concerned that we might have to do more work.

So, the reality is that if you die at work, someone gets your credenza.  That’s it.

3. YOU HEAR STUFF

We all know that hearing things can be a bad sign.  Auditory hallucinations cause much trouble in the world.  Rarely do we read of “voices” saying things like “Have a good day” or “Be nice to someone.”  Usually, it’s stuff like “Eat that dog” or “Wear her skin as a vest.”  These voices–at least I’ve been told–seem real, so we do as they command.  If you’ve got that going on, for God’s sake, do something about it.

There is other stuff you can hear.  God, for example.  I’m not talking about something like a friend saying “God spoke to my heart.”  That’s a kind of metaphorical observation that means “I got this feeling.”  We’ve all had that.  I mean God actually talking and you possibly talking back.  Think of it like this:  God went silent late in the Old Testament.  Why would He start talking to you?  If it’s because you are really important, re-read my comments above.

Maybe the radio talks to you.  If you’re driving down the road screaming at Sean Hannity, that’s a problem.  He can’t hear you.  Perhaps you think 1970’s singer Dan Hill is crooning to you when you hear Sometimes When We Touch on the Oldies station.  He isn’t.  I used to think Olivia Newton-John was singing to me.  I don’t think that anymore, unless I’m watching Grease.

You may have pets.  You may love your pets more than any human.  Good for you, but they don’t talk.  Even if you talk to them in exaggerated baby talk that would embarrass any self-respecting infant, your dog or cat isn’t talking back.  If they do, just Google “Son of Sam” and stay far away from me.

Oh, don’t confuse this with seeing things.  There many benign explanations for this phenomenon–strong drink, drugs, poor lighting, etc.  Don’t worry about this unless the things you see start talking to you.

4. YOU DON’T TAKE YOUR MEDICATION

There’s nothing wrong with medication, assuming it’s prescribed and you need it.  Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Zoloft and the like have done a world of good by altering troubling brain chemistry.  If you stop taking it, though, we have a problem.  This is especially true if you’re taking any sort of anti-psychotic medication.

When people start feeling better, they don’t want to take their medication anymore.  They are, in their dysfunctional minds, “cured.”  Here’s what you should do:  The day you stop taking your medication, note that this is the day you start down the road to full-blown lunacy.  You might even want to mark it on your calendar.

5. YOU BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACIES

We don’t need to belabor this point.  Suffice to say that if you believe in any vast conspiracy that has remained secret for many years, you are not firing on all cylinders.  Here is a just sampling of topics about which you may believe a conspiracy exists:

  • The moon landing
  • 9-11
  • Marilyn Monroe’s death
  • Elvis Presley’s death
  • Bob Denver’s death
  • The Kennedy Assassination
  • Barack Obama’s birthplace
  • The firing of the original Darren on Bewitched
  • Anything involving a “New World Order”
  • Area 51
  • Communists
  • Big Foot
  • Yeti
  • The Knicks winning the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery

This list could be 10 times longer, but we’ll stop for brevity’s sake.  There may be conspiracies peculiar to your own circumstances.  For instance, your child may do poorly in school.  You may believe that this is a result of teachers, administrators and fellow students conspiring against your child.  Consider that your child may not be very bright or could be down right lazy.  It happens.

Try this.  Go out and see if you can line up 10 people you know for or against anything.  It ain’t easy.  Imagine now that you were wanting to kill someone with their help.  Not likely.

Just repeat to yourself each day:  There are no conspiracies.  If you hear a voice repeating it back to you, well, you know.

CONCLUSION

These are the five markers of madness.  You’ll notice that I didn’t delve into actual mental illnesses such as bipolar disease, schizophrenia, depression and the like.  Again, I have no medical training.  These specific diagnoses are best left to the professionals or you can easily diagnose yourself by searching on the Internet for your particular symptoms.  Here is an educational video to help you better understand such diseases of the mind.

There is good news.  Any one of these peculiarities, standing alone, is likely no more than a sign that you are weird or–if you are wealthy–eccentric.  Two or more, sadly, point directly to crippling lunacy.  You may be fortunate and become pleasantly mad–like many town characters throughout our great land.

It’s time to stop–at least that’s what the voices are telling me.  You know how pushy they can be.

©thetrivaltroll.wordpress.com 2013

How Smart Aren’t You?

dumb

Did you ever think you might not be all that smart?  If you’re really dumb, you probably haven’t.  I’ve think about it sometimes, even though I seem to be fairly bright.  Of course, if I’m not so smart, I’ll probably would like I’m smarter than I really I am.

I’d rather have almost any problem that dumbness.  Almost.  Horrible diseases would be worse, as would disfiguring scars.  Face tattoos may be worse.  Morbid obesity, too, but you might be able to do something about that.

I recently wrote a post about stupidity and one its key elements–dumbness. After I wrote it, it got me thinking (See? I’m not dumb).  My observations, while spot on as usual, are of no aid to a man or woman who does not realize his or her own dumbness.  While my post may have been of benefit in identifying the dumb or truly stupid, it left a gaping hole.  How do you know if you yourself are dumb or possibly even stupid?

It strikes me that the truly dumb don’t know it.  How could they?  If someone pointed it out, they may not understand.  This would be especially true if that someone was a smart person.  It may all be above their heads.

I thought devising a quiz for dumbness.  But the dumb probably aren’t good test-takers.  How could they trust the test results?

Instead, I offer certain red flags for your consideration.  Below are telltale signs of dumbness.  I don’t write this to offend, although I surely will.  Consider it a public service:

YOU BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACIES

The dumber you are the more conspiracies you believe.  Even believing in just one is a bad sign.  Multiple?  Uh oh.  Here’s the deal with conspiracies:  They get found out.  People can’t keep their mouths shut.  Someone talks.

Here’s a helpful rule of thumb:  If you believe in a conspiracy and at least one of the conspirators is alive, it probably didn’t happen.

Let’s take the JFK assassination, the grand daddy of all conspiracies.  Quite a few smart people believe this one.  According to the theorists, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Clay Shaw, J.D. Tippit, Lyndon Johnson, The Warren Commission, the Mafia and many, many others were all involved.  There are many variations on this conspiracy, enough to fill several books–which they have. None of the conspirators ever cracked and made public their story.  Weird, huh? Hundreds–maybe thousands–of people coordinated to kill one man and everyone kept their mouth shut.  Do you know why?  BECAUSE IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.

What about the moon landing?  Lots of folks think it didn’t happen.  Are you one of them?  They can point to many “facts” supporting their claims.  All of those have been debunked; however, any skeptic is just part of the conspiracy.  I was a kid when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  Another kid told me that it couldn’t happen because “the moon would turn to blood.”  It didn’t.

How about 9/11?  Think George W. Bush orchestrated it?  If so, he is the most evil and diabolical mind to ever sit in the White House.  Do you really believe that?

There are a couple of things that drive conspiracies.  One is that some things seem too big not to be part of some larger evil.  How could a little piss ant like Lee Oswald shoot the President?  How could a bunch of loons just waltz into our country and fly planes into buildings?  There must be some explanation!  Other things–like the moon landing–are so fantastic that they lend themselves to wild theories.

Sadly, dumbness also drives conspiracy theories.  I’m sure some dumb guy reading this now thinks I’m in the CIA.  Maybe I am.

YOU HATE SMART PEOPLE

Do you think smart people lack “common sense?”  Do you think people who attend the top universities are “elitists?”  Do you call people who excel academically names, like “nerd” and “dork?”  If so, you have a great chance of being dumb.

The really smart folks are the ones who made our lives worth living.  They invented almost everything.  I’m sure there a few things that dumb guys invented, maybe the toilet paper holder or Bluetooth headsets.  Regardless, smart people have made most of the good stuff.

A guy once told me that I lacked common sense because I didn’t know how to trap a bear.  Really?  If you find yourself saying something like, stop.  You are treading the path of dumbness.

Likewise, people who attend the finest universities in our country also tend to be smart.  Okay, there are some “legacies” who get in these schools, too.  (George W. Bush, the entire Kennedy family, etc.).  Overall, though, these are the best and the brightest.  Be glad they go to these schools.  They come up with stuff like microwave ovens, satellites, cell phones, face transplants and computer software.  Of course, you don’t have to go to one of these schools to do well, but it won’t hurt you.

Plenty of smart don’t go to the best schools.  Bill Gates is an example.  They’re still plenty smart. They’re not elitists.  They’re just smart.  If you don’t understand that, well…..you get the picture.  Or maybe not.

Oh, being well-educated doesn’t necessarily make you smart.  I’m a lawyer, and there are plenty of dumb lawyers.

Smart people are the ones you are tempted to deride by pointing out their lack of social graces or general “coolness.”  They’re also probably signing your pay checks.

YOU USE NON-WORDS

There are a lot of words in the English language, probably thousands.  I’m sure other languages have just as many or even more than we do.  There’s really no reason to make up words. I’m not talking about colloquialisms or even words like “ain’t.”  As we know, “ain’t” ain’t a word, but we use it.  Where I grew up, it’s as much a part of the language as any other word.  I’m really talking about words that just flat aren’t words.  Here’s a partial list:

  • Supposably
  • Irregardless
  • Hain’t (the correct word is “ain’t.”)
  • Mater
  • Efforting
  • Ath-a-lete
  • Drowneded
  • Excape
  • Orientate
  • Interpretate
  • Nucular
  • Reoccur

Of course, this list could go on and on.  Don’t even get me started on things like “I could care less,”  which means you actually do care, at least to some extent.  If you continually use fake words, you might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Stop it.  If you can stop, then you’re not dumb.  If you don’t understand any of this…you know that means.  I guess.

YOU BELIEVE EVERYTHING ON THE INTERNET

The Internet is wonderful. It’s hard to imagine life before it, although many of us remember those times.  We would thumb through over-sized newspapers, staining our hands with news print just to find out what yesterday.  Now, the world is instantaneously at our fingertips. The downside, of course, is that the Internet is available to everyone without filter and certainly without editors.

Here’s a story I heard on the Internet last Fall:

President Obama is planning to throw the 2012 Election.  He has already built a massive compound in Hawaii to which he will move in January 2013.  He will then be named Secretary-General of the UN.  Then, he will be free to live openly as a Muslim.  He will then impose a one-world order.  He and Michelle will get divorced so that he can then live as a gay man.  It is well-known that he and Rahm Emanuel belong to a Chicago gay men’s club called the Down Low Club.

I didn’t make that up.  Google it.  It’s out there.  It seems that this story wasn’t true, but people believed it.  Someone emailed it to me.  If you believe stories like this, it isn’t good.  If it’s on the Internet, it may not be true, especially if doesn’t sound true.  Here are some other things on the Internet that aren’t true:

  • The government has a plan to put computer chips under our hides.
  • Members of Congress get paid their full salaries for life.
  • Obama wears a secret Muslim ring.
  • The UN has a plan to confiscate all our guns.
  • Starbucks won’t serve members of the military.

Again, this is just a small sampling.  If you read something on the Internet-especially if it is about someone you despise–think about it.  If you’re even half-way smart, you’ll be suspicious of the fake ones.

Just don’t believe what you read on the Internet.  In fact, you’re on the Internet right now (unless you’ve taken to printing my popular blog).  You shouldn’t even believe this.  Trust me.

Here’s a test.  Log on to Facebook. Scroll. Soon, you will see a post about some outrageous offense, usually involving a politician.  If you are tempted to “like” or repost it, STOP.  Google the story or go to Snopes.com (which, by the way, is not funded or owned by George Soros).  If you believe the story regardless of proof to the contrary, oh well.

CONCLUSION

If you question whether you’re dumb, you probably aren’t, unless it’s because people are always telling you that you’re dumb.  Of course, if those people are themselves dumb, it may not mean anything.

I do not consider myself as expert nor am I fit to judge.  I am, however, fit to offer my opinions, dumb or not.  After all, this is the Internet.  Irregardless, it has to be true.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Ultimate Facebook User’s Guide

It’s 2013, and I guess everyone on Earth is on Facebook now–maybe not everyone but a lot of people for sure. I first joined Facebook in 2008 as a way to snoop on my kids. That didn’t last long as I became intrigued, then fascinated and then addicted to its wonders.

In 2008, most people were playing games on Facebook.  Mafia Wars dominated as your FB friends asked you to join their “mafia.” I never did. That gave way to Farmville, and Facebookers became virtual Oliver Wendall Douglases. They needed help building fences and barns and rounding up animals. It was like everyone was Amish after they logged on. Then came Words With Friends, CityVille, Poker and many more games. Now, there is a Farmville 2. We’ve come full circle.

A lot of people who know me well are surprised that I like Facebook. I’m not the most social person. In fact, I’m an intensely private person. Why do I like FB? First, I’ve caught up with dozens of people I would never have heard from again nor made any effort to do so. I know about their families and lives now. Second, I would never have contact with most of these folks otherwise. I don’t do a good job of keeping track of folks. FB fixed that. Third, it helps me to hear opinions of others and the good and bad in other folks’ lives. It’s good to be plugged into to the human race, even if it’s just by a PC or smart phone.  Finally, it’s a way to interact with people without really having to fool with them. Perfect for me.

Even people who aren’t on Facebook know about it. They have co-workers, friends and family on FB. They’ll look at others’ pages and secretly pine to belong. Why don’t they? Usually, these folks are men who have deemed themselves either too busy or cool to be bothered with it. They’ll say things like “I’d never do that. I don’t have the time.” Translation: “I’m more important you are. Blah, blah, blah.” These are the same people who will join LinkedIn and make 2,000 connections, because they think it’s important. Look, I know housewives, doctors, lawyers, teachers, kids, CEOs, factory workers, journalists, accountants and unemployed folks on FB. You ain’t that important. Of course, there are the Luddites of the world for whom the whole thing is overwhelming. These are the folks still trying to figure out if they should get into texting. Don’t let any of these killjoys drag you down. If you want to live in the FB world, join us.

If you’ve never been on FB or if you are but you only log on every few weeks or months, there are some basic rules or guidelines which will help you enjoy the experience.

NO ONE LIKES A CREEPER

Imagine if your next door neighbor rarely left his house and, when he did, he didn’t speak to you. Yet, he would read your mail and stare in your windows. Sometimes, he would just stand in your yard. Even if you thought he was harmless, you’d get tired of this behavior. FB works the same way.

Don’t just go on FB to creep on other people. We’re not a shy lot, but we like some interaction. I’m not saying you have to post something every time you log on, but you can “like” a status or even comment on one sometimes. We won’t think less of you. In fact, we might “like” you right back. Even if we don’t, we’re unlikely to say anything. There is no “dislike” button.  You might even get “poked.”

When you creep, I call it going Rondo:

Creepers are scary.  Don't be scary.

Don’t go all Rondo on your friends.

Naturally, you might wonder: “If I post something, what should it be?”

WHAT SHOULD I SAY?

The good news is that there really are no rules beyond a certain unspoken PG-13 standard. Posters fall into several categories:

The Lamenter: This is a person for whom the world is a difficult and troubled place. He or she is ill, has ill family members, job and money woes and usually doesn’t sleep well. We on FB like these folks. They’re part of our virtual family. Plus, they make us feel a little better about ourselves.  Vent all you want. We won’t judge you and, if we do, we’ll probably do it quietly.

The Prayer Warrior: This person is seeking or sending prayers for many things: the country, sick children, sick adults, the dead, the living and the unborn. He or she will post Bible verses and inspirational quotes from a variety of sources. If you have a problem, these folks will step up.  Most people are like I am–we’ll take prayers where we can get them.  It can’t hurt.

The Politico: This man or woman occupies either the far left or right of the political spectrum. He will post a long string of gifs and memes assailing his political opponents. Some of these will even be factually accurate. Many will be libelous. He also likes to quote people like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan. Oddly enough, these sources are quoted equally by both sides. You, too, can join in. Now, please understand that none of us change our opinions based on your posts, but we will be entertained, at least to some extent. If we’re not, we can always block you. You’ll never know.

Just like at the Thanksgiving dinner table or your local bar, droning on about politics will eventually offend someone.  The good news about FB is that you can just log off and let other vent at you.

Sports Guy: Based on his posts, he lives for sports, not playing them but watching other people play them. If “his” team wins, he will gloat and insult other teams and their fans, not just the one “his” team beat, either. His very worth as a human being is tied to whether a team of people he doesn’t know beats another team of people he doesn’t know. These victories fill him with joy and make him superior to fans of other teams. He won’t post about anything else. The flip side is that when his team loses, his posts become disturbing and deranged. He is a lesser person, and he knows it.

The Worker: This guy uses FB to promote his job, whatever it might be. He’s usually selling something. That’s cool. I might want to buy whatever it is he sells someday. I’d rather buy from a virtual friend than a total stranger.

Music Man: This guys rarely posts, and it’s almost always music videos. Why? I don’t know. I’ll check one out every now and then. It’s harmless.

Animal Farmers: These are folks who like animals. Well, maybe they love animals. Almost all their posts are about animals. There is an endless supply of comical photos of dogs and cats on the Internet. All of them have been posted on FB. If, like me, you don’t find animals particularly entertaining, you can scroll through these posts. Besides, if you don’t love animals these folks probably aren’t targeting you anyway.

Crusaders: These folks are against bad stuff. Oddly, the bad stuff they are against is the kind of stuff everyone is against. They want you to “like” their posts if you’re against such things as child abuse, cancer, child pornography, violence against women and animal abuse. These are good things to be against. Post all you want about them but don’t expect any spirited debates.

Family Affair: These folks post only about their families, usually their kids. Their kids are uniformly wonderful and blessings from God. We all like to hear about kids, so join in. One word of advice–don’t get too real. If your kid caught the basement on fire with his meth lab or got stabbed by a hooker, you probably should keep that to yourself, unless you need prayers.

They also will ask you to “like” or “share” posts that say things like:

If your mother is a saint, your best friend and greatest person who ever lived, share this status.

They never post things like this:

If your mother was a crack whore who brought home a new “daddy” every week and burned down your trailer while smoking, share this status.

So, if, as is the case with too many folks, your parents or siblings were or are vile monsters, you probably shouldn’t post anything about them.

Tin Foil Hatters: They like to post links to various conspiracies, usually involving President Obama. Such things as implanted computer chips, Kenyan birth certificates and Muslim wedding bands are frequent topics. They never check Snopes.com, and if you tell them to do so, they’ll tell you that George Soros owns Snopes. You, then, will become part of the conspiracy. Try to not to become one of these folks. Then again, if you’re so inclined, the fact that I suggest you not do so will only strengthen your resolve to do so. The good news is that FB gives you a platform. If you carry on like that at work, you’ll probably have to see a doctor.   On FB, we just scroll by you like people on the street probably do.

These folks also tend to think Facebook is evil. It’s sharing your profile and personal information and photos. It’s signing you up in Al-Qaeda. It’s garnishing your wages. They never explain why they want to be on Facebook, but they love to warn you about it.

Suckers: Facebook is a hoaxer’s playground. Folks on FB will believe anything. Follow the same rules you follow in real life. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. For example, Bill Gates, despite his vast fortune and philanthropy, is NOT giving away $5000 if you share a picture of him, even this one:

bill-gates-5000-hoax

Also, no one won the PowerBall and wants to give you a million or even a thousand bucks. No beautiful women want to be your FB friends.  If it doesn’t happen in real life, it won’t on FB, either.

Newsies:  These posters assume that none of us watch or read any news, so they post links to news stories.  Some are also Politicos, and their posts only reflect their personal views.  Just like with music videos, it’s all pretty benign.  Who knows? We might even learn something from you.

Posting Tourette’s: This is me–a person who just posts various and sundry things that pop into his head. We can’t control it.  It just happens.  It’s almost like we’ve allowed FB to replace actually thought. Think it–post it is our mantra. We’ll post anything–family photos, videos, gifs, memes, jokes, rants, links. We’ll tell you about last night’s dream, our meals, illnesses and travel plans. We’ll complain about work and our families. We’ll brag and moan about things. In short, we combine all the best and worst of the other posters into one, manic posting monster. We post so often that if you were to read all our posts in sequence you’d be privy to the inner workings of our minds. We’ll wear you out on any given day, but we tend to be entertaining–or annoying. But, we’re never boring.

WHAT SHOULDN’T I SAY?

Facebook is a free speech zone, but all freedoms carry with them responsibilities. There are, of course, things you shouldn’t do:

Keep it clean: This should go without saying, but keep it clean, folks. Foul language, nudity (especially your own) and links to pornography are all beyond the pale. Hey, I’ve got no problem with any of that, but there are plenty of Internet forums out there for that stuff. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

Good taste: I am vehemently against child abuse. Honestly, I don’t anyone who isn’t. But, on the off-chance that you have FB friends who need persuading, photos of beat up or dead children won’t help. And they gross out the rest of us. Same goes for dogs that have been abused and killed. We know that’s bad.

It’s Not All About Politics: If you’re a Politico, that’s fine, but remember: Not everything is about politics. Don’t screw up someone’s post by trying to twist into a political statement. Example:

Post: We just had a great dinner-Steak on the grill, green beans, mashed potatoes and homemade yeast rolls! Thanks to my beautiful wife!

Politico’s Comment: Be thankful that Michelle Obummer isn’t your wife! She’d have you eating sprouts!

The Politico has now invited others of his or her ilk to make similar comments and hijack your wall. Bad form.

No Jesus Jukes: The Prayer Warriors will do the same thing with the infamous “Jesus Juke.” It goes like this:

Post: We had a great time at the game! 23,000 people rocked the place!

Comment: I wonder how many people would show up if Jesus was there and no game.

Your well-meaning friend has just brought you down and made you feel evil for enjoying the game. Don’t do that.

SPELING

You may be like me and be a spellcheck illiterate. Years of word processing have eroded my spelling skills. I am far-removed from the brash young lad who finished second in the Loyall Junior High Spelling Bee in 1976. Facebook won’t help you.

Its and it’s have different meanings. Same with there, they’re and their. To, two and too are not the same. Facebook won’t help with these issues. You have to step up and take responsibility.

THE UNFRIENDLY

There may be occasions when you must unfriend someone or, God forbid, you are unfriended. It’s happened to me. Yes, me. A girl I dated in college unfriended me. I think it’s because it took just a few months for her to remember that she hated me.

Unfriending is a drastic step. It is the Internet equivalent of a slap in the face. You aren’t even worthy of being a pretend friend. Think about that. In real life, of course, we unfriend people all the time. We just quit talking to them. If it required some affirmative act, we’d be less likely to do it.

Now, Facebook won’t tell you that you’ve been unfriended. You have to be paranoid enough to notice. Let’s just say that some of us notice these things. And we don’t like it.

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

Post a few pictures of yourself. Maybe we haven’t seen you in years. We’re curious. “But,” you say, “I’m not a handsome person. It shames me.” Relax, my ghoulish friend. Most of us are quite unattractive, especially those of us with a few years on us. We’ve gone bald (mostly men), gained weight, grayed, sagged and generally decayed. It’s okay.

I’m a good example. I was never what you’d call a handsome man. Now, my hair is gray and I have numerous wrinkles. Yet, I’ll post many photos of myself. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m a narcissist. Two, I’m not bald. See? You look better than someone–hopefully.

Perhaps you’ve improved with age, which happens. If so, by all means, post photos. Of course, if you really have improved, I don’t have to tell you to post photos.

One thing to watch is posting pictures of other people. They might not like it. For instance, I posted this photo of my wife:

catwoman

This made her angry because–she claimed–the lighting made her look pale. I should have cleared this with her first.

Please feel free to post as many photos of your kids and grand kids as you wish. God knows I do. They’re yours, and you should be proud of them. Even if they’re as homely as sin, we’ll still “like” them. Same goes for your pets. I have two rabbits and don’t hesitate to post about them, even though they are boring, do-nothing pets.  Yet, people always “like” them.  Go figure.

CONCLUSION

Come join us!  If you’re already on board, get in the deep end of the pool!  Join for real, too. Do not share your Facebook page with your spouse.  This will only show that you have trust issues, and we want to trust you.

It’s out there waiting for you, and there’s no time like the present.  In fact, I’m linking this post to Facebook as soon as it’s published.

You can even send me a friend request, and I’ll probably accept it.  I’m waiting.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013