I don’t know if it’s a latent burst of proper manners or just another condition of my condition, but in the last five or so years nothing infuriates me more than a cold rejection of my offers of good cheer.
It happens anytime I reach out with simple humanity to a stranger and my gesture is rebuffed.
I wonder if I’m taking to heart too literally the lessons of “Lonesome Dove,” the 1989 cowboy saga that is arguably the greatest Western ever filmed.
In one compelling scene Capt. Woodrow Call of the Texas Rangers sees some ruffians trying to steal a horse belonging to one of his men. Call, in a righteous fury, wheels his mount and races down a crowded street right into the altercation.
And he proceeds to kick ass. And ribs. And balls. His powerful boot neglects no part of the human anatomy.
Then, to the onlookers’ horror, he grabs a blacksmith’s stout branding iron and gives it a tap on the anvil. His intention is clear.
“He’s killing him!” shouts one alarmed observer.
Call’s amigos reign him in in the nick of time. His sanity resumes and he recognizes the crowd’s mortification. He straightens his cowboy hat and explains without a hint of remorse, “I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”
And then, adios, it’s back to the herd.
That’s just how Capt. Woodrow Call rolls. Some men get mad. Some get even.
All day yesterday, I felt the Call in me rising. I hate rude behavior. Won’t tolerate it.
So what happened? Someone try to steal my horse?
No, they ignored my chummy email.
And because I’ll not lower myself to target small game, this was an executive editor for the prestigious publisher that has bought my book on Parkinson’s, “The Art of Living Suddenly: How to Deal with a Parkinson’s Diagnosis (and other things that suck).”
It had taken a literary agent three years to cajole the deal.
So this is me biting the hand that feeds me. Me being hyper-sensitive to a perceived slight. Me not seeing the big picture.
It’s me being me!
But once the contracts were signed, I felt entitled to a call from an editor welcoming me aboard. Just maybe a 90-second howdy-doo that would let me puzzle out if I was dealing with a human or a robot programmed to subsist on fancy lattes.
Clearly, I’d have been better off with the robot. No robot could be so rude.
I’ll spare you the details of the back and forth, but things so quickly escalated between me and this powerful editor that I could no longer contain my inner Woodrow Call.
I decided I would rather deep six the opportunity than have to deal with this woman.
I decided to burn the bridge it had taken years to construct.
Here’s what I wrote:
— << >> —
“I think it’s useful to recall that what led us to this testiness are two letters of introductory good cheer from me to you. The first you ignored, the second you mocked. I don’t know what would happen if I wrote a third. Maybe you’d hop on a plane, come to my house and spit on me.
“I was seeking just a hint of collegial encouragement to let me know my approach to this highly personal story was working. I was hoping to have this reassurance before immersing myself for the next eight or so weeks in a project from which I’d receive only a pittance for perhaps a year (Note: advance is $1,500. Just $1500).
“Understand, those parameters would have been challenging if this were a book about the highs and lows about my Tuesday evening bowling league (Note: I made this up for color; there is no bowling league).
“But, no, this is a book about me battling a disease that leads many to commit suicide. That’s not in my playbook. Not yet. No, I’ve chosen to look at the rosy side of things and exalt how the human spirit can revive even in the most bleak and despairing of circumstances.
“And from my innocuous introductory letters all I get from you is brusque sarcasm.
“So, no, I won’t be doing this book with you.
“But you’ve unwittingly made a key contribution to the story.
“I can now write a chapter declaring I now find Parkinson’s less fearsome than before.
“How bad can it be?
“Can’t be much worse than trying to be friendly with Melissa Smith (Note: not her real name).”
— << >> —
I never hit send on the note. Two influentials persuaded me it would be a mistake.
But, fear not, I’ll exact my revenge. I hate rude behavior in an editor. I won’t tolerate it.
So anytime I’m forced to read an e-mail or talk to her on the phone, I’ll mockingly prance around the room pretending I’m her and she’s a real crabby old bitch.
It’s jut how I roll.
Some men get mad. Some men get even.
I get odd.
We’re talking downright peculiar.