bookmark_borderMy letter to Stone Mountain Memorial Association

I recently wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association asking them to preserve Stone Mountain’s Confederate Memorial Carving. This likeness of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson is the largest Confederate monument in the world, and sadly but unsurprisingly has come under fire from the politically-correct bullies. I got this idea from the awesome organization Monuments Across Dixie, which works to protect existing Confederate statues and build new ones. I urge you to write a letter as well, following the instructions in Monuments Across Dixie’s Facebook post, if you also support preserving this amazing piece of art and history. 

bookmark_borderAutographs are for people of all ages

In a recent column, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy listed various ways in which having games without fans in attendance will actually be a good thing. One of them really bugged me:

“No adults asking players for autographs, or knocking kids to the ground to retrieve foul balls that should be for kids only.”

This is a sentiment that I have heard from numerous people over the years. Once I heard a talk radio personality express the opinion that adults should not go to Patriots training camp unless they are accompanying children. As an adult sports fan who watches practices and sometimes asks players for autographs, I’m offended by this. Why should getting autographs from one’s favorite players be restricted to one age group?

I became a sports fan around age 14. The first team I liked was the Red Sox. Later, I became interested in the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots as well. It wasn’t until my 20s that I became a big enough fan to start going to Bruins practices. I’m not sure why it is that I became a sports fan relatively late in life. Perhaps it is because, as a kid, I was obsessed with animals, dinosaurs, and Beanie Babies, and didn’t have time for other interests. Perhaps it is because my parents almost never put sports on the TV, so it didn’t occur to me that watching games was even an option. As I got older and had more control over what I watched on TV, I realized that watching a Sox or Bruins game, even if just in the background while I was doing other things, made my day better. Sports also provided a refreshing sense of balance as I became increasingly interested in more serious topics such as law, history, and philosophy. Sports are generally not matters of life and death, or moral right and wrong, but it is mentally stimulating to follow the statistics, strategies, and personalities and to listen to the colorful banter of the commentators.

Anyway, if one argues that there is something wrong with adults asking for autographs, one believes that someone like myself should be content to live my entire life without ever receiving a player’s autograph. I didn’t have the chance to ask a player for an autograph as a kid, because I wasn’t a sports fan then. (Well, technically I had the chance to, I just didn’t choose to go to any practices or games because I had no interest in sports.) Plus, when it comes to lifelong sports fans, why should they be limited to obtaining the autographs of only the players who were active when those fans happened to be kids? Collecting autographs is one of my hobbies, as is the case for many people of all ages. If one collects autographs, it makes sense that one would attempt to get autographs from as many players as possible across the years. People should not be frowned upon for pursuing their hobbies, merely because of their age.

Additionally, politely asking a player for an autograph, while being respectful of the other fans around you, should not be lumped into the same category as knocking kids to the ground. When I go to a Bruins practice, if I decide to try to get an autograph, I calmly make my way in the direction of the tunnel through which the players leave the ice. I wait behind anyone who is already there, and I politely ask the player to sign my notebook if he appears to be relatively non-hurried and in a good mood. I do not shove anyone out of the way. I do not squeeze in front of anyone who is already there. Generally, if someone younger than me is approximately equally close to the tunnel as me, I let him or her talk to the player first. What exactly is wrong with this?

And why should foul balls be for kids only, for that matter? The same principle applies to them as applies to autographs. I think we can all agree that it would be wrong for an adult to knock a kid over… but for an adult to knock over another adult would be wrong, too. So would a kid knocking over another kid, or a kid knocking over an adult.

Finally, I also think that viewing autographs and foul balls as kids-only defeats the purpose of having these things at all. Personally, I know that the kid version of myself would not enjoy an activity as much if I knew that I would only be allowed to do it for a limited time, and that when I became an adult I would not be allowed to do it any longer. People should be allowed to have something to look forward to as they grow older. Becoming an adult should not mean giving up your hobbies and interests and having all joy and fun gradually sucked out of your life.

I realize that I have probably way overanalyzed a somewhat silly topic, as I am wont to do. To sum up: no one should knock other people to the ground, but everyone should be free to pursue their hobbies, regardless of age.

bookmark_borderDear lady on the Orange Line…

Dear lady on the Orange Line on Wednesday morning who called me a “terrible person,” “self-centered,” and “oblivious” for sitting instead of offering my seat to someone else:

Your behavior was so rude that I am still upset, appalled, and shaken two days later.

Many, perhaps most, people will think that you are in the right, and our unpleasant interaction my fault. To recap the facts of the situation, I boarded the train when there were many vacant seats. At a subsequent stop, when there were no more vacant seats, what appeared to be a family with two adults and two children between the ages of three and ten boarded the train. I did not offer them a seat, and neither did anyone else. A few stops later, you boarded the train and began to loudly castigate me to everyone within earshot.

You were so busy insulting me that you probably did not stop to wonder about what my thought process might have been. I will try to explain:

  1. First of all, I dislike standing. It is difficult to get reading done and it is physically draining.
  2. Second, I also strongly dislike when people offer me their seat. It makes me feel embarrassed, self-conscious, and uncomfortable. I believe in the golden rule and therefore am reluctant to do things to other people that I would dislike if done to me.
  3. Third, I am very shy. It is difficult for me to initiate interactions with strangers, even for something as simple as offering my seat.
  4. Fourth, no one else in my row of seats was making any move to offer up their seats, and I did not think one seat would be particularly useful to a group of four. Three of the people would still have to stand, and most likely none of the four would feel comfortable being the one to take the seat.
  5. Fifth, I believe that as a general rule, whoever gets to a seat first is entitled to the seat. This rule is fair, simple, easy, and does not cause anyone to feel patronized, insulted, guilty, resentful, or embarrassed. Because I got on the train when there were many vacant seats, I think it was reasonable for me to believe that I had a right to sit.
  6. Sixth, no one asked to sit, so I assumed that no one wanted to. If someone had politely asked for my seat, I would happily have obliged.
  7. And seventh, on another occasion a while back, there was a dad holding his daughter on a crowded train, struggling to keep his balance, and no one offered their seat (I was standing so did not have the option of offering a seat). This gave me the impression that little kids are not considered a situation that requires offering one’s seat.

I am on the autism spectrum and struggle with social situations. What comes naturally to most people, I need to use reasoning and logic to figure out. Because no one is perfect, I occasionally judge social situations incorrectly. I found this particular situation very awkward and was not sure of the best thing to do, but I decided to err on the side of doing nothing as opposed to taking an action that had the potential to make the situation even more uncomfortable. Each and every day, I try my very best to navigate interpersonal interactions in a polite and socially acceptable way. To be so harshly attacked for what was at worst a minor social mistake is disturbing and demoralizing.

You are a bully. Anyone on the train could have offered their seat to a member of the family but you inexplicably singled me out for verbal abuse.

You accused me of sitting in a “handicapped seat,” but I was not. As I pointed out to you, there was no blue sign on my seat indicating “priority seating” for people with disabilities.

You yelled that I “need to reflect.” I have been reflecting on this upsetting experience, as you so nastily ordered, and the more that I do so, the more convinced I am that you were in the wrong. Perhaps, ideally, I should have offered my seat. But you are the one who went out of your way to viciously insult a stranger. Your reaction would have been appropriate if you had seen someone being raped or assaulted, or someone attempting to carry out a terrorist attack. To react in such a way to a person sitting and quietly reading the newspaper is preposterous.

I cannot comprehend the self-righteous attitude that would cause someone to interfere so aggressively in a situation that is none of his or her business. It is impossible to tell by looking at someone what is going on in his or her life, how badly he or she needs a seat, or whether he or she has a disability. It probably didn’t occur to you that I might be on the autism spectrum when you called me “self-centered” and a “terrible person.” For all you could tell, I might have had a physical disability that requires sitting, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. My mom has severe back problems that cause almost constant pain and make it impossible for her to sit or stand for any significant amount of time, but she appears perfectly healthy.

When I got off of the train (before the stop I was attempting to get to) I was so upset that I felt on the verge of either fainting or throwing up. I was so mortified and humiliated that I had trouble concentrating on my work. You went out of your way to cause this. If that doesn’t constitute being a terrible person, I’m not sure what does.

It is you who needs to reflect on what would cause someone to berate and insult an innocent person who is minding her own business.