*Photo credit- found in a Google image online search and copied from Pinterest.
Dear Autumn and readers,
This was the post I had in mind when I wrote a while back that I had an idea for something to generate more readers and reader participation on Writer Beat. Of course, because life is what happens when you’re planning something else, I ended up writing that “Pop Quiz, Hotshot! What Would You do?” post. Time to do it like Hollywood on this one, and put up the prequel…
The chair I’m sittin’ on ain’t all that comfortable. Because the counter on which the computer sits is too high, the chair is basically a fancier sort of bar stool. Sure, it has a foot rest, but being designed by an idiot and manufactured in the less than popular People’s Republic of China, a 6’3” (six feet, three inches) dude like me sits in what amounts to an upright fetal position. The circulation suffers, ankles swell after a while. The seat has a pathetic cushion which gets flattened quickly and turns into a case of “Hello, butt. Meet steel or plastic, or whatever is under the seat cover.” Sitting as I have to, my heels sort of keep the feet from falling off. Late at night, before the demons come, walking around feels like I’ve got spikes in my heels, or they’re pierced by an arrow. Mind you, it’s mostly the right heel, especially in the morning, but it hurts like a son of a bitch. Lying in bed, whether reading a book or watching something on the computer (got no “idiot box”), my legs begin to cramp up. The damned toes curl and twist, muscles and tendons tighten up, the pain is fierce- and I swear worse than a bunch of drunk navy sailors… I need to place something further ahead of my rent-to-navy-divers-as-flippers feet, preferably a wooden box with a non-slip cover that I might make to fit just right, or in a pinch, a beer crate that I’ll have to steal from somewhere. Um, yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Hell, I’ve put enough people in prison that not even my few gangster connections will keep me safe if I ever drop the soap in prison, so theft is out and anyway, beer crates are the property of SAB Miller aka The Breweries…
It would’ve been fun if I was into S&M, but I ain’t, even if I’ve done some stuff “normal” South Africans would consider crazy, like walking 25 kilometers in one day to light a fire under the South African army’s bureaucratic ass- by the way, that failed. The discomfort sucks, no matter how much I try to toughen it out. Yet I write. I’ve been writing for years, getting major cases of flattened ass and Rectum Soreus, circulation problems- varicose veins from sitting too damned much and standing even more made their appearance long ago- and all sorts of other damned things. I write for a lot of reasons, but by far the funniest (in a twisted, army humor sort of way) reason is “Well, I can’t shoot people and I’ve gotta have something to do, so I write”. It goes back a long way, to the days that followed my mother telling me “I’m too busy to read you a bedtime story. If you like them so much, why don’t you learn how to read? Then you’ll be able to read them whenever you want”, and when a combination of nearly perfect eidetic memory combined with storytelling abilities came to be recognized. It was a long time ago, during my primary school years in another country on another continent.
There we were, waiting for our scary geography teacher. That bird was probably the second most feared teacher in school because of her brutality, and we all knew that if she came into a noisy class we would be slapped around worse than a top... But hey, kids will be kids, and they don’t shut the fuck up or even speak softly. So, I got on my feet, walked to the front of the class, and got them to shut up long enough to listen to my idea, which was to tell them one of the many stories I knew by heart. There was I, a 10 or 11 year-old punk, standing in front of the class with a fairly grownup plan- and the other 37 classmates I had liked it. I sat on the little wooden step platform for shorties, and began to tell them a Chinese story about a woman on some quest, who wore out I can’t remember how many pairs of shoes made of steel, then wood, then leather and finally pleated grass… I told that tale like one of those travelling storytellers of antiquity, as if it was late at night and we were all sitting around a fire- only it was mid-afternoon. My classmates sat there entranced, listening without so much as a mouse fart until the bell went off and our teacher still hadn’t shown up. You’ll find this hard to believe, but while we were waiting for the teacher during our next geography lesson (teachers came to our classes, not the other way around) and it looked like she was either running late or hadn’t shown up for work, my classmates asked me to come to the front of the class and tell them another story! Again I told a tale or two, my classmates kept quiet and our teacher didn’t show up. Later, she told me that she got to the door and heard a voice. We were so quiet that she thought a teacher was in there and there was a mix-up with her schedule, so she went back to the teachers’ room downstairs…
I’ve been writing for about 9 years now. It started in 2008, when I got tired of reading one too many letters to the editor with unsound or unfinished arguments, and tried to do better. Over time, I nearly took over the letter writing space of two newspapers and my friends and acquaintances sang my praises because I wrote stuff people were either too scared to discuss, or put a spin on things they hadn’t thought of, to say nothing of topics I used to come up on my own. Every once in a while, there would be a SMS or even a letter praising me along with other writers for our efforts to be informative and the quality of writing, and I’ve got to admit, it was nice to be complimented. A few times others took my letters further, expanding on what I wrote (it’s hard to discuss complex issues on one page) and contributing a hell of a lot to the discourse. It was nice to see, and I welcomed even the criticism that came my way once in a while- a democrat ought to behave democratically, or at least that’s how I think. Shoot, one time a guy disagreed with me and some readers attacked him so harshly that I wrote a letter or sent a SMS to the newspaper in which I asked them to give the guy a break, that some of his arguments had merit. The newspaper didn’t publish that, but I tried.
Anyway, what happened during that period is that the few who knew who the person behind M. Negres was (I was concerned about the security of my family and friends due to the nature of what I wrote; the newspaper only published my full name years later, after I moved to Pretoria) wanted a sneak peek at my letters, so I obliged. As I understood it, people were very chuffed to read those letters before they were published (at most 20% were published, but it would still take you a least two and a half hours to read what made the papers- so it’s more than 500 letters in all) and one time there was even a fight between two old ladies over who would get to read the printed copy I gave one, because the other used to get the copy I printed, while others got a photocopy the other old lady made. Crazy stuff…
Look, it’s a phenomenal affirmation for a guy who speaks English as a second language to have his stuff published in his country’s oldest newspaper, which happens to be an English one. Likewise, paranoia aside, it’s also nice when acquaintances or those who know who you get out of their cars in the middle of traffic to shake your hand and thank you for writing. When it happens, I look around for hitmen coming my way and after I assure myself it’s not a trap, I’m left feeling like Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blown up by the warm air from a subway grate. Yeah, it’s warm, fuzzy and sexy as hell…
Okay, Michael B., now you see why I once wrote you were blowing hot air up my skirts and you took it to mean I thought you were bullshitting me… Nah, man, it wasn’t that, even though that is the original meaning of the “blow hot air” expression. It’s just that you made me feel warm and fuzzy, you know? It was appreciated in a non-gay way…
Anyhow, this is not the problem. The problem is what comes next.
So I sit like a sort of human pretzel, writing. I take the time and spend money (data ain’t free in South Africa, and being unemployed doesn’t help either) to send people all those sneak previews, but I hear nothing from them. Oh, if I get pissed off and don’t send them anything for a while, they’ll give me an earful that I haven’t sent them anything. But as for an acknowledgment of receipt, never mind any kind of feedback, fuck-all! I know I’m good, but even I make mistakes. There will be errors somewhere, my syntax might be wrong. Maybe what I wrote goes against your opinions. Hearing about that won’t burst my bubble or kill me. I’m not some kind of narcissistic idiot who only needs to hear how good he is- and that every goddamned day. For crying out loud, if it sucked, tell me. If it didn’t, tell me. Whatever you think, tell me. Just don’t leave me in the dark!
Sometime between June and August last year, my local newspaper ran a competition for a columnist post. They said to write 500 words on any subject. Including my name, 500 words is what I sent. Now, you would think that given it was an announced competition, the newspaper would at least publish the winner’s name, but you’d be wrong. They never sent a “sorry, you didn’t get it” e-mail, or announce in the newspaper who was the winner either. That sucked and it pissed me off, so I’ve been writing to the newspaper only rarely. Then there’s the matter of South African president Jacob Zuma and then-minister of whatever Trade and Industry we have left, Rob Davies. I wrote to the former TWICE (last was to submit my resume for the post of national police commissioner- I kid you not) and the latter once. Do you think I got so much as a computer-generated “We have received your submission, etc.”? Nah, man. Luckily I was smart enough not to hold my breath, or I would’ve died of asphyxiation. For crying out loud, these people’s offices have uncapped internet paid for by the taxpayer. They have staff. What the fuck is wrong with these rude motherfuckers, that they won’t bother to send a generic reply, to say nothing of actually addressing the issues raised? When it comes to South African politicians, political parties and government departments, if you want an answer you should write to the Democratic Alliance. Their people will get back to you within 3 (three) days. You might not like the answer(s), and I didn’t, but by God somebody will get back to you. As for the rest, don’t bother.
That’s bad, but what’s worse is how corporate South Africa acts. These morons won’t send an acknowledgement of receipt to your resume (when they asked for it), often lie to you during interviews and whatever communication you send their way usually gets no reply, like you’re pouring shit down a black hole or doing it like Yeshua bar Yosef, screaming in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Then the dumb fuckers wonder why they lose customers and wind up in bankruptcy court… Shit, I sent my resume to a company which teaches English online. They never acknowledged anything or gave any kind of reply, so like I told my family, I’ve stopped giving a flying fuck.
Dear readers, let me tell you something. If I want answers, no matter how I’ll-tear-you-a-new-asshole they may be, I write to a guy I met on Writer Beat because he’ll get back to me. If I want to (and I do, I really do) get other people’s perspectives and my asshole reamed in the process when I deserve it, so that it will keep my writing honest, I’ll post an article on Writer Beat. At least here, on the premises of my online literary “kill house”, the readers will tell me veeeery fuckin’ quickly what they think- and I am thankful for the replies I’ve received from Michael B., George R., Jeff J., Mark H. and others too many to mention- except our current resident troll, who mistakenly thinks he’s got me figured out and whose bait I’ve stopped nibbling at and will never bite. You guys and gals serve an important purpose. By raising issues I might not have properly considered and asking questions along with providing criticism and compliments, you keep me honest because there’s no escaping what you have to say, and that’s a fact so long as I have a conscience. Here’s another thing- I send my writing to a lot of friends, acquaintances and fans, but over 99% of them don’t bother to reply, so I’m pissed off and have been for years. Hell, I gotta tap ‘em on WhatsApp, via SMS and even call to get some feedback. To quote Eddie Murphy from the movie Another 48 Hours, “This shit ain’t funny!” Fuck it man, why do you want me to pull teeth here? Come on! Oh, I also write for another site, but the nature of that place is such that many prefer not to comment for quite valid security reasons, so I understand. What I don’t understand is why today’s discourse, in both acquaintance and business circles, has degenerated to such an extent that one reaches out and hears nothing in return. What the fuck, are we going to become ADHD-suffering narcissistic schizophrenics, or what?
Okay, everybody. I’ve said my piece and it wasn’t about self-promotion. I also apologize for the profanity, but I am rather angry with a few people… Now here are the questions:
1.Have you ever had your online communications ignored by the person(s) you addressed it to?
2. Do you think this occurrence of being ignored is lessening, or increasing?
3. What’s the rough percentage of replies you’ve had to resumes you’ve sent via e-mail?
4. If it’s getting worse, what do you think we can do about changing the trend?
5. If it’s getting better (you’re getting more answers than not, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative), what can we do to improve on it and make it a web-wide fact of life?
6. Put yourselves in my place. Would you cut out indefinitely those who don’t bother to reply, or not?
Once again, dear dudes and dudettes, I will give you time to reply, then respond. Please do me a favor- give your answers in numbered form so I can see what it’s about and eventually address what you’ve said. Considering that it’s six questions, it might get dazed and confused out here if you don't do as I ask… However it turns out, one thing’s for sure- I await your responses with eagerness and respectful humility, except for our resident troll, who’d better not say anything stupid or I’ll erase his ass faster than he can flick flies off a turd. Fire away, I can take it. I want to take it- because I’m a fuckin’ democrat without capital “D” and I fuckin’ love it!