Kindergarten Nonsense: by: Casey Ryan
There are times in life when the most seemingly educated and well-rounded of adults will have a blue-faced temper tantrum over some little breach about an innocuous social protocol that would rival a 5-year old at Walmart the week before Christmas.
I’ve become adept at noticing these behavior patterns over the years, primarily because I have very little patience for them and, also find them quite funny. The first time I coined the term “Kindergarten Nonsense” publicly was during an interview on the Indie Book Collective podcast and have been using it in daily life for as long as I can remember. Clearly “nonsense” was not the first word I was reaching for but, I couldn’t exactly yell “bullshit” either.
Enough of you have asked me to point out some concrete examples of it that I’ve thrown together this posting for you. I’ve selected one “based on a real” story from the work, play, and family arenas and will sum up with my own (simplified) coping strategy.
Work: Bring enough for everyone or don’t bring any at all.
I’ve spent the better part of my career as a corporate sales rep and worked on a large number of teams – each with their own unique flavor. The one common denominator, however, is a ruthless, primal need to win contests. The silly thing is that the prize itself doesn’t matter –if it’s free and there is a metric attached to it, guys will slit each other’s throats for it.
I was once involved in a tense set of negotiations on a huge deal. It would be one of the largest projects ever for my employers and certainly the single biggest for me personally. After several months of contract talks, I made a bet with my bosses that if I were to get a signature by the end of the week, they’d send my wife and I out to dinner at one of the most well-known (and expensive) restaurants in town.
I got my signature and was branded a hero by management. Our CEO called me personally to thank me for all my hard work. An e-mail got sent to the entire company about my victory that also made a passing joke about the dinner I’d won.
That was when the “kindergarten bullshit” started. A teammate of mine went behind my back and spoke to my boss to object to the meal I’d won honestly. He said that all wins were “team wins” and that it was greedy of me to accept the dinner. The money could be used to take the whole sales team out for pizza. A meeting was held and a mock court set up to hear both sides out with the entire team present.
The company sided with me and my wife and I enjoyed our damn dinner. My disgruntled teammate retaliated for the next several months by teasing me to the brink of bullying. The harder he tried to get me to crack, the harder I worked to beat his sales figures. Eventually, he got so worked up that he had a shouting match with the wrong people and quit in anger.
I got promoted based on how I handled the situation which in this case was to keep my own side of the fence clean and keep working.
Play: If you can’t win the game, change the rules.
In my spare time, I volunteer for one of the various Irish community groups here in Montreal. As part of my duties I co-host a trivia tournament 3 times a year. My friend and I took over the “quiz-master” detail after several regular patrons complained that our predecessor’s questions were impossible to answer. I’m a trivia buff and even I thought they were really hard so when the opportunity came for me to run the thing myself, I jumped at it.
Despite spending hours trying to water down the difficulty level but, still make it hard enough to have a clear winner, my friend and I also got blasted for the questions being too hard. Our first effort was met with the familiar shouts of “too hard”, “never heard of the guy”, or “give us new questions”.
One older woman sitting in front row practically started crying and screamed at me that her team was unable to identify any of the famous statues in our picture round – one of which was the Little Mermaid in Denmark. This time I stood my ground and called her out. I looked her right in the face and said I had a special question just for her team alone. When she calmed down, I asked her what she’d eaten for breakfast that morning. Flustered, she said she couldn’t remember but, asked if I’d give half points if she told me what she had for lunch.
Family: If you can’t entertain others, entertain yourself.
The best example that I can come up with for dealing with “Kindergarten Bullshit ”comes from my father. It also probably best sums up my thoughts on the matter and is as close to a first glance as I have.
Growing up, my family was one of a half dozen English ones in an otherwise French neighborhood. As part of the summer ritual, we’d all spend the day at the local community pool with “Les Anglais” all clustered together in the one section to which we laid claim and defended regularly.
The diving towers were located at the short, chubby “deep” end of the L-shaped pool and roped off. One of the strictest rules was that one was not allowed, under any circumstances, to dive off the tower and swim underwater past the rope and into the main section of the pool.
My dad (a former lifeguard himself) thought this was a dumb rule and broke it daily. Whistles would get blown and the guards would shout at him. He’d come up long enough for a big gulp of air, pretend he didn’t hear them, and duck back underwater. The fun would last for about 5 minutes until he had every pool staffer in the place trying to section him off like a criminal on America’s Most Wanted.
He couldn’t speak much French himself but, did understand enough of it. This didn’t stop him from pretending like he wasn’t able to. If he was in an especially good mood, he’d make sure I was close enough that I could hear what was going on. They’d bark at him in French, threatening all kinds of expulsions and he’d just stare at them with an incomprehensible glassy look on his face. The game would get shut down when they’d either find the one staffer who spoke English or bring one of the other English dads over to translate – or more accurately pretend to.
My point to all these ramblings is thus a simple one – “Kindergarten Bullshit” is a vicious circle because fighting back perpetuates more bad behavior. As a safety check to our own sense of normalcy, however, it’s our duty to point it out when we see it but, in doing so, pick our battles carefully. Most arguments aren’t worth having and you get more mileage out of a good meal or funny story than a confrontation. If you feel strongly enough about something, swim under the damn rope.
Casey Ryan is the creator and host of the Cutting Room Floor talk-radio podcast. For the past 3 years, the show has sought to highlight the works of independent entertainers of all types. The half hour segments air live on Sundays at 12 PM EST with recorded copies posted shortly afterward.
A self proclaimed pop-culture addict, Casey is always trying to read up on the latest entertainment news stories. His film education consists of a lifetime of watching and studying movies. He holds a BA in Industrial Relations and Economics as well as a diploma in Sciences. For the past 10 years he has enjoyed a prolific career in corporate sales – often using his skills to help his guests market their work on air. Proud of his Irish heritage, Casey sits on the Board of Directors of the Montreal Chapter of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce – a volunteer group seeking to create greater business ties between the 2 countries. He is also a member of the Montreal Press Club.
Casey was born and raised in Montreal, Canada where he currently lives with his wife of 7 years. Follow Casey on Twitter @CuttingRoomMRB.
- Radio Interview with Casey Ryan (alleducationmatters.blogspot.com)
- How Hard Can It Be? (lorcadamon.com)
- Rachel Thompson Discusses Her Hot New eBook, The Mancode: Exposed (tglong.com)