One afternoon this past week, an envelope arrived in the mail. It was the old-fashioned kind: white, with my last name misspelled (Fardine) and a Sacramento postmark but no return address.
Experience says those always are going to be interesting. Chances are, it will be either from someone who wants to provide information anonymously or from someone who wants to tee off on me, also anonymously.
I opened the envelope. It was from the latter and contained a clipping of my recent column about the city’s need for a change of climate at City Hall. Except that by his Sharpie scribble, I don’t think this person made it past the main headline: "It’s time for climate change."
This climate change denier wrote “PrinTed from Washington D.C. What a piece of crap you stuped Ass.”
I laughed my stuped ass off. Then I scanned in a photo of it and posted it to my Facebook page. The post drew 77 “likes” and 93 comments among my closest and dearest Facebook friends, and the comments just kept coming.
From a neighbor: “I swear I didn’t write that Jeff. Hell, I can’t even spell Stuped.”
From one of my old friends from the sportswriting days: “I once had a reader write in to say to me that I was an imbisill. Might have been the same guy. Handwriting looks familiar.”
And from another: “I got one once that said I was a mooron. Cows in Oakland?”
The comments just kept getting better and better, including one that read, “This post just gets better and better.” See?
I’m telling you this because it goes to the point of needing to have thick, baseball-glove leather for skin if you are in the public eye in any way at all. That includes politicians, civic officials, pro athletes, artists, actors, musicians – you name it. Because anything you do in public is open to criticism, whether it comes from an irate citizen at a public meeting, in a letter to the editor, in a posting at the end of a story or column on modbee.com or any other website, a phone call or, yes, even an old-fashioned letter. And if you don’t handle it well, it just gets worse.
Modesto City Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer has made herself a target at council meetings because of the way she reacts – or overreacts – with scolding lectures directed at the folks in the audience. When some folks snapped photos of her during a meeting, she took photos of them in return. Sorry, Jenny. They win.
They’ve initiated recall proceedings against her.
People are going to say and write things you are not going to like. Some things could hurt if you allow it. Why allow it? And if you dish it out, you’d better be able to take it.
Several years ago, I received a letter from a guy who wrote that he didn’t have a problem with what I write, but couldn’t understand why my photo had to run with every column.
“And what’s with the glasses? They’re bad,” he wrote.
Another called me “excrement with glasses.” (My optometrist needed therapy after that one).
When a woman called the editor a few months later, wondering why she had to see my photo with each column, it was time to have some fun. I wrote a column about the insults. A staff artist created a lineup of photos using my mug shot with numerous hairstyles, including an Afro, surfer dude, spiked, nerd and completely bald. He also concocted one with my photo imbedded into Shrek’s head. Greenish-yellow is so not a good color for me.
Consequently, I find it amusing whenever I hear some public person is upset with something I wrote about them. I criticize only their decisions and actions. I don’t make fun of the way they look (or what they look through, meaning their glasses).
Conversely, criticism like the clipping I received this week deserves to be shared. I hate to laugh alone.
From a former co-worker: “I miss you Jeff – even if you are stuped!”
And from a poet: “Once was a writer named Fard’ / Whose fans likened him to the Bard / They all were quite duped / By his logic so stuped / Tho their spelling was often quite marred.”
Isn’t it great to have friends in cyberplaces?