Saturday, February 21, 2015

When and How You Say "Trust Me."

The moment the caller of an incoming phone call asks your name by way of making sure it is you to whom he or she is speaking, you are prepared for the next question, which has to do in some way with your health or attitude.  "How are you today, sir?"  Or perhaps the even more informal, "How's it going for you today, sir?"

And by the time the second question is asked, your attitude has undergone a sea change, yanking you from your previous state to either a mounting force of mischief or an incoming tide of irritation.  Chances are high your previous state involved writing, which means the possibility you were just yanked out of the kinds of concentration you've worked a large part of your life to achieve.  

If not writing, you may well have been reading.  In either case, a cup of coffee somewhere nearby.  There is a high probability, say a sixty-six-and-two-thirds chance of you being pulled away from a state of mind you cherish for the overall pleasure it brings to your sense of being.

At the other end of the phone connection, an individual awaits who wishes to sell you something tangible or secure the pledge of a donation to some cause.  In some cases, the solicitation purports to be from some organization for which you have enough sympathy to allow the caller the luxury of a sentence or two which, by this time, you're certain is being read from a script, no doubt mounted at the caller's eye level for convenient reading.

By now the caller has been made aware of your irritation, shifts gear from concern for your existential state into answering your question about the purpose of the call.  All serious now, which convinces you the caller is calculating some kind of commission from the results of this call--provided things go the way of the script.  This type of caller is not going to rely on your promise to send a check or go on line to contribute.

You are intended to give this individual your bank account routing number and your account number, or you are expected to give this individual a credit card number, expiration date, and the three- or four-digit security number found on credit cards.

You know because you've heard the script, much of which turns on the fact you trust the caller to be a bona fide representative of the organization of the matter in question.  The last time matters reached this point, you recall having said you would give spare change, possibly larger amounts to street people, but you would not give a street person your banking or credit card information.  You also threw in what you thought was an added nice touch, telling the caller he qualified for a set of steak knives if he would consent to listen to a two-minute pitch for a time-share resort condo at Lake Tahoe.

You were a bit taken by surprise when this caller did the dramatic equivalent of breaking character.  "Fuck you,"  he said.

"Wait a minute," the yet more outraged you said.  "You're telling me to go fuck myself?"

"Fuck you,"  he said, then hung up.

In your lifetime as a writer, you've had a significant variety of rejection letters, some elegant in their generic anonymity, others with words of some degree or encouragement, and one memorable one from the publication run by the writer Joyce Carol Oates and her late husband, Raymond Smith, with a penciled "No."  Many of these were made offensive and memorable with the gratuitous wish of the rejector that I was able to find a more suitable place for my work.

You've at times applied for teaching and publishing jobs you'd heard about, jobs you'd at the time thought you'd be an ideal fit for.  Some yesses, some sorry, not interested, some the equivalent of a thank you for your interest in us.

Only today did all the pieces fit together to the point where any given story of yours, submitted to any publisher who might have rejected it, becomes the equivalent of these phone calls you get from sources wanting you to believe them enough to purchase or donate.

Your stories, essays, reviews, books, in particular the stuff you're working on now, are in effect asking persons to trust your work, your characters, the situations they get into, the ideas they express, the connections you say are there, evident, valid points of conversation and consideration.

You cannot hope to be believed by everyone, nor do you expect to be.  You cannot believe everyone, a thought that makes you hope you will believe the right ones.  At times when you find yourself reading noir, dark stories and thinking there are so many dark spots and conditions on our planet, you hope you will be able to recognize the brightness as well and speak of both the darkness and light in ways where some will believe you and listen to you when you come calling.

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