You don't have to be in school to get bullied. Some would say that once you hit a certain age that it may not even be possible any more. You can only be bullied if you allow it to happen. That as an adult you have enough life experience and the ability to avoid such things.
I don't agree and in the past month I've had both in person and cyber bullying attacks. They were both "mild" but I'll have to admit I was surprised that it actually happened.
The cyber bullying was the first and it happened at the end of last month. I was attacked on Twitter by a couple trolls. Trolls are anonymous and that's the was they should stay.
If you've listened to my podcast The Spew you already know that the voice in my head has a very important role. He also has his own Twitter account. It's mostly used to make sarcastic comment to people that I know that "get it" but occasionally he'll tweet at someone who's making news.
The Voice was yacking at Ari Shaffir about his treatment of a fellow comedian. One of his tweets caught the attention of a troll on Twitter.
Let me define what a troll is. It's an account on a site that is set up to be anonymous. It's set up the way so a person can annoy legitimate users and not be held accountable. They attack people from a position of anonymity so the person being attacked has very little information to defend themselves. This kind of thing has been going on on the Internet since it's existence. I've had plenty of run ins with trolls in the past. It's one of the hazards of being online and promoting yourself.
The Tweet that got this particular trolls attentions was:
"@AriShaffir Still no statement on your bit about Damienne Merlina? Who do you think you are? @BillCosby ? @WhatsinaDame @ComedyCentral"
The tweet points out that like Bill Cosby, Ari Shaffir had chosen not to comment on what he did. Pretty simple, it's a pretty easy joke to get.
Then comes this tweet from an anonymous account (which I'm not naming) that says "Seriously? You're comparing Ari Shaffir to a rapist?"
A tweet like that obviously came from someone that is either a fan or looking for a fight or both. I'm happy to debate someone (even a troll) when I have the time or inclination. Add to that The Voice would not let something like that slide so the Voice responded with this tweet:
"@[Deleted] @AriShaffir @BillCosby @WhatsinaDame @ComedyCentral Need I really explain? Neither has commented on the public outcry against them"
Followed by (to complete the thought):
"@[Deleted] @AriShaffir @BillCosby @WhatsinaDame @ComedyCentral They're both comics. Geez ..."
What followed was a Twitter exchange that never really went anywhere. Very early on this troll started correcting my spelling and grammar usage. That is a clear indicator that he (or she) has no real argument and just wants to fight. Plus one of this troll's buddies jumped in and the both of them asked the same ridiculous question for about an hour.
So I just ignored them. I didn't block them and I didn't report them. It took a few days but they both just went away. You may be asking why I chose to ignore them? The short answer is because I know what I'm doing. The longer answer is:
1) Blocking them is validation. In their minds that's a "win"
2) I looked at their accounts, they're idiots and I'm using the term loosely. I'm sure they are "educated". The reason they're idiots is they think they are getting away with something when they clearly are not. Every time they get blocked they are reported. Sooner or later they'll get noticed by Twitter and they'll be purged from the system.
3) If I block them, I won't be able to see their lame attempts at trying to get me to argue with them.
If they were making violent threats I would have done things differently, I would have reported them. But the truth is trolls like this are just a nuisance. They take care of themselves. Ignoring them is the best thing to do.
It's rare that I get bullied in person. I'm not a small man and my presence can be "imposing". I don't do that on purpose, I just look like a scary biker even though I am far from that.
What makes this incident even stranger is that the attempt to bully me was made by a woman! Not a young woman either. My guess would be she's in her 50s and based on her accent her name is either Olga or Nadia. She's pretty fit and it's obvious she is some sort of "trophy" wife (maybe 6th or 7th place?) as her husband is a HUGE man with calves the size of a Christmas Ham. Ever see those old war movies with the HUGE old Russian Soldiers? That's the guy!
How would I know what his calves look like? Because my issue with her happened in the pool at my YMCA. It wasn't one time either, there were two. The first one not real bad, the second quickly escalated into something more.
If you follow me or my blog you know that I've been getting my exercise in the pool. Specifically I've been swimming laps. At my YMCA there is only one lane that is partitioned off from the rest of the pool by "lane dividers" which are buoys strung on a rope.
Anyone in that lane is supposed to be doing laps. You can't just float around in there. In fact it's also a rule that you must share the lane if necessary. They don't seem wide enough for that but I've seen it done.
It would be especially difficult for me to share a lane. I do my swimming with a snorkel because of my neck. I can't look forward, it gives me a headache. When I swim I look straight down and follow the line at the bottom of the pool. So if someone else were in the lane, not only would I not see them, I would probably run into them.
So a couple of Saturdays ago I went into the Y to swim and the lap lane wasn't empty, It wasn't being used for laps either. In it was this woman doing water aerobics. Something she could have been doing anywhere else in the pool. The lifeguard on duty was a younger girl who couldn't get her to move out. She just flat out refused, even though she was clearly violating the usage of the lane.
Since she was refusing to allow anyone else in the lane I ended up waiting 45 minutes in order to use the lane for laps.
While I realize this was not a case of bullying it does show that she has the attitude necessary. She could care less about what other people want and is going to impose her will on others, rules or not. Bullying is not just about taking things from someone else, it's about intimidation.
Things came to a head on Monday. I got to the pool right when it opened for lap swim. I was able to get into the lap lane and had been swimming laps for nearly a half hour when unbeknownst to me her and her husband jumped into the pool.
I also had no idea that she was in the lap lane doing water aerobics as I swam a lap. My first warning was when she kicked me in the face as I passed her.
Fortunately since it was in the water there wasn't much force behind it, so it didn't hurt much. I finished my lap and turned back around and stayed on the opposite side of the lane passing her the next time. I was determined not to allow her to intimidate me. I was also hoping for the lifeguard on duty to intervene and kick her out.
Well that didn't happen and after a couple more laps she moved down the lane to the ledge that is on the deep end of the pool. When I came into that side I saw her with her back to me. I stopped my swimming and had the following exchange with her:
Me: This lane is for lap swimming, not water aerobics
Her: Ignores me
Me: Plus I can't see you because of the way I swim
Her: (turning her head towards me) Maybe you should check your goggles
Me: My goggles have nothing to do with it. You shouldn't be in the lane.
Her: (shrugs her shoulders and turns her back to me)
Me: You're just rude.
At which point I exited the lane and took started using one 2 lanes over. It took me 30 minutes to finish my swim and during that time her husband made it a point to give me the stink eye every chance he had.
Years ago I would have taken the time to swim over and have a nice ugly confrontation with both of them. I'm sure whatever I would have done or threatened would have been enough that they would have steered clear of me. Unfortunately with these people, that would not solve the overall problem. They would just continue to do what they were doing to everyone BUT me. I felt like a better solution would be to make sure they got the message "no more misbehaving".
So I did what any mature adult would do ... I told on them. After I finished my swim I had a long discussion with the lifeguard on duty and the director of the YMCA. Apparently they have been having issues with these people for some time. Just like everyone else, the staff at the YMCA had talked to about their bad behavior and they had ignored them as well.
In fact, last last time the staff at the YMCA talked to them these people had even threatened to cancel their membership (a staggering $45 a month). I think the YMCA folks were hoping they really would and the problem would just go away. Well that never happened and once these people figured out that nothing was going to be done to stop them they knew they could do whatever they wanted.
That's what put me in the position I was in.
In today's society stupid behavior is tolerated under the auspices of "free speech" and "individual rights" but the line is drawn at physical violence. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for them) I had a nice big red red mark on my face.That was enough for the director of the YMCA to take action.
Before these people left they were brought into her office. The rules of the pool and what proper behavior was expected of them when they were at the YMCA.
The end result: The next day they came to the pool and didn't violate the rules. They did manage to give me the stink eye for an hour.
Problem solved ...