Hope and Change? How About Live and Learn?

The wife says that there is usually justification to my umbrage—it's my bail schedule that sucks. And so mine has been a history of strained associations, parted companies, and dissolved friendships.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Photo by Kelly Bracken.Photo by Kelly Bracken.There's a part of me that is surprised every time I see my byline in Police Magazine, here on PoliceMag.com, or elsewhere. It isn't because I've forgotten what I've written (although I have). Nor is it due to selling myself short when it comes to writing.

It's because I don't play well with others.

Insufferably kind and respectful to those who exhibit even a modicum of same, I can be nasty as hell when provoked.

Part of me is unrepentant as the roadside carnage left in my wake serves as a deterrent to others otherwise inclined to piss me off. But like the baby rattler that has not yet learned to apportion his toxins, I can go a tad overboard.
The wife says that there is usually justification to my umbrage—it's my bail schedule that sucks. And so mine has been a history of strained associations, parted companies, and dissolved friendships. I can't say that I regret a majority of these losses, although by any objective measure I should be embarrassed by the circumstances precipitating many of them.

Live and learn. Or, so they say.

The fact is, I'm not so sure that I do learn. At least, not to any demonstrable profit. And at the age of 52, I have little "hope" of embracing "change." Indeed, since Obama's been around I have gotten to the point where I take umbrage with the very utterance of the words. My ways are largely set, and while a battery of shrinks can proffer all manner of perfectly valid reasons for my eccentricities, it is perhaps the most irritating idiosyncrasy that is both most easily explained and the least malicious in intent: My desire to be as honest as I can be without getting my tit in a wringer.

Don't get me wrong. I am not graduate of that mythological "Can't Tell a Lie" School of George Washington. Like any curbside detainee with a wristband tan, I can and will lie my ass off to save it. But when it comes to day-to-day intercourse, I tend to err on the side of candor. Why? Because I hate bullshit.

This brand of coprophobia was acquired through years of hearing my father's USDA-choice BS. Designed to woo co-workers into loving him and customers into adulating him, my father's bullshitting had been cultivated after he'd gotten his ass kicked once too often in his youth. But like the son of some travelling theater troop thespian who's grown accustomed to the various personages assumed of his parents, I could see through his act. Of course, his misanthropic rants may have played a part, too.

"Look, they don't mean a f**king thing to me," he'd say of the people he encountered at his job. "But of course they all think I'm just the greatest guy in the world. And you know why? Because they don't love me, they love the phony son of a bitch that they think is me. And you know what? I do everything I can to encourage this belief. I want them eating outta my hands."

There was no refuting his ability to make himself loved by those he thought so little of. After his passing, I found all manner of eulogizing gifts and documents that'd been collected through the years, including a lavishly illustrated card made by co-workers welcoming him upon his return to work. He'd been gone for three weeks.

Meanwhile, my bosses had their hands full just rounding up some bewildered explorers and couple of station volunteers to boost the attendance numbers at my retirement party.

How much easier might my life had been had I indulged in some more conventional form of adolescent rebellion. Had I simply skulked off to light up a bowl with my stoner acquaintances or run off and joined a commune. But my most mutinous act was a refusal to perpetuate my father's BS. If I couldn't pass Diogenes' bar for honesty, I would at least minimize the amount of bovine byproducts coming out of my upper orifice and give people an accurate read on what I really felt about things, be they co-workers, supervisors, or people I stopped on the street.  

That this posture has largely been to my detriment is underscored by those of lessor means who ascended higher and accomplished more on the department, ironically through their own BS skills. In their case I would hesitate to call it a talent as I'd rate the transparency of their nature at somewhere between and diaphanous and translucent. Nonetheless, their success in entrenching themselves in the upper LASD echelon is manifest and I can only speculate that others' susceptibility to their BS is related to the same DNA strand of cognitive dissonance we all rely upon at election time.

That kind of Sophie's choice is currently being played out as candidacies have been announced for the 2014 election for sheriff here in Los Angeles County. As much as I delight in the drama—indeed, this year's badged circus promises a return to the kind of no-hold's-barred "you're-with-me-or-against-me" saber-rattling not seen since current Sheriff Lee Baca went after his boss Sherman Block - I can't help but wonder how much better the candidates, the department, and the communities they ostensibly serve might have been had these men simply adhered to promises made at the time of their hiring instead of employing the kind of BS for which they have to answer now. And regardless of who wins, there is little reason to believe the next regime will not adhere to the established template of nepotistic promotions, pipeline paybacks, mutual backslapping, and the opportune grab of a coattail here and a rising star there. 

It does not speak to my better angels that I will, in the meantime, take delight in schadenfreude at seeing the backs of such individuals pressed defensively against walls. Sometimes, the BS changes; occasionally, truer natures make cameo appearances. And so it is that we see once "good friends" leveling accusations of professional malfeasance at one another and dishing blame and squaring off against one another in the election jockeying.

Live and learn, indeed.

Lest I come across as too pious, I find myself doing some inner jockeying at the moment. Part of this is because I increasingly see myself succumbing to temptations similar to those I'm slamming. With Police Magazine having grown to become the number one law enforcement publication in the country on so many fronts I have openly advocated pimping the magazine up more even as I have to wonder how much longer I will be a part of the enterprise.

The question is a legitimate one because as good as things are going on some fronts, they aren't so good on some others. While blame can be assigned according to the paradigm of the observer, it will suffice, for my purposes, to say the past few weeks have seen multiple episodes of aggravation for myself and for others. Requests for assistance went unanswered. Promises to follow-up with me were not kept. Suggestions tendered were seemingly dismissed out of hand ("I don't want to do that."), thereby killing any incentive for me to parade out others I had waiting in the wings. 

Such are the ways that prospects of conflated creativity give way to enervated enthusiasm. 

What accounted for such dissatisfactory results? Collective ennui? An orchestrated conspiracy? Pernicious paranoia on my part? Sometimes it's easier to describe symptoms than ascribe causes; certainly, it is more politically prudent to do so (See? Maybe I am learning).

Whatever the case is, it begs certain questions: Do I want to change? Can I? Should I?

So far, my answer for each is, "I dunno" (still channeling the detainee here).

I do know this: That you the reader could otherwise be entertaining yourself by watching Miley Cyrus fingering her private parts, Britney Spears flashing hers, or some other act of exposure courtesy of the Disney Girls Gone Wild World Tour. That you have seen fit to subsidize my psychic exhibitionism instead is something that I am grateful for.

This blog has been an experiment and if I cannot recoil with the horror of a Dr. Frankenstein at its results, it is because of you readers who have validated it with your patronage and comments. You have corrected me where I was wrong, complimented me when you saw fit, and commiserated on our shared traumas (I, too, drove a Vega, Dave Lain). Hell, twice the parent company has deemed this blog the best under its masthead.

And as sorely tempted as I am to just indulge myself with a maledictory diatribe on perceived slights, it would run counter to one promise that I made to myself. That while I reserved the right to take the scenic route, I would ultimately prove respectful of my intentions and the reader's time.

With said agenda in mind, a few caveats and questions...

First, remember that there's a reason that people routinely remind others to be careful what they ask for. Sometime ago, I asked permission to telecommute. On the one hand, I am appreciative as the wear and tear saved on my car has nothing on that of my nerves. But by physically dislocating myself I often feel out of the loop, and I sure as hell don't have the benefit of having built alliances with others.

Second, ask yourself: What are my assets and liabilities? How do they align themselves with my employer's priorities? If cutbacks should loom, opportunities arise, where would I stand on my department's pecking order?

Third, and assuming that your job is important to you, contemplate what—if anything—you have done to make yourself even more than useful and perhaps, even necessary?

Finally, do you want - or feel a need - to change?

Can you?

Should you?

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