The Joy of Being Used

 

shutterstock_233760664Generosity is annoying. When a person is skilled or able in some way, others inevitably ask favors of him. A sense of charitable duty can make refusal difficult. Often, one is not feeling particularly generous when a loved one, coworker, or neighbor requests aid. Their needs are perceived as interruptions. But problems can’t be scheduled.

My brother is an IT wiz. It seems like hell. Anyone and everyone who runs into a problem even tangentially related to computers or electronics looks to him for help. To his credit, he always answers. With so many IT people offering free help to family and friends these days, it’s amazing anyone ever needs to pay for service!

My youngest sister is a physical terrorist… um, therapist. Everyone respects a knowledgeable physician, right? But the price of that knowledge is being the unpaid resource of every close acquaintance (and some distant ones, too). Family members don’t have to say a word. One just stands or moves awkwardly, and the help comes before anyone involved is ready for it. “Ouch! Um, I mean, thanks.”

Which brings me to my point.

As a tall and healthy young man, I have always been at everyone’s disposal whether or not I really wanted to be. “Can you reach this?” “Would you carry these?” “I need someone to… ” And so on. I have been loaned out to friends of family more times than I can remember. But I am beginning to reach the age when the body periodically goes on strike, perhaps in demand of better pay (food). Right now, I have bursitis in both shoulders — probably from poor posture while in front of computers — and consequently cannot help in many ways that I previously would have.

At least for a while, I have lost the opportunities to be generous in these ways. And strangely, I find myself missing such occasions to be bothered.

Published in Culture, General
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  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Just so you know I would never purchase a new Aaron Miller, only the used ones for me.

    But seriously, after the heart attack-inducing headline (pretty sure the Marquis de Sade is not C-O-C compliant), I would say that you’ve probably just come to the conclusion that being used and being useful are not synonymous.

    The former comes from manipulation, the latter from good relationships.

    • #1
  2. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    The experience really just makes me recognize the difference between comfort and contentment. There are many levels of happiness. The deeper levels often require us to forgo comforts.

    • #2
  3. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    huh… I never thought about this before.  I’m really kind of useless.

    Happy Monday, everybody.

    • #3
  4. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Okay Aaron, I won’t have you reach the high stuff when you come over.  I’ll get a stepladder and let my wife reach it.

    I won’t hassle your brother either.  I am merely a user and not a very good one at that.  I wouldn’t know what to ask him anyway.

    Dinner at 6.

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    My dad and I have complimentary skill sets.  He’s a mechanical engineer and I am a software engineer.  I call him with “my car is making the following noise” type questions, and he calls me with “the computer isn’t accessing the email” type questions.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @BallDiamondBall

    Does he have any experience with nominally conservative spaghetti code?

    • #6
  7. PJ Inactive
    PJ
    @PJ

    If you have an IT question, don’t bother your computer wiz friend/relative until you try Googling it. You will reduce your dependence on them by 90%.

    • #7
  8. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    PJ:If you have an IT question, don’t bother your computer wiz friend/relative until you try Googling it. You will reduce your dependence on them by 90%.

    I’m guessing the other 10% is asking him what to Google?

    • #8
  9. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    I am sometimes asked to help with PC and cellphone issues myself.  I have also learned a lot of do-it-yourself skills as a homeowner who could not always afford to call a repairman.  To be honest, I am always happy to help a friend.  I have a neighbor who  is very good with cars and machines in general.  He and I help each other and it has made us good friends.

    • #9
  10. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    PJ:If you have an IT question, don’t bother your computer wiz friend/relative until you try Googling it. You will reduce your dependence on them by 90%.

    That is very true.

    The group second-most likely to be used this way is “doctors.” And oddly, my advice here would be exactly the opposite.

    • #10
  11. user_512412 Inactive
    user_512412
    @RichardFinlay

    This seems pertinent: http://xkcd.com/627/

    • #11
  12. Jude Inactive
    Jude
    @Jude

    Yes, but Claire, Googling medical solutions kind of elevates internet searches to the level of the The Most Dangerous Game. Heck, the adrenaline rush alone cures me half the time.

    • #12
  13. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Jude:Yes, but Claire, Googling medical solutions kind of elevates internet searches to the level of the The Most Dangerous Game. Heck, the adrenaline rush alone cures me half the time.

    Fact: I learned all about best practices in rabies prophylaxis and treated myself appropriately (under very appropriate circumstances) after a thorough Google search. It was the same as what the doctor advised. But since I was in a country where I wasn’t yet entirely confident, I figured I’d make sure.

    So it has its uses. And by the way, Delhi’s an excellent place for medical care. But I confirmed the advice for myself, just to be sure. Having done so, I’d say, “Put your trust in Delhi’s doctors, they really know what they’re doing when it comes to dog bites.”

    Also: Rabipur is painless (just as Google says) and easy to self-administer (you need to do a few searches with different keywords on Google to figure that out, but it is).

    • #13
  14. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    I’m a technical professional.  I know quite a bit about about Microsoft and Unix/Linux environments, but very little about Apple machines.  For your entertainment, here is a typical conversation I might have at a party:

    Person:  Oh, so you’re a [technical professional]!  Hey, I was having a problem the other day with my Macintosh.

    Me:  I don’t know anything about Apple products.

    Person:  So anyway, when I click on the MacThingy icon, this message pops up…

    • #14
  15. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Richard Finlay:This seems pertinent: http://xkcd.com/627/

    You have just outlined the relationship of all young adults to their elderly parents where computers are concerned:
    “Well, did you try…”
    “No. Why would I try anything?”

    And I thought we were supposed to be the generation that’s afraid of failure.

    Of course, in the 1980s everything was simpler. You just smacked it and it worked, somehow.

    • #15
  16. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Aaron Miller: You have just outlined the relationship of all young adults to their elderly parents where computers are concerned

    My mother used to fly in the years after WWII yet was completely afraid of the TV remote. In the last years of her life someone suggested she get a computer and she replied, “My son doesn’t have time for that.”

    • #16
  17. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Aaron Miller:

    Richard Finlay:This seems pertinent: http://xkcd.com/627/

    You have just outlined the relationship of all young adults to their elderly parents where computers are concerned: “Well, did you try…” “No. Why would I try anything?”

    And I thought we were supposed to be the generation that’s afraid of failure.

    Of course, in the 1980s everything was simpler. You just smacked it and it worked, somehow.

    At the risk of taking the discussion off topic: For you young whippersnappers :-) , your grandparents grew up and lived most of their lives with physical things that, when your tried something and it broke, it was broken and difficult or impossible to repair. The “undo” button or function didn’t exist. The ability to try somethingg and then undo it if it doesn’t work is a novel concept for your grandparents.

    • #17
  18. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Aaron Miller: There are many levels of happiness. The deeper levels often require us to forgo comforts.

    The best kinds often involve intense, hard, serious effort – and the feeling of righteous exhaustion at the end of it. That comforts are being foregone is merely, to my mind, an undocumented feature.

    • #18
  19. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I feel fortunate to have been spared much of the hassle many lawyers have with friends and relatives seeking free legal advice, since I practice in a niche (intellectual property) that is outside the needs of most people. I don’t know enough about wills, real estate, or car accidents to help without committing malpractice.

    • #19
  20. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Aaron Miller: With so many IT people offering free help to family and friends these days, it’s amazing anyone ever needs to pay for service!

    You don’t pay the IT serviceperson for IT support. You pay the IT serviceperson to refrain from rolling their eyes.

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Aaron Miller: You have just outlined the relationship of all young adults to their elderly parents where computers are concerned: “Well, did you try…” “No. Why would I try anything?”

    My perennial advice to my father goes something like this:

    Dad: “Say, how would I find…”

    Me: “Dad, remember what I said Google has?”

    Dad: “Google has everything.”

    Me: “Google has everything.”

    Dad: “Yeah, but hear me out…”

    Me: [ eye roll ]

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Richard Finlay:This seems pertinent: http://xkcd.com/627/

    If that image is popularized it’ll mean a big hit to my personal earning potential.

    It must be excised!

    • #22
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Claire Berlinski:

    Jude:Yes, but Claire, Googling medical solutions kind of elevates internet searches to the level of the The Most Dangerous Game. Heck, the adrenaline rush alone cures me half the time.

    Fact: I learned all about best practices in rabies prophylaxis and treated myself appropriately (under very appropriate circumstances) after a thorough Google search. It was the same as what the doctor advised. But since I was in a country where I wasn’t yet entirely confident, I figured I’d make sure.

    I still remember going to see my doctor prior to a trip to Zimbabwe in 1997 to get anti-malarials and a few other things.  He sat down with me and went over various possible ailments, and finished with “and if you need surgery, get the hell off the continent first.  If you can’t make it to the US, at least get to Europe.”

    • #23
  24. Ricochet Thatcher
    Ricochet
    @VicrylContessa

    Claire Berlinski:

    PJ:If you have an IT question, don’t bother your computer wiz friend/relative until you try Googling it. You will reduce your dependence on them by 90%.

    That is very true.

    The group second-most likely to be used this way is “doctors.” And oddly, my advice here would be exactly the opposite.

    Thank you, Claire! Whenever I visit the older members of my family, I spend a good bit of the time answering health questions and helping them sort out their medications. And then there are the calls from my mother- “Aunt X is complaining of nausea and weakness in her arms…” I’m never really off the clock. But I’d rather they come to me instead of WebMD, which makes everyone convinced that they have cancer or a pulmonary embolism.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Thatcher
    Ricochet
    @VicrylContessa

    Aaron, I think the reason you miss being recruited for help is you miss people looking to you for your particular area of expertise, even if it is just being tall and willing to help. People seldom genuinely resent being called upon to help; it’s affirming to one’s sense of accomplishment and capability. People might put on a show of being annoyed, but once the requests stop flowing, people feel as though they’ve been replaced or they don’t matter any more.

    • #25
  26. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Well, I think knowledge and muscle are particularly nice gifts to have at one’s disposal because they can be given away without losing anything. You can only give away so much money before you must acquire more. If someone needs help moving something, a fit person needs only to stand up.

    That’s how it works when you’re young. As you get older, your endurance fades and physical help can’t be offered as frequently or as consistently.

    Gifts of the mind and spirit are in endless supply if one takes care of oneself. One always has something to give.

    • #26
  27. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Aaron Miller: Gifts of the mind and spirit are in endless supply if one takes care of oneself. One always has something to give.

    We are endlessly powerful, for a limited time only.

    • #27
  28. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    As a tall and healthy young man, I have always been at everyone’s disposal whether or not I really wanted to be. “Can you reach this?” “Would you carry these?” “I need someone to… ”

    Take some advice from a high maintenance female, Aaron: None of us ever lose appreciation for gentlemen with these attributes. :)

    Now get back to a physical therapist or something!

    • #28
  29. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    Full Size Tabby:

    Aaron Miller:

    Richard Finlay:This seems pertinent: http://xkcd.com/627/

    You have just outlined the relationship of all young adults to their elderly parents where computers are concerned: “Well, did you try…” “No. Why would I try anything?”

    And I thought we were supposed to be the generation that’s afraid of failure.

    Of course, in the 1980s everything was simpler. You just smacked it and it worked, somehow.

    At the risk of taking the discussion off topic: For you young whippersnappers :-) , your grandparents grew up and lived most of their lives with physical things that, when your tried something and it broke, it was broken and difficult or impossible to repair. The “undo” button or function didn’t exist. The ability to try somethingg and then undo it if it doesn’t work is a novel concept for your grandparents.

    And for you old fogeys out there; YOUR grandparents knew how to fix things. Before mass production took over everything it was much cheaper to fix almost anything than to buy a new one. To do that you have to be able to at least look at something and figure out how it works.

    I should add a smiley face to clarify the good nature of this comment, but I cannot compel myself to do so.

    • #29
  30. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    As a computer illiterate, I have had my share of bumming IT wizzes for help.  I guess that constitutes modern day begging for alms.

    You got it right Aaron.  It’s a joy to help.

    • #30
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