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“See the happy moron …”

(A rant that I fear doesn’t show my most likeable side.)

Sigh. Happened again. I got caught in a long, jaw-grinding, blood-pressure raising trap with a person who has zero sense of responsibility.

I’ve written before about my disgust for people who make commitments they then make no effort to keep — a problem that seems endemic among independent contractors. In fact, I even wrote about this particular person recently before I knew he was one of them. Turns out he’s one of the world champs of irresponsibility.

After too many bitter experiences, I made a general rule that the second time somebody makes a commitment and blows it off without a word, I cut him loose. Unfortunately several factors tied me to this guy for most of a month as he let me down, wasted my time, and demonstrated the futility of my persuasive powers again and again and again.

No use going into the details. These things are drearily the same. But when he finally showed up Saturday (sparing me a whole hour of his presence after my two weeks of begging), I was struck by how much he sounded like an Ayn Rand villain. You know — one of those guys who owns “Amalgamated” Something or Another or “Associated” Thingamabob. When they fail to deliver, they’re always going on about, “No one could have foreseen …” and “No one can blame me because I had the best of intentions …”

Except that Rand’s villains are whining and defensive when they go on like that. This dimwit, on the contrary, was extremely pleased with himself.

He clearly thought it was silly for anyone to be concerned about various projects being neglected and abandoned (e.g. the lawn he promised to mow every two weeks going on 3.5 weeks now and beginning to resemble the Amazon rain forest). He considered it absurd even to hint that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t developing into a good professional relationship. Because after all (he beamed chirpily and oh-so-reasuringly), “Of course I haven’t forgotten” and “I fully intend to do the work.”

Sometime. In the future. Whenever, y’know? It’s just that right now I have better things to do.

Apparently his mother never informed him where good intentions without actions lead.

But these days it doesn’t matter. Suffering consequences for being a wastrel is so old-fashioned.


There’s a little verse that runs through my head occasionally:

See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn,
I wish I were a moron,
My God! perhaps I am!

While the possibility definitely exists that I’m a moron, it’ll never be because I don’t give a damn. My best virtue — and also my most probable cause of moronity — is that I give too damn many damns about too damn many things. (I expect many others hereabouts share this problem.)

The guy of whom I write, however, is definitely a moron and definitely doesn’t give a damn — about anything. Which just about made me hate him over the last four weeks — but which makes him one of life’s winners.

He’s relentlessly cheerful and upbeat. He’s a proud, playful father and happy husband. He’s got tons of friends. He doesn’t “waste” his time on planning, making to-do lists, or fretting about whether he might let somebody down. He brims with confidence no matter how bad a job he does. His self-esteem is top-of-the-line. Sunshine follows him everywhere he goes.

He is indeed a happy moron precisely because he doesn’t give a damn. He literally doesn’t even know — or care — how offensive repeated broken promises, no-shows, and abandoned projects are. He doesn’t even consider the possibility that his behavior may be anything other than pleasing to one and all. He is simply wunnnnnnderful!

Me, I’m merely a recovering grouch (having finally found a way to tell him to get lost after he — are we surprised? — abandoned the project he finally began on Saturday). And I’m not particularly liking myself for it.

How easy it was for this slob to jerk me this way and that for weeks without even trying! To tie me in knots. To leave me banging my head in a ridiculous effort to try to find words that would finally switch on a lightbulb over his skull. To remind me over and over of my worst self. In the end he won a moral victory over me. My belief in responsibility made me a jerk (though I tried not to show it on the surface) and a complete loser (since the projects didn’t get finished and my protestations made not the tiniest dent in his shiny bubble of perfection). But him? He came out of this crappy month as one of life’s amazingly content winners, utterly untouched by crass, ignoble concerns such as mine.

“See the happy moron … I wish I were a moron …”

That is, I sometimes wish I were his kind of moron, rather than the variety of moron I obviously am.


  1. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein July 1, 2013 1:43 pm

    “His self-esteem is top-of-the-line.”

    Not a chance. Liars lie, so that’s just him duping others. Again.

    The simple fact is that we live with each of our decisions and actions. Our memory banks store it all; that’s why we remember otherwise trivial incidents from our childhood where WE believe we did something wrong.

    So he can pretend to others, but he can’t pretend to himself, nor can he evade his own internal judgment of himself. Everyone lives with the only judgment that matters—their own. He has no self-esteem; that’s why he’s busy pretending that he does by negatively affecting the lives of others. It’s the soma of our times, a power trip. But it doesn’t work, at least not without powerful drugs, because those memory banks don’t lie. Like everything else, the lie that ensues and is presented to others, is just a choice.

    Now as to the responsibility for you being tied up in knots…

  2. Claire
    Claire July 1, 2013 1:58 pm

    “Now as to the responsibility for you being tied up in knots…”

    🙁 Yeah. Trust me, I’ve been telling myself for weeks, “Nobody can make you upset. You’re choosing …” I struggled to see a better choice, but cutting him off first real chance I got was all I came up with. Yep, he punched my buttons — but they are buttons I’m responsible for.

    As to his own inner evaluation … I dunno. If all that cheer is just a cover for hating himself for messing up, then you’d think he’d be trying to do something about the situation instead of making it worse. The latest psychological research indicates that people who seem all full of themselves really are all full of themselves and not merely compensating for feelings of inferiority.

    I suspect this guy’s a product of the self-esteem generation.

  3. Matt, another
    Matt, another July 1, 2013 2:34 pm

    This is difficult for me to understand to be honest. Not the emotion, not the frustration, not the simple desire to have your lawn mowed. I don’t understand why you actually expect someone honor their commitments. Honoring commitments, however small, is no longer the cultural norm. It is the exception, not the rule. The govt (all levels), corporations, unions, churches, etc all do their damdest to avoid honoring comittments and often have to be forced to do so by the courts (hit and miss at best). It has simply trickled down to the personal level where few people feel a need to honor a commitment.

    Why should they honor a personal commitment when no one else does? The true irony comes when the same people get mad because someone has not honored a committment to them. It is part and parcel of the melt down of society. For many a commitment is not valid if there is not a written contract or an enforceable requirment to meet that commitment. Someone might say something, but seldom will they bother to convert that to action. It is procrastination writ large. I no longer have an expecation that someon will fulfill an obligation to me. I know the odds are slim and rely on myself as much as possible. If the person is from an older generation then the odds are better that they will honor a comittment. If they are younger than me the odds are they will not honor it and if they do it will be an accident.

  4. Beth
    Beth July 1, 2013 3:08 pm

    Geez, I so know how you feel. I guess I’m old-fashioned, and I’m not even old — er, yet…

    I’m curious: what do you refer to here? “The latest psychological research indicates that people who seem all full of themselves really are all full of themselves and not merely compensating for feelings of inferiority.” Got any links in mind?

    Some people nowadays really are skilled deceivers, even to themselves. Narcissism seems to be an epidemic (perhaps that’s what you meant by the mention of research?). I wonder how much of that phenomenon, as Jim Klein suggests, is due to widespread mind-altering prescription drug usage.

  5. water lily
    water lily July 1, 2013 5:28 pm

    You’re not alone in your frustration. My sister is newly widowed and grieving, and she’s been through 3 lawn guys who have jerked her around in a similar fashion. It’s an epidemic of mediocrity. And the saddest thing about it is that most don’t care.

  6. Claire
    Claire July 1, 2013 5:32 pm

    Beth — I wish I could find a link to the study (or studies) I’m thinking about. But I couldn’t come up with the right search terms just now. 🙁

    To try to summarize: For a long time the common wisdom was that anybody who was grandiose and self-centered actually felt inferior deep inside. Then researchers recently tested that notion and discovered the opposite — that people who act as if they have an exaggerated sense of their own self-worth for the most part actually feel that way. My recollection is that the articles were published recently (2013 or late 2012) and — sorry! — I remember no more than that. Not very helpful, am I?

    Wouldn’t surprise me at all, though, if the generations coming up contain an unusual number of narcissists. As well as many who can’t think.

  7. Claire
    Claire July 1, 2013 5:37 pm

    Matt, another — “I don’t understand why you actually expect someone honor their commitments.”

    Only because I don’t want to live in a world where a person’s word is always assumed to be valueless. Well said, though. Well said.

    Water Lily — Your poor sister. You’d think of all times now would be the moment for people to be extra honest and extra helpful to her.

    Me, I’m shopping for a lawn mower to replace the garage-sale job that died after a couple of uses. It feels wonderful to be able to rely on reliable people; hell to try to rely on the unreliable.

  8. Pat
    Pat July 1, 2013 5:48 pm

    No, this guy may be self-deceptive, but he’s not pretending. There really are people who are so full of themselves, they can’t believe they are less than perfect, i.e. less than what they perceive themselves to be.

    They are not responsible because somehow they’ve never been forced by environment or circumstances to answer for their mistakes.

    And they’ve been taught (or taught themselves) that charm, personality, and bulls**t are the reality of an individual – so are able to thrive in that fanciful cocoon as long as reality (or the achool of hard knocks) never touches them.

  9. Matt, another
    Matt, another July 1, 2013 6:34 pm

    Claire, it is well worth expecting people to honor commitments. You have more faith in the matter than I. I think my lack of expectations is possibly my cynicism being rampant more than reality.

  10. just waiting
    just waiting July 1, 2013 6:38 pm

    OMG!!! You hired my sister! I’m so sorry.
    We call her the queen of the known universe, and her family is known as the travelling roadshow of self-centeredness. Zero comprehension of the feelings of others, and try to talk about something (family has dinner reservations at 6, she shows up at 8), and you’re the jerk for dampening her lofty spirits.
    End this chapter quickly Claire!

  11. Shel
    Shel July 1, 2013 6:45 pm

    My personal opinion, worth everything you’re paying for it, is that people are innately givers or takers and come out of the womb that way. Takers can appear to transform into givers, but typically that is accompanied by overt religious proclamations. I think they are still takers; they now expect to take from God because they now are behaving well, or so they think. Givers can become takers after becoming so embittered by having been taken themselves. They’re never happy in this state.

    Claire, you clearly seem to be a giver. I believe the character you were dealing with is simply a taker and quite possibly was bemused, if not amused, by your increasing efforts to be helpful to him. When you got fed up the charade ended. I believe the lesson for the future is nothing more complex than recognizing the pattern as soon as possible and getting the ____ out of Dodge. Don’t ask me how I know.

  12. Debby Rich
    Debby Rich July 1, 2013 8:56 pm

    Hey thank you for your experience and sharing it with me. I do not have
    the personally to be happy. People tell me to, but it like almot I can’t. But on
    the other hand if I give my word I will do it. Right now I can barey walk. I have artithis in my feet. But I am taking care of an ADD Borer Collie on
    Staroids. Boy is she a very hard one. We have her chained in an 10 by 10
    kennel so that her retired mother could go to California to take care of her
    mother. She got there to late and her mother passed away. But the mother
    was also 94. So now my friend has to deal with all of that. I am not sure how
    long I will have the dog, but I am also doing it for nothing to help her out.
    So there you have it

  13. M
    M July 2, 2013 4:40 am

    Can’t find the video, but remember this :

    Everybody loves me Baby,
    Whats the matter with you?
    Won’t you tell me what did I do,
    To offend you?

    It’s difficult to live in a world where “la la” land meets “jack you up”
    Central… Too bad you live close to him.

  14. ILTim
    ILTim July 2, 2013 6:20 am

    “It feels wonderful to be able to rely on reliable people”

    Well now there’s a familiar feeling. I have run into so many people in my life who fall into two categories: Pathological liars, and the pathologically gullible. They often pair up, and it really makes me cringe to work with either because they are wholly unreliable and unpredictable.

  15. Gus S. Calabrese (@99guspuppet) troll
    Gus S. Calabrese (@99guspuppet) troll July 2, 2013 6:46 am

    #1 It is impossible to see into someone’s mind….. those that say they can…. don’t bring a bridge around and try to sell it to me…

    #2 Why would anyone care whether the non-reliable person cares or not ? I don’t feel better just because someone is sorry they ran over my foot. I guess I would feel worse if they mocked me !!! ( and all those feelings are my responsibility )

    #3 The most wonderful thing would be to explain your position calmly and bid the person goodbye. If only, I were so evolved…….. 99guspuppet

  16. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau July 2, 2013 7:28 am

    [Honoring commitments, however small, is no longer the cultural norm.]

    True. When it is a cultural norm, there are consequences for not doing it. When it’s not, the consequences go away, because the contractor is competing with people equally bad.

    There are two sides to every story though. It’s a constant theme among contractors, getting their clients to pay up. Maybe we need a means to connect reliable contractors with reliable clients.

    1) Angie’s list? Maybe that’s the way.

    2) Hire a Mexican? They seem more reliable than someone born here. You need to find someone who’s experienced an empty belly in the past.

    3) Do it yourself. Lots of times that is easier all around. Even for plumbing. There are books on how to do it. One can practice soldering pipes and joints before even tackling the actual project. Save gobs of money and frustration.

  17. Bonnie
    Bonnie July 2, 2013 8:38 am

    Claire – You are nicer than I am. Just one time of not showing up & not calling transfers a worker from the good list to the bad list – unless he’s been on the good list for a long time. Then he probably has a good reason, like being in the ER. I like the Happy Moron poem, too. Your description of Mr. Sunshine reminded me of this poem:

    The Sunbeam Poem

    She was a sunbeam all sparkling
    and bright,
    Shedding her rays from left and
    from right.
    She was a sunbeam with zeal
    She was a sunbeam and boy
    was she hated.

    Valentina Wisiniewski

  18. Latigo Morgan
    Latigo Morgan July 2, 2013 10:16 am

    As a business manager and employer, I understand your frustration.

    I’m not particularly patient with those “self-esteemed” losers. They come in and know nothing about the job they are hired to do. They start complaining they are making entry-level wages after 1 month on the job.

    If they show up on time, you just might have a keeper. If they don’t call in sick a couple times a month, you might have a keeper.

    I have very few long-term employees.

    I grieve for the future.

  19. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit
    The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit July 2, 2013 12:46 pm

    Congratulations, Claire!

    You have a Typical Defendant! Mark I, to be precise….

  20. Claire
    Claire July 2, 2013 2:17 pm

    Sigh — Hobbit, I wouldn’t be surprised to find guys like that in court (how do you stand dealing with them every day?). I’m still surprised to find so many of them running around loose.

    What’s even more depressing is that, in asking around to try to find a known-reliable replacement, I keep getting responses like, “Well, the guy I’ve been using hasn’t been showing up, either. But there’s this new guy who dropped off his card here. Seems very professional. His name is ….”

    And yes, they then name Mr. Sunshine Moron.

    Who, I must agree, comes on like Mr. Professionalism the first time you deal with him.

  21. naturegirl
    naturegirl July 2, 2013 7:15 pm

    This is exactly why I have the mental illness called “do it myself.” Which began because people would not do what they said they’d do, at the time they should have – even if they were to be paid.

    It’s sad that there is no work ethic, or ethics in general, any more.

  22. Scott
    Scott July 3, 2013 9:12 am

    There are still plenty of good people out there-just gotta find’em-maybe some teenager/college type/laid off work type in need of a few bucks will do your yardwork on a regular and timely basis. Ask around. There are still plenty of honorable people in the world. As far as the Little Miss and Mister Full Of Themselves-no shortage. I work near a woman(a mile away-near enough) that so incredibly full of $#!* and herself I wonder how she gets her ego through the door. Fortunately, those people are rare, and usually easy to ignore.

  23. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty July 3, 2013 11:53 am

    Oh yes, indeed… and then you get to the age and physical condition where doing it yourself is usually not an option. I can no longer really manage any kind of lawn mower.

    I agreed to hire a neighbor’s son to mow the yard yesterday. He was supposed to get here by 6AM. It is now nearly 1PM and no sign of him yet. No call, no nada. Seemed like a nice kid… but teens and early mornings are always questionable. I was proud of his mother… she said the whole deal was HIS and he’s responsible. I didn’t expect to get a call from her, but I may see what she says this evening when she gets home. I seriously doubt there’s an ER invovled.

    Oh well. I have an electric “weed eater” and I can still swing that for short periods. I should get done long before snow flies again… I’m wondering if I should give the kid a second chance. Right now, I doubt it.

  24. gooch
    gooch July 3, 2013 12:27 pm


    As you may or may not know I have recently started a lawn care business of my own. [small peanuts but so far enjoyable …]

    Now …
    IF you can arrange to have your lawns shipped to me [stamped return addressed envelope required with blank, signed check enclosed.] I would be happy to put you on my list of customers.

    So now let’s see, Claire for once a week or was it every other week?
    ML for every third week or when she calls or until the snow flies.
    Did I miss anybody?
    OLH … I should warn you that homeowners in Oregon will be charged a submarine lawn mower adapter surcharge. The personal snorkel gear I already own.

    Now I begin to understand why some of my customers were so animatedly happy when I showed up to do what I had agreed to do for them. Who Knew? I thought is was the effect of my sterling good looks and honest nature reflecting back to me
    who’s laughing ? Humph.

    Sorry to hear that a self-important do-nothing has invaded your life Claire.
    I’m going to second the advice from Shel … get shed of the deadwood asap. Worry yourself not about his “feelings” he obviously doesn’t have any to offend.

    stay safe,


  25. naturegirl
    naturegirl July 3, 2013 12:31 pm

    There was a time (in later life) that I had 5 acres of grassy-whatever and a push mower. – got a goat and rotated her around (once we established: No! not eating the flowers.) Can’t say she was any more reliable than a human would be, but she sure was entertaining LOL.

  26. velojym
    velojym July 6, 2013 4:48 pm

    I think he might have a different opinion if it were someone else breaking a commitment to *him*… but I’m sure he has a completely different set of values for that which he receives as opposed to that which he is expected to provide. I run into this a lot in IT, as folks calling us want all sorts of technical help provided over the phone, gratis, for no more reason than the need of the caller. Many of them are business owners who use us for a cheap alternative to business-class internet access (which we provide as well, but for a higher price) and scream when anything goes wrong… even when it was a bit of malware they downloaded, or clicked on a phishing email and lost control of their account. Some of these customers are banks, and I’m pretty sure they don’t provide their own services without expecting some pretty nice recompense. It’s like they see us as forever being the nerd in the basement, dabbling with our hobby, and that they’re still the “cool kids” we should be tripping over each other to help with their homework. Sorry, Claire, didn’t mean to go off on a tangent there.

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