Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sorry, wrong number.

Both my art and writing have been appearing in print for 40 years. In that time, most of the people who have bothered to speak to me about my work have meant well. The vast majority of the time I enjoyed their comments, even when they disagreed with what I had written or the point of a cartoon.

Then, every now and then, it gets too weird. Such was the case when a man called me on a Saturday night in the early 1990s. We had never met. He’d read an issue of SLANT and said he had to talk with me, right then, because I was such a good writer. Naturally, the man was calling from a bar.

Well, I was watching a movie with my then-girlfriend, so I didn’t want to have a long conversation. It was late and the more this strange-sounding character talked, the less comfortable I felt about having anything to do with him. He said he had a story he had to tell me, a scandal I had to write about.

Then he started babbling about religion. Uh, oh...

So, I told him I didn’t want to meet with him that night, as he had been suggesting. Still, I thanked him for the compliment and told him to call back during business hours, should he want to talk any more. I don’t remember his name, now, but I did when I told the story of his odd phone call to some friends a couple of days later at Happy Hour.

One of them promptly recognized his name. “You remember him,” he said, “that was the crazy guy they found on the Huguenot Bridge, maybe in February, about a year ago. He was bleeding to death.”

My friend said that according to the story in the newspaper, my Saturday night fan had apparently bought into one of those old-world axioms. It was something like -- if thy right arm offends thee, cut it off.

My fan, obviously a religious man, went down to the wooded area north of the bridge. The account said he put his offending arm into the canal water to numb it. Then he chunked his arm into a fork in a small tree’s limbs, took out his hacksaw, and he sawed that bad arm off … just below the elbow.

Everyone at the bar, except me, chuckled.

It wasn’t funny to me, because I was busy wondering why such a madman would want to talk to me about anything? What had I written that had set him off? Would he call back?

It was hardly the first time I’d been approached by a creepy reader, but this one -- he sawed his arm off! -- was especially disturbing.

Blogging and Facebook open the door to all sorts of possibilities. While I am happy to discuss reactions to my posts, there has to be a limit to what I will put up with. The story above is just one of the reasons I won’t suffer fools of a particular stripe but for so long. I won’t put up with bullies at all.

So, I’ve unfriended some people on Facebook, and I’ve even blocked a few. At SLANTblog I've banned about a half-dozen obnoxious people from commenting at SLANTblog (I delete their comments ASAP). 

Furthermore, I urge others to be careful how much you engage unreasonable people who don’t really mean well at all. Some will try your patience, and a few of them may be out of control in a dark way you don’t want to know about.

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