This is not Sun-Tzu’s “The Art of War.”
It’s not even “Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig.
No, this is Russell’s “Collection of Small Irritations,” or “How to Be a Better Person With the Smallest Sort of Effort.”
Sun-Tzu, admittedly, may have had a few pithy zingers, like, “The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent” and “Move swift as the wind and closely-formed as the wood. Attack like the fire and be still as the mountain.”
That’s all fine, but I lean much more towards “Don’t be an arse.” In that spirit, I have collected a few adages for offices and for life.
• If you empty the water reservoir on the office coffee machine, fill it. Leave the machine with more water in it than when you found it. Don’t just retreat to your desk the way I imagine you are doing, giggling and taking furtive sips of that precious last cup. It’s how I imagine you’ll also behave as you run out of the grocery store with the last barbecue chicken as the apocalypse begins. Oh, and if your machine uses pods, take them out when your coffee is made.
Obviously, if the universe wanted your dog’s excrement strewn about and preserved for all time, it would come out of the dog already encased in impermeable plastic.
• If you spend a good part of your day sending spite-y, bitter responses out on social media and everywhere else, take a few minutes and look in the mirror: the problem may be you.
• There is a lever on the side of your steering column: moving it up and down will light indicators on your car, and will show other drivers what you intend to do. If you use it, everyone will be safer. Use it.
• While we’re talking about levers, there’s also one on the side of the urinal, which is handy for flushing, especially if it turns out you’re the last person leaving the office on the Friday afternoon before the long weekend. Use it, too.
• Leftover fish dishes from home and the office microwave. That is all.
• If you pick up after your dog with a plastic bag before tying it tightly and flicking it onto the ground or into the woods the moment there’s no one in sight, you are not scooping. You are littering — with crap. Obviously, if the universe wanted your dog’s excrement strewn about and preserved for all time, it would come out of the dog already encased in impermeable plastic.
• Oh, and as your dog lunges for me, showing its admirable but threatening dentition, please do not tell me, “he’s very friendly.”
• Put your smartphone away — I am sure the surgery will do your mother a world of good but neither I nor everyone else in the express line at the grocery store really needs to know the size of the “thing she passed.”
• Put your smartphone away — you don’t need to text while driving.
• PUT YOUR SMARTPHONE AWAY!
• In summertime, as you enjoy your backyard deck, be aware that not everyone wants to live to the sound of your own personal soundtrack, whether it’s repeated classic rock songs like ZZ Top’s “Legs” (it’s still a playlist favourite, but as of today, it’s more than 36 years old) or any generation’s lip-trembling collection of angsty breakup songs.
In other words, be nice to each other. Think about the impact of what you’re doing on others. Remember that there are actually others.
Or, if you would allow me, courtesy of Sun Tzu, “Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire publications across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky
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