Tag Archives: people

Saint or Sociopath? (or something in the middle?)

This week I was thinking about my recent interactions with people, some nice, some not so nice. I thought, on the one hand, there’s thoughtful, sensitive people, and on the other, there’s pushy, self-centered people. These were the two terms or labels that came to mind. I’ve given it a bit of further thought and in my time I can’t recall anyone I’ve known who was both, that is, sensitive & thoughtful AND pushy & self-centered. They seem like two poles on a continuum. Maybe a rare individual could theoretically harbor stripes of both personalities but it seems unlikely. Thoughtfulness and pushiness are such opposites. One seems to cancel out the other and if someone was sensitive half the time, say, and self-centered the other half, well, I’d start to suspect they had a personality disorder and that’s not what I’m considering here. (I’m also not contemplating when someone has the occasional “off” day or when a person acts “out of character” once in awhile.)

I realized though, that my two distinctions aren’t really the two poles. the two poles are further apart. Here’s what I imagined instead:



I’m not religious, hence the quotes on “SAINT” but I think most of us have a shared idea of what a “saint” is, someone of exemplary character who lives their life to the highest standards, basically a person whose existence makes the rest of us look bad in our shabby, little lives.😁 I have never personally met a “saint.” I do believe, as I have discussed on occasion in this blog, that sociopaths exist, and I do believe I met at least one in my life ( I expect that I probably encountered more but ran for the hills rather than stick around and confirm it). That said, I’ve met far more narcissists, a category I’d place somewhere in between “pushy, self-centered person” and “sociopath” on my simple line graph.

I don’t believe I’m exactly making earth-shattering discoveries here but rather that I’m not sure I’ve thought about people and personality types in quite this way before. It’s a useful way to consider people to me. I need to consider, or perhaps remember, when I encounter pushy, self-centered people, where they are on my own little line graph. It’s not insignificant that they fall closer to sociopath than saint. I’d like it if ALL my dealings were with people on the LEFT side of my continuum but I realize that’s beyond my control. However, when I DO have a say in it, that’s the side I want to pick from.


Door to door to door

This past year I delivered a slightly-more-than-monthly newsletter in my community. I was asked to do it by the coordinator. It has what I believe would be referred to as nominal pay, or a stipend, or some other word that says “a little something for your trouble.” You don’t do this for the money. I didn’t realize it immediately but mine is the biggest route of the several that cover the area. After I took it on, it became more or less obvious why that particular route, with almost 200 houses, was up for grabs. It’s a bit of a task. A lot of walking and short steps to climb & descend at each home. And like the mail, it gets delivered independent of weather conditions. Snow, hot, cold, etcetera. You have to be in good shape or else it would take a lot longer to get the job done (or maybe you’d do it over the course of 2-3 days).

I never had a newspaper route or anything I consistently delivered as a child or later on in life. I’ve done the occasional one-time-only delivery of one thing or another; at least I think I have. Let’s say if I did, it was long ago. I never sold anything door-to-door. My mother wouldn’t have allowed it when I was a kid or teenager and I was disinclined to do anything like that for work, ever. Merely dropping off a newsletter is different. It’s supposed to be hung on the doorknob, inside the storm door if there is one. (I’ve noticed that not all the carriers follow that particular directive but I’m a goody-two shoes girl who follows instructions so I do.)

I now have NO IDEA how mail carriers can stand the tedium and repetitiveness of their work, let alone dealing with whatever weather conditions are afoot, quite literally at times. And I say this as someone assigned to delivery way, way, way less often. The bags they carry packed with annual reports, catalogues, and packages are heavy, unlike the slim newsletters I carry. It’s a good thing mail carriers earn a decent living. In recent years I’ve seen a few local mail carriers blabbing away on cell phones while they deliver the mail, no doubt to make the time pass quicker, but I can’t help but think they probably mess up their deliveries more often when they are distracted like that.

I started when Christmas lights and decorations were still up from 2014 and that was nice, getting to see what people had done in their yards or to spruce up their doors. It was festive and I like festive.

Typically delivering during the day, I don’t often run into people which is fine because I’m making tracks, baby. No time to dawdle. Certain things struck me. Since I think photos would be an invasion of privacy, I’ll do my best to describe a few of the notables.

I love the house with the gunmetal/silver oval shaped doorknob. Oval! I just had never seen such a thing. I thought door knobs had to be round. Oval seems fanciful. I dunno, like something from Alice in Wonderland.

One house has rickety steps leading to a rickety tiny front porch that, peculiarly, has white interlocked tiles set on top of the wood planks, except that they’re not really interlocked and slide about. What the??? I can’t make heads or tails of this set-up. Are the tiles meant to cover up rotting wood? And exactly how would that help anyway? When it was winter and icy, I gingerly stepped up onto the porch, hoping not to plummet through or slide off. As I turned to leave, I took hold of the wood support beam at the corner of the porch to steady myself, only to find that it swung freely! It wasn’t attached to the porch at the base.

Dogs are naturally part of my delivery experience. At one house I thought the barking dogs sounded awfully loud as I approached. I had quite a surprise when I swung open the storm door and saw two livid, barking, growling dog heads thrusting out the main door. All the glass was missing from the window panes on the top half of the door so the dogs could stick their heads right through.


They were not at all pleased to be receiving their newsletter. From one delivery to the next monthly one, I would forget little details about the route, but not this one, not this one. I didn’t open that door again. (“What’s behind Door Number 3? Let’s not find out!”) I am happy to say eventually the door was replaced with a solid one….

Handwritten notes appear on some doors. These are interesting. One advises NOT to ring the doorbell. I guess the dogs inside (which I hear/see) about lose their minds when the doorbell chimes. Another asks the mail carrier not to use the mail slot in the door as their dogs routinely chew up the mail. I bet that was a real treat to regularly come home to find bills, greeting cards, and checks shredded about the floor. Another homeowner substituted a box for mail while birds temporarily nested in their mailbox, with a sign posted to that effect. Yet another home’s note strongly insisted that workmen not enter when the resident is not present. I’m pleased to say that I can’t recall any particular fire-n-brimstone notes (I’m thinking of an old neighbor of my own who had a handwritten note on his door mentioning the four horsemen and the Apocalypse).

There is a real intimacy to coming so close to people’s homes. I am enchanted to visit the house that has all the pretty chimes hanging from its large front porch roof. It seems so friendly and inviting, although I do wonder if the neighbors love all those chimes the way I, effectively a passer-by, do.

I don’t like the white-painted “ghost bike” chained to the front fence of another house. If I was a neighbor, I would not like having to look at it every day either. Not sure what it accomplishes. Memorials to dead loved ones have their place but I don’t think that’s one of them, i.e., in your front yard, permanently.

A life-size dachshund statue with realistic eyes stands sentry at one house. I have to say the fellow gave me a start the first couple times we met but now I remember he’s there. My kind of dog. Quiet, mannerly.


There weren’t that many vegetable gardens this past summer. Perhaps more of them were in the back yards where I wouldn’t have seen them, and then again, the many full grown trees are counter-productive to raising sun-loving vegetables. And if you work full-time and/or are raising a family, a vegetable garden probably seems like too much work/trouble. I thought about this because I live in a pro-nature community and would have expected to see more food-producing yards.

Since I’m swinging open storm doors if they are present, I often smell different things emanating from inside the houses. Sometimes it’s cooking scents. Occasionally they are delicious! Not always. Stale cigarette smoke greets me in a couple homes. Or pet aromas.

I startled both myself and homeowners on two occasions when I swung open the storm door expecting to hang my newsletter on the inner main door only to find that door was open and I was staring into the home at a resident! Ooops. Each time I apologized and hurriedly closed the storm door, leaving the newsletter on the outside.

A pet owner leaves their door open for the cat that I’ve seen leashed out front a few times. I scare it even when I don’t mean to and it runs fearfully back inside, dragging its rope leash behind it.

One house seems abandoned except I’m pretty sure I saw some people headed toward it once. It looks creepy, unkempt and overgrown on the outside and even odder, when I approach the front door, I can see clear through the house to the wooded area behind it because either there IS no back door or it’s been left wide open. Don’t wildlife tend to come inside when a door is left open for a long time?? I don’t know the story on this place but I’m sure there is one. If I ever turn up missing on my rounds, that’s the house that should be checked first.

I love, love, love “the breakfast nook.” This house has a small, three-sided addition on the front, with windows on all sides. In it is a round light-colored wood table and chairs. It’s adorable. I can so see myself sitting in there having coffee and reading the paper, perhaps having a chat with a friend, whiling away the morning. It’s just big enough for the table and chairs setup but the three sides of windows make it open and airy, not claustrophobic. I have never looked in and seen anyone in there (nor evidence of coffee cups or newspapers) but I like to imagine the scenario. Did whoever had it built have that in mind too?

One storm door is the old-fashioned, glass-slatted kind I associate with beach houses (which these are most certainly not). For that reason, I feel fondly toward it. It’s rare, among the standard, run-of-the-mill storm doors. I think this type has a crank which allows you to open or close the glass slats. (I’m not sure why they’d be a beach thing except perhaps glass is less inclined toward rotting in the salt air than is wood?)

Certain of the storm doors I encounter are locked and I make a game trying to remember which ones they are from one month to the next. One house I thought had a locked storm door doesn’t in fact; I just need to use a lot of strength to yank it open. I can’t help but think it must be very irritating to its owners, trying to wrestle into their own home every time they come home. Another home is missing a door knob on its storm door and in its place is a string to pull, which I gamely do.

A couple houses have so much crap piled up in front of their doors and along the walks leading to them that yet again I consider the poor mail carrier or other delivery people who have to wend their way through all this stuff to reach the mailbox or porch. The temptation to kick some of it must be great (or is that just me?!). I am nimble and have yet to knock over a clay pot or smash a figurine that’s blocking egress. But I want to ask the homeowners: What are you thinking? Why is all this crap out here? Can’t you move it so delivery people can get through?


I don’t typically encounter homeowners but when I do they are usually friendly. Only one was kinda unpleasant, snarling about deliveries. And another let her unleashed growling dog block my way, even after I took pains to go around it. I did wonder about one fellow who, for a time seemed to almost be waiting for my monthly delivery, popping out of his house with a grinning hello like clockwork as I passed. I didn’t know him. I am friendly but keep moving. As I say, there is an intimacy to this delivery business but a respectful distance is in order too. I try not to look inside people’s homes for more than a glance. It seems too personal. Homes reveal a lot.

I’ve thought about how I feel when the shoe is on the other foot. I cannot stand any kind of door-to-door canvassing, politicking, selling, or proselytizing. I feel quite different about people delivering mail, packages, or information I’m expecting or want. If I happen to encounter said deliverers I say hello and thank you. There’s an awkwardness to unexpectedly meeting one another that a bit of friendliness can ease. Funnily enough though, I don’t feel all that awkward or imposing when I’m delivering my newsletter because I’m supposed to be there. I’m expected, however infrequently.


People aren’t taught how to disagree well or how to effectively raise an objection (with the least collateral damage). Not from the evidence. So everyone just flounders around trying to come up with their own style. Trouble is, most aren’t any good.

“Old School” sorts who prefer directness and are not overly concerned with causing offense, get straight to it:

“You’re a dumbass.”
“Stupid bitch.”
“Fuck you, asshole!”
“Watch where you’re going, Shithead.”

I am not in ANY way condoning this particular mode of communication, but it leaves no doubt where people stand. There is no, “Hmmm, I wonder what he meant by that?”

On the other end is a trend toward vague, indirect, couched-to-the-point-of-incomprensibility speech. “You can disagree without being disagreeable,” which sounds like a politically correct koan, hails from that philosophy. People end up saying things so roundabout and passive-aggressively pissy, the listener has no idea what’s really intended. Sometimes it just makes you think, “What on earth is this person trying to say to me??” And a round of 20 Questions ensues in an attempt at clarification.

I knew a woman who said her way of non-aggressively confronting someone was to say, “Have I done something to offend you or are you just having a bad day?” As things go, the statement was pretty evolved, although someone on the receiving end might take issue with the “or are you just having a bad day” part. Not so sure how I’d like it if someone said this to me; I might wonder if the first half was genuinely a question. Doesn’t matter I guess, because I don’t think anyone has ever asked me if they’ve done “something to offend” me.

Occasionally I object by using the phrase, “I’m not happy about…(X).” I often find myself saying, both to intimates and others, “You’re not listening to me” (because they ain’t!). When somebody is truly trying to railroad or otherwise cow me with unreasonable requests or behavior, I’ll respond with a pointed, “Ohhh, no, no, no.” (Less formally in the right company/context, “Have you lost your mind?!” or less charitably, “Have you taken a blow to the head recently?”)

I’ve heard people say in situations in which they weren’t happy, “This is unacceptable.” I have never used that line as I fear it almost begs the response, “Well, la-di-fucking-DA!” Do people really hop-to when told something is unacceptable? If they do, maybe I should start saying it. Although, “This is not okay,” probably has a less stodgy ring to it – and is a sentence most of us could pull off without inciting smirks and mockery.

I’ve noticed more than a few children have made the words, “EXCUSE ME!” their go-to when doing anything that infringes on other people. They toss it off like a Get out of jail free card. They clearly don’t understand the meaning and use it as a means of getting away with stuff. Such as crashing into your shins with their bicycle. Or when running around, careening into your personal space, dinner plate, or sanity. It reminds me of Steve Martin’s old routine, “Well, EXCUUUSE me!” I’m not sure how well this bodes for the future…

Don’t yawn!

It’s almost spooky when you consider it to see someone yawn and immediately feel the urge yourself. The last word has yet to be said on the subject, but did you know there have been studies, well at least one I’ve read about anyway, connecting yawning to empathy?

The theory also suggested that yawning could have been the signal in ancient societies (here I picture cave men and women sitting around the fire relaxing after a nice dinner of flambéed buffalo) that it was time to go to sleep. One person yawns and you know how it goes, the rest follow suit.

Certain people according to the study, are more susceptible than others depending on their levels of empathy. I am so vulnerable that when I read the word in a book or say it aloud to myself I induce a yawn. Are you yawning now??

They should have a study to secretly ferret out sociopaths by putting them in a  group of yawners to see if they’d follow suit. I bet they’d just sit there, twiddling their thumbs, wondering when refreshments would be served.