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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Bearing the Bull

I find it interesting how my tolerance for bullshit changes, depending on the situation. And on who’s doing the bullshitting in question.

At work, I’m a big fan of the ‘everybody gets one‘ policy. You can screw up big once, or make a ridiculous and possibly physically impossible request once, or fail to laugh at a particularly clever zinger snuck into a PowerPoint presentation at group meeting once.

“Unadulterated ass-kissing is always an option.”

More than that, and you’re on the shit list. Theoretically, you can worm your way back off the shit list with a string of unbridled competence and a sunny attitude and reasonable demands. Or extravagant gifts; let’s not forget the extravagant gifts. Unadulterated ass-kissing is always an option.

But it never happens that way. In my experience, ninety percent of people never use their ‘one’. And of the handful who have, most are up to, oh, twelve or nineteen or six thousand two hundred and four by now. There are takers and givers in the world, and in the world of corporate bullshitters, the givers keep on giving.

With family, it’s different. There, it’s three strikes and you’re… well, not ‘out‘, I suppose. Getting someone actually ‘out’ would involve a court order or divorce or something. And you’d have to scribble them out of family portraits, maybe even redraw the family crest. So ‘out’ isn’t really an option.

But if Uncle Larry calls me ‘Chuckles’ four effing times in one year, I am not obligated to visit him at the nursing home. And I’m not helping him cram those tennis balls on his walker again, either. That old jackass never gave my nose back when he took it thirty years ago, so he’s one strike in the hole already.

Friends get a little more leeway in my book. Hell, I’m the one who chose to spend time with them. Or more accurately, it’s some sort of mutually understood unspoken arrangement that no two people with penises attached are ever going to discuss the details of. Maybe chick friends talk about the ins and outs and terms and boundaries of their friendly relations. Not us guys. For us, if the conversation isn’t about some kickass show on TV last night or the merits of a 3-4 defense, then we should just be drinking our beer and sitting in silence.

So we spend an awful lot of time drinking beer, and sitting in silence. Or watching kickass shows on TV. Many of which are football games, often featuring a 3-4 defense.

(See, ladies? You can have it all in life. You just have to know which things to want, and be in the right bar and tuned to the right channel when they happen. It’s not rocket Buddhism.)

Once somebody gets the ‘friend’ tag, it usually takes quite a bit to rip it back off and give them the boot. If ‘everybody gets one’, then the everybodies you’re closest to get, what? Five? Nine? A couple of dozen?

In my circles, I can’t recall it ever coming to that. Sure, people will occasionally no-show or hog all the chips or say something scandalous about your favorite team — but it’s not all that common, and usually we’ll just go back to drinking beer or arguing about whether zone defense in the NBA is a stupid idea. Sometimes both. Clearly, the bullshit tolerance among chums is extremely high.

Especially since none of us knows the first damned thing about playing zone defense in the NBA. Hell, a couple of us can barely spell NBA. Sometimes, bullshit can be a really cool hand.

That brings us to the pinnacle of bullshit tolerance — the marriage. When it comes to wedded bliss, I firmly believe you should get several hundred opportunities for bullshit. Maybe thousands. Or whatever I’m up to so far, plus however many I might use up in the next forty years or more. Also, double that. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a pain in the ass as an old man, so my incidence of bullshit will probably go through the roof. And I’ve got some of the same genes as Uncle Larry, so it’s not going to be pretty.

Lucky for me, my wife’s bullshit tolerance policy seems — so far — to fall in line with my own. Maybe one of these days, she’ll use up her first one, and I’ll get to catch up a little. Or maybe she’ll lock me in the basement for a few months for a little ‘bullshit cooling off’ period, to let the score reset. Or just maybe, when it comes to marriage, her Bullshit-O-Meter setting is like mine at work, with one crucial amendment:

Everybody gets one… more.’

I should probably get a clarification on that. Preferably before I get old and crotchety-er. That basement gets awfully cold at night.

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