March 1, 2000



The Minus Touch


I said the other day that I was in danger of cementing my reputation as the guy who can't play well with others. Well, now it's a done deal. The cement has set, immortalizing my handprint in the courtyard of the Mann's Chinese Theater of Life with the inscription "Chuck Atkins, The guy who doesn't play well with others." My kindergarten teacher, Miss Fleming, would be so disappointed.

You regular readers have probably realized by now that I'm not above a good fight, or even a bad one, and some might say I'm beneath it. The fact of the matter is that I like to argue; I think it's fun and entertaining. It tends to get the blood flowing and makes the sun shine brighter in the morning. It makes life interesting.

But lately, over the past couple of weeks, it's started to sink into even this thick skull of mine that I sure do get into a lot of squabbles. Too many, maybe. It's getting to where it seems that if it's a day ending in "y," practically, then I'm probably jousting with someone online.

This is troublesome to me. I think most folks tend to carry at least a nominal opinion of themselves as a nice person; I'm no different. I may have this gruff and crusty exterior, but deep down inside I'm just a smooky wookie smuggy uggums snuggly squeezums nice type guy. At least that's what I think. Others, though... Well, there are those of you out there who may not agree.

But you know, I'm okay with that. Everybody doesn't have to love me for me to be okay with myself. As long as I'm in the good graces of the people who are near and dear to me, well then the rest of the world can go take a flying fuck for all I care. Don't like me, especially if you don't know me? Blow me.

The thing is, though, that nobody likes to think they're a dick, and the sheer volume and frequency of my contretemps with my fellow netizens lends weight to the possibility that maybe I am one. Since the single common denominator in all these conflicts is me, well, maybe I'm the problem. Maybe I just don't play well with others.

But that's pretty much okay, too. I don't feel the need to get along with The World. What's really troubling me about this isn't so much the frequency or number of online arguments I'm having, but rather the effect these arguments are having on my foes. The effects I'm having. I'm starting to think that I have a reverse Midas Touch -- a Minus Touch: everything I touch goes away. There's a rather disturbing trend developing where damn near everyone I get into a fight with ends up taking their journal down when I'm finished kicking their ass.

It all started, very early on, with Elly in this entry. Not even a month into my brand new journal and already I was fighting with someone. Nice. End result: Elly nuked her entire site, all several hundred pages worth. Now, she'd done this before on a whim and has probably done it again since, but in this particular instance she did it because of me. Oops.

Then there was Nancy and this entry. End result: Nancy thinks I'm an asshole, I think she's a nut job, but we both walk away with our journals intact. Okay.

Next up: my second trip to The Booth, which I wrote about in this entry, pissing several people off in the process, which led to this entry in which the flamewar sort of flamed out even as it started. End result: Andria removes all links to me from her pages; Godfrey begins a career of badmouthing me to anyone who will listen, especially journalists; Cliff sends me a few weird e-mails and then packs up and moves across the country. Again, we all walk away with our web pages intact.

Next on the hit parade was Dave Van and this entry. End result: Dave quit his journal. Then started it again. Then quit again. Then started again. Now he's quit again. Maybe. (By now, I don't think it's about me. Maybe he just deep down really likes uploading the same files over and over again. I don't know.)

Then came Lord Jim and my reaction to his essay in this entry, in which I also take skeptical note that Dave is taking his site down again, which is then followed by my very un-PC illustration of Dave's comparison of himself to Rodney King. End result: Jim ducks my challenge and tries to paint me as the ducker, Dave's site is... Let's say "in flux." (By the by, Dave and I made up in private e-mail. We're bestest buds now. Sort of.)

Quite a rogue's gallery of bad behavior, eh? Don't think I'm thrilled about it; I don't much like what this accumulation all in one sitting says about me: "Dick!" But I bring this up because there's been yet another incident where I sort of benignly got into it with someone on a mailing list I'm on, and the other person completely melted down and said she was taking her journal down. (This is another one with a history of nuking her site on a whim. It's still up and probably will stay up, but her threat seemed credible at the time.) My reaction?

Again? Jesus! What is it about me and my debating techniques that make people want to fold up the show and go home? Every time this happens I'm left standing here with my mouth hanging open, jaw agape to the ground, going "Huh? Whafuck?" What is it with these people taking this minor stuff so seriously? Am I the only person who lets what comes through my monitor slide right off my back? Am I the only one with the good sense not to get upset at what people who don't know me say to and about me through this medium?

I don't know. I really don't. But I am getting one positive thing from tonight's screed: a better sense of perspective. I started writing this with the impression that everyone I've tangled with has given up the ghost, but I now see that's not true. Some have -- Elly, Dave, this latest one, and I could swear there's another one out there whom I can't remember -- but most haven't. Uncomfortably, though, most of those who've packed it in are journalizers. The only ones I've tangled with who didn't fold have been Nancy and Jim, so a tip of the hat goes out to them for having the stones to shake me off and stay put. To the others... Um, sorry. I really didn't mean to be that mean. Oops.

All perspective aside, though, I still think I seem to have some sort of power. Perhaps it's most effective against fellow journalizers, but the statistics do seem to show that I have a Minus Touch.

I must be mindful of that. It's an awesome thing to know that you hold the life and death of another's presence on the web. I must learn to wield this saber wisely.

By Crom, I swear that I will use my powers for good, not evil!