Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.
While running errands not too long ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a repeat episode of NPR’s “This American Life” in which John (“I’m a PC”) Hodgman asks the age-old question: Which superpower would you rather have, flight or invisibility? What seems like an innocuous question becomes humorous in the hands of the deadpan Hodgman and his interviewees, who take the question with utmost seriousness.
For me, the choice is simple; flight is by far the more desirable superpower. I’d save time not waiting in traffic, save money on airfare, save wear and tear on my car and my reconstructed ankle. Getting into movies for free because I’m invisible doesn’t hold nearly as much appeal to me.
Then, while I was doing my grocery shopping, it hit me. I already am invisible. It started when I was in the parking lot. As I sat at the stop sign waiting for shoppers to cross to their cars, all of them walked diagonally in front of me, taking the longest route possible. Since my Prius doesn’t make a sound when it’s idling, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Inside the grocery store, grocery carts were regularly abandoned in the middle of an aisle as I approached. At tricky intersections in the produce and meat departments, shoppers crossed right in front of me without an “excuse me,” “thank you” or even a smidgen of eye contact. Oddly enough, my invisibility wore off as I approached the cash registers.
I could gnash my teeth over how rude and self-obsessed our society has become, but I’ve decided to treat it as an amusing sociological experiment. And, believe me, that makes it all the sweeter when I do hear an “excuse me.”
The one place where I feel anything but invisible is the blogosphere. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to blog about events or community groups that I support, but every once in a while I write an opinion piece and wait nervously for the reaction.
I admire my fellow bloggers who post opinions regularly without fear of malicious responses. Because our readers can use any nonsense as their screen name, their anonymity sometimes leads to disrespect and even abuse. Thus, my Write of Passage folder contains a couple of unpublished politically oriented blogs that I’m just not ready to put out there.
Am I a coward? Yes, undoubtedly, but I’m also tired. I’m tired of reading the willful misunderstandings and nasty comments on other blogs. I don’t have the time to check the comments 10 times a day and respond to each spiteful accusation. I don’t have the energy to keep checking to see who is abusing his commenting privileges by posting a link to his favorite candidate.
Please don’t misunderstand me. The community bloggers are an important asset to WauwatosaNow and the city at large. Continue to read and participate. But once you’ve commented once or twice, it’s time to turn your attention to something a little more concrete. Stop at the Lutheran Home and visit a lonely senior. Rake some leaves for your neighbor who’s ill. Call your nearest elementary school and see if you can listen to a first grader read.
You would be anything but invisible to them, guaranteed.