My grandmother never liked nasty words. When I was growing up, my father cursed a blue streak from time to time and never cared if his colorful language offended anyone. I developed a policy on the utterance of profanity that is in the middle. I only use expletives when I’m around people who I know won’t be offended. Years ago, I discovered that some people speak a language I’ll call Swearese. The only way to effectively communicate with them is to speak their language.
For several months, I submitted poetry to a Web site that gave poets an opportunity to share their work with the world for free. Much to my annoyance, I discovered that this free service came with strings attached, or in this case, ad windows. These windows popped open when the curser hit particular links. Being visually impaired and using a screen reader, I found this to be a nuisance, and I was sure sighted poets didn’t like it, either.
One night in exasperation, I sent a polite e-mail to the Webmaster suggesting that he eliminate the pop-up windows while leaving the links on the page. That way, those interested in buying a new computer or obtaining lower priced long distance service could click on the links and those not interested would not have to deal with the pop-up windows. I wasn’t prepared for the response I received.
It was an extremely rude message garnished with colorful words and phrases. The Webmaster stated that he didn’t appreciate such comments from Internet users such as myself. He said that the ad windows could easily be hidden from view, a fact of which I wasn’t aware. He called me selfish for even suggesting that he remove advertisements from his Web site. He also said that he was once visually impaired but that his sight improved as a result of expensive surgery. He concluded by saying that if I didn’t like his site, I should post my poetry elsewhere for a price.
My first message to him may have come across as a bit harsh, but that didn’t give him an excuse to be so rude. I sent him a second polite e-mail saying that I didn’t appreciate his attitude. I said that the fact that he once had a disability and was able to correct it didn’t give him the right to be so arrogant. I also said that if he closed his mind to the improvement of his site for the enjoyment of others, he was the selfish one. Since he came across to me as someone who didn’t like his job, I concluded by saying that if this was the case, maybe he should quit.
The next day, I received another even more impolite message that contained even more colorful words and phrases. He said that except for dealing with arrogant Internet users like myself, he liked his job. He restated the fact that the adwindows could easily be hidden because to him, it was apparent I didn’t read that part of the message. He also threatened to remove my poetry and any reference to it from his site unless I apologized profusely.
I pondered this. It wouldn’t have been any big deal if I lost my page on this site. I wasn’t getting paid for posting my poetry there, and I wasn’t paying to do so, but I would have nothing to lose by going one more round with this arrogant fool. He liked fowl language, and I could swear with the best of them since my daddy taught me how.
I wrote him back one more time, and this message was full of nasty words. I apologized and thanked him for the information about hiding the ad windows. I explained that I didn’t thank him earlier because his negative attitude distracted me. I said that if I knew there was a way to hide those windows, I wouldn’t have bothered to e-mail him. I suggested that if he didn’t want Internet users contacting him with suggestions, he shouldn’t post his e-mail address. I concluded by saying that if he couldn’t accept this apology, “Then blank you, you blank blank son of a blank.”
After I sent this message, I wondered if I went too far. Maybe I should have left well enough alone. With trepidation, I checked my e-mail several hours later. Sure enough, there was another message from him. My first impulse was to delete it without opening it, but I told myself this was cowardly and double clicked on it instead. Am I glad I did? What I found was a complete surprise.
The note contained many colorful words and phrases, but the message wasn’t hostile. In fact, he said in a roundabout way that he accepted my apology and would restore my page. Although he didn’t apologize for his attitude, I think he was trying to express his admiration of me for standing up to him instead of falling to my knees. Sometimes, you have to speak a person’s language.
In those days, I was young and foolish. I didn’t realize that anything that appears on a Website or blog accessible to the public is considered previously published. A lot of magazines don’t accept previously published work. Nowadays, I think twice before posting a story or poem on this blog or my Website, and that swearing Webmaster has nothing to do with it.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome