Did you ever have the impression that you're being condescended to? You know, when someone's just clever enough to say something in a way that even if you're sure they're trying to insult you, you can't accuse them of it because, technically, they didn't say anything wrong?

I just got back from an orchestra rehearsal. There's an interesting story behind this concert... it was scheduled many months back but since that time, our regular conductor found out that another group he works with would be in China during the week of our concert. A good dozen people that play in our orchestra also play in this other one too and... well.. c'mon, if it were you and you had a choice between playing in China and a community college auditorium in the suburbs? Who wouldn't choose China? No one, that's who.

So anyway, we have about a dozen substitutes for this concert, many of them principal players, as well as a substitute conductor. This guy comes with an excellent resume and seems to be really nice, but it's clear he is used to working with more upper level groups, so it's interesting to listen to his suggestions for improving Beethoven. Every time we stop and he has to comment on something we did badly, at the same time he'll say something positive that we did as well. I'm unused to this as most conductors don't operate this way, so it makes me question his motives - like maybe he thinks that he's working with the skeleton crew as it is, so if he doesn't stroke our collective ego just a little bit, we'll all get up and leave and then where will he be? Maybe he is just a genuinely positive person, but after awhile it became clear that he was stretching to find something positive to say:

"I like the way you're trying so hard to play this section right, but you can relax."
"Can we play this... um... what's the word? Oh... musically."
"Really good job in that section where you have all the rests."
(for the non-musicians in the bunch, a rest means you don't play anything)

I was waiting for a "You're all sitting very straight in your chairs" or a "Wow everyone managed to get to the right rehearsal hall! Go team!" but he stopped short of that.

I think I may employ this tactic with people I work with: "Wow you managed to do that all by yourself? Yay for you!" and "I like the way you prioritized the parts of your job you've asked me to do for you, that's very helpful."

Or the nosy acquaintances who ask if we're trying to have another child: "You know, I wouldn't have the guts to ask someone I only barely know if they're having planned sex around the dates of her menstrual cycle. You sure have a lot of courage!"

Or the lady in Costco who, frustrated that Costco was crowded, simply rammed her cart into mine (with my child inside it) instead of simply asking the seventy-five people standing in line to move aside for her: "I read that it's bad for you to keep your inappropriate emotions bottled up... you must be very healthy."

Maybe I need to consider this a little more, but in the meantime, I like the way you're using your elementary education to read my weblog instead of doing something constructive. Good for you!