July 9th, 2012


Eeyore Abhor

I have this powerful ability to automatically "re-frame" everything I run across to ensure the widest view possible. Every once in awhile I find myself slipping into conscious re-framing. Both are effective means of adaptive behavior. I am rarely angry, hurt, offended, or exasperated. Mostly, I'm amused. Human behavior amuses me. People amuse me. Close-mindedness, at times, amuses me. But is it possible to "re-frame" things negatively?

Recently, I had the theory that it would have to be statistically improbably to always react defensively to something not immediately understood. Odds are, people would only be fearful of what they don't instinctively comprehend about half the time, right? Nope! Those who fear what they do not understand will fear it 100% of the time. So I had to ask myself, "Why?"

ehowton: Why?

As it turns out I was right. At least, half-right. Re-framing can go both ways. Re-framing is a conscious-level sub-set of something called "cognitive restructuring" which is almost always guided, and absolutely always positive. People can and do automatically and unconsciously re-frame negatively which is maladaptive behavior, also known as (wait for it)...cognitive distortion!

They believe that negative events are caused by them (internal). They believe that one mistake means more will come (stable), and mistakes in other areas of life are inevitable (global), because they are the cause. They see positive events as flukes (local) that are caused by things outside their control (external) and probably won’t happen again (unstable).*

And that right there was a definition of "pessimist" which we'd previously thought was a natural balance to optimists until we understood it to be harmful distorted thinking; maladaptive behavior, "avoiding situations because you have unrealistic fears may initially reduce your anxiety, but it is non-productive in alleviating the actual problem in the long term." People, I am all about alleviating the actual problem - not ceaselessly repeating it over and over over ad nauseum. I have a limited mean-time between failure and it is directly related to rotational spin.

As I was contemplating the idea that those who most suffer from maladaptive behavior probably either don't know that they do, or don't believe that they do I picked up a book by Zen author Thich Nhat Hanh, which talked about immigrating as boat people where, "We could have drowned at any moment. We could have been killed or injured by sharks or sea pirates. For those of us who took the trip we still have the images of all these dangers in our consciousness." Like you, I wondered what his point was to all this. When I found it, my mind was opened. For years I have been struggling with a way to articulate how unwarranted fears are dumb because they do not exist in reality. Thich Nhat Hanh quite plainly says,

Now we have reached the other shore. We have been accepted as refugees. We are on solid ground. But sometimes we forget. Sometimes we touch the images of those moments, and we still suffer, even thought we're safe. Each time we're in touch with the images, the suffering arises again. This is true even though the suffering may have happened a long time ago.

Many of us are still caught in the world of images; they are not reality anymore. Suppose we still keep a picture of the ocean where we could have drowned. When we look at the picture, we feel the suffering and the fear,. But mindfulness and concentration can bring the insight that this is only a picture, this is not the ocean. We can drown in the ocean, but we can't drown in a picture.

And this is what separates me from Zen Masters - because I understand this, I do not fear. But I'm not equipped to ceaselessly train others in this art outside of these writings. THIS RIGHT HERE is my instruction if you choose to view it as such, because when I'm done with this entry I'm going to go live my life as I see fit and not even expend the energy to shrug my shoulders if you choose to lag behind. I have things I want to accomplish. Rocket's red glare and all that.

Did you notice he said nothing about not being scared as shit while actually crossing said ocean? I extrapolate that the first step of ending suffering - not being subject to irrational fear - is to put the experience behind you. You cannot separate pictures from reality when you're living in the reality. Step One: Get the fuck out of that reality. Step Two: Separate the memory of it from your new reality.

"You can suffer for as long as you wish, and when you no longer want to suffer, you can stop."

Fuck suffering. I'm done with it.


Kansas DMV, Part II - "$50"

I need $50 to make you holler, I get paid to do the wild thing...

I knew my day was going to be filled with adventures beyond my imagination when I attempted to register my vehicle in the state of Kansas, and you know what? I wasn't disappointed!

Armed with the prerequisites on the Kansas DMV webpage I even followed their suggestion of "calling ahead" only to find that the Newton location was open only one day a week (not today) - I would have to drive to downtown Wichita. Undeterred, 20-minutes later I pulled into a space marked, "VEHICLE INSPECTIONS ONLY" as the Kansas Highway Patrol (HWP) must physically verify each VIN on each vehicle prior to registration, something I learned about by reading the Kansas DMV webpage.

I walked into the office and said, "Howdy!" Everyone turned to look. One particularly attractive trooper smiled a particularly friendly smile ready to get me started on the ease of vehicle registration when I mentioned, "The sign on the door says cash or check only?" Though not mentioned on the website, I did bring the checkbook just in case I ran into asininity like this. "Yes," she said, "But local addresses only on the check." Hrmph! I apologized for my lack of being prepared mentioning I had thoroughly read the webpage prior to arriving and hadn't seen mention of it. "That's because its not on the website" (of course). "There's an ATM in the next room at the DMV."

After pulling out some money (for a fee), I arrived back all smiles. Smiling Trooper smiled back and I excitedly displayed my paperwork. "Where's your title?" I was asked. I explained that in Texas we're not given titles when we purchase vehicles like they do here (our Saturn was purchased in Wichita and boy was I surprised when they handed me the title at signing). "Your website said current registration from another state was proof enough," and with a flourish produced said document. All the troopers around me started looking at each other, then at me. "Where did you read that?" I was asked. "On the DMV website?" They all nodded. "We're the Highway Patrol, sometimes the DMV gets it wrong. Call these people and have the lienholder fax a copy of the title here." A slip of paper was pressed into my hand as if it were the personal number of the attractive trooper. I palmed it, opening my hand only after I was back in my car - highlighted fax numbers.

I called the bank which held the title to my car. "Please press 3 for title information" the automated female voice instructed. I pressed the corresponding numberpad and heard, "RBS Citizens has elected to use a third-party company for all title-related activity, mytitlesupport.com." The automated female voice gave me the phone number to mytitlesupport.com twice (after encouraging me to visit them online), then disconnected. I called mytitlesupport.com and asked for an immediate fax of proof of lien to the highlighted number. "We don't fax copies of titles, but for $50 we can mail it to them." "EXCUSE ME?"

I TAKE A NUMBER at the crowded DMV. Not the Newton DMV with the yellow chairs, the Wichita DMV stuffed full of peeps. Thankfully (the highlight of my day) "OUT OF STATE REGISTRATION TRANSFERS" was its own line. When called, I approached the gruff-sounding no-nonsense lady (she didn't have to look up the answers to anyone's questions, she *knew* them). I explained I needed a mailing address for copies of titles to be sent. "WE HAVE A FAX MACHINE WE USE THAT." I explained that while I understood the concept, my bank would no longer provide faxed copies of titles. "THAT'S RIDICULOUS, WHAT BANK IS IT?" I told her my bank was RBS Citizens but that they had moved to a third-party company for all title-related activity and gave her their number. She called. "THIS IS CRAZY I NEED THE NUMBER TO CITIZENS." I gave her the number and she stayed on hold long enough to speak to a real person, "I'M NOT GOING TO PAY $50 TO GET AN OUT-OF-STATE TITLE I NEED YOU TO FAX IT TO ME NOW." (pause) "SINCE WHEN?" (pause) "WHY NOT?" (hang-up). "THEIR POLICY IS TO NOT FAX TITLES. YOU'LL HAVE TO PAY THEM $50 AND WAIT FOR IT TO BE MAILED. I WOULDN'T USE THEM AS A BANK IF I WERE YOU. YOU SHOULD CALL AND COMPLAIN." I agreed, with the comment that I doubted they would care.

As I was leaving the DMV walking past the HWP I saw two of the women who had been previously standing adjacent Attractive Smiling Trooper. I inquired as to the consequence of driving without registration while I awaited this expensive snail-mail version of a copy of my title. "In Newton? Impound your car." One of them said. "If the officer feels like it." said the other. I was confused, "My car could be impounded based on the officers mood?"
"Depends." said one.
"Yep." said the other.
Decidedly not the answer I was looking for.

So I drove home and traded my illegal car for the Land Yacht, which I hoped to also get registered today. But first, a stop to my bank! Enroute I called RBS Citizens and confirmed that I would get my real title - free of charge - once the car was paid off. With that I set out to get a loan to pay off my car. Bank of America told me, "Our minimum for an auto loan is $7500."
"Of course," I said. "And how much for a used-car loan?"
"You are aware used cars are less expensive than new cars?"
"So why the same amount?"
"Its the amount the bank has chosen for auto loans."
"Yes, I assumed that when you mentioned it. I was asking if you knew why."
"Its the amount the bank has chosen for auto loans."

I walked out on perpetually-repetitive Stepford wondering if she understood the concept of greed and drove to a tiny bank at the corner of our neighborhood where the President himself marveled at my credit rating and for the price of a copy of a title gave me a car loan at 2% lower than my current rate. Tomorrow morning he will receive the title of the Texas vehicle and turn it into a Kansas title. I wonder if I'll even have to mess with the Kansas Highway Patrol at that point - I should be able to just waltz into the DMV with my "proof" and register the car. RBS Citizens can go screw themselves. And I'm honestly thinking of dropping BofA as well. We nearly did last year when they unveiled their $5 per debit card scheme.

Sadly, I didn't get the other car transferred into my name either. I had filled out the title as, "Eric Howton and [name witheld]" (because my wife had insisted on being on the title despite not wanting me to put all the utilities in her name when we transferred them) which required BOTH our signatures. And in Kansas the licence plate goes with the individual, not the car. And the DMV computers locked up on schedule at 1600 hours. But I did get to swing by and see Bill. Since I was on that side of town. And needed his signature anyway.

So maybe tomorrow.