Hall Monitors of the Internet

29 Jan

I remember a girl from grade school whose name was Vickie, and she came to class every day looking as though she were going to church – her hair was perfectly curled, she wore scuff-free Buster Browns, and her skirts stuck straight out from her sides, held stiff by several rustling petticoats (it was the 50s, after all).  She didn’t own a lunch box, as most of us did, but carried her lunch in a neat little satchel purse that matched her perfectly-polished shoes.  In other words, her mother had literally dressed Vickie as a living doll.  The trouble was that Vickie towered over all the boys and possessed the general build of a linebacker.

Perhaps this dichotomy of style and physique is what turned her vicious, for Vickie was a depressingly enthusiastic tattler and blamer.  The moment one of us in the classroom committed an infraction – passing a note, whispering to our “neighbor”, reading a smuggled-in magazine instead of our text – Vickie’s hand shot up to inform the teacher of our trespasses.  Instead of minding her own business, Vickie was constantly monitoring ours – and woe betide any child found lacking in her own strict code of moral behavior.  Every one of us in that classroom knew, resentfully and with absolutely certainty, that Vickie’s eye was on the sparrow.

I remember the sheer glee that lighted her face when she caught me peeking at my neighbor’s paper during a math test.  (Math was like Urdu to me and I was more to be pitied than censored.)  I silently pleaded with her to ignore it, the blood draining from my head as I saw a demonic light come into her eyes.  She had me in her sights and wasn’t about to let me go.  As though moving in slow motion Vickie turned in her seat and the dreaded hand reached upward.  Vickie was responsible for sending me to the Principal’s Office that day, where I had to inhale stale cigarette smoke and endure a lecture on honesty.  Because she was a girl, I couldn’t take her out by the baseball diamond and beat the shit out of her, as she deserved, and I’ve nursed a burning, bitter enmity toward her ever since.  (I’m 61 now and subscribe to Robert Kennedy’s dictum – if you’ve got to hate, hate BIG.)

Inevitably she was elected Hall Monitor by the class, if only to get her out of the classroom for an hour or so and off the playground.  I think even our teacher was relieved to see her go, for she had taken to answering Vickie’s omnipresent raised hand with a resigned and somewhat dolorous, “What is it this time, Vickie…?”

To this day, I cannot understand Vickie’s wretched zeal to correct the transgressions of her fellows.  Mine is a much more laissez-faire attitude; if someone is sinning, it just isn’t interesting enough for me to do anything about it  unless that sin directly affects my own well-being.  The wagging forefinger is about the most nauseating gesture there is, as far as I’m concerned, much worse than the third finger held aloft.  I simply am left amazed that anyone would presume – or have the time –  to sit in judgment over other people, much less glory in it.  What do you get?  What do you win?  Isn’t there something better to do with your time?  I’m pretty certain that the same impulse to correct and amend other’s behavior gave birth to the Third Reich – scratch a hall monitor and you’ll find a fascist, I say, anxious to blame and punish.

I’m sure you’ve met Vickie sometime in your life.  After all, she was in all our classes and, later, our offices.  The toady, the prig, Little Mr. or Miss Perfect – s/he goes by many names.  Over the years I’ve often wondered whatever happened to Vickie.   And then, just the other day, I found out:

She’s on the Internet.

As most of you reading this blog are aware, I’ve written a new novel called The Stand In and have chosen to go the self-publishing route.  Most of the effort at this point goes into making others aware that my book exists.  To that end, I went to a Kindle fan site, since Kindle is where most of my sales are generated, and posted a small blurb about my book.  (No more than two lines, really.  Maybe three.  Okay, four.)  Well, it turns out that the Kindle site I had happened upon was not about books, per se, but about how to operate the Kindle.  (Incidentally – just a random observation here – the people who had posted on it seemed to all possess “Harry Potter” nicknames – not that there’s anything wrong with that).  But they had no wish to talk about books at all, but merely the Muggle apparatus that displayed them.

Well, in about an hour I checked back and only then discovered my mistake.  Instantly I took the comment down and posted it in its proper venue.  But it was too late.

Vickie had caught me.

The next morning my email box was flooded with emails from her and her minions (who are legion, it turns out) chastising me for my grievous mistake.  Some merely were content to point out my error – “No self -promotion on this site!” – while others descended into old-fashioned abuse – “Can’t you read, idiot?”  The rest of the Vickies assured me in the sternest of possible voices that they would never – never! – read my novel, no matter how entertaining it was!

I was a bit shaken.   It wasn’t so much the loss of dividend I mourned (I figured that with Amazon’s cut factored in, I was out about $2.50), but I was trying to think – why are they so upset?  Then it came to me, with flashes of Vickie’s hand going up, reawakening what I thought were long-dead memories:   I had been BAD.

Somehow I had utterly shaken their universe, just as I had Vickie’s so many years ago, and I was to be roundly excoriated for it.

Always one to take on any guilt, I decided that perhaps I really had done wrong to them, that somehow I had inadvertently infringed on their need to express something profound with my cheap shot at promoting my novel.  So I went to their own websites and Facebook pages and Comment Threads to see what grand thoughts they were thinking.  There I found posts such as “OMG – like I am so totally on board (sic) with that!” and “LOL!  I hear you!” and “Awesome, dude!”…well, you get the picture.  (My alternate title to this blog was “Making the World Safe for OMG”.)

Don’t you just love these people?  Can’t you just picture them sitting at their computer, absolutely poised to pounce on every imperfect act, every sin, every flouted Internet law?  (And, silly me, I thought the Internet’s power lay in the fact that it had no laws!)  Yet thank God that those people are there – but for them, I’d never know what a truly horrible person I am.  Or so quickly.

So, after much rumination, I’ve decided to respond with this blogging equivalent of an upraised middle finger (the same one I raised to Vickie all those years ago – after school).  To Sherry, Fred, Gillian, and all the other Vickies out there – I can absolutely assure you that if you didn’t like what I did before, you’re really not going to like what I’m doing next.

Finally, my question is this – and I’m throwing this out to my readers – am I the only one to have noticed and suffered the wrath of these self-appointed Internet gatekeepers?

Write to me and let me know.  Perhaps we can foment a small revolution of our own.

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19 Responses to “Hall Monitors of the Internet”

  1. hiyashisuki January 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Trust me, you are not the only one who has noticed and/or gone through this. Mom posts a lot of her pictures on DeviantArt and the so-called ‘critics’ there make your Vickie sound positively pleasant. They seem to have their own ideas as to what Art is and those who don’t match up to that can find themselves facing some scathing insults. Not all Deviants are like this, obviously, but for the poor unfortunate who is trying to get better at their chosen craft, it can be very demeaning, This, to me, goes against everything the internet is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be a place where a person could connect with other people and receive help and support. Unfortunately, there will always be people like Vickie, both on the internet and in real life. Don’t worry though, you aren’t the only person who can’t stand people like that.

    • Brad Geagley January 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

      I believe that these people are true cowards, who would never say insulting thing to you mother to her face. But hiding in the Internet brings out their true characters. Believe me, I love the Internet and the powerful tool it has become – but not all things have been improved by it. Civility, for one. Thanks for writing.

  2. maxeyhouse January 30, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    Oh dear. Vicki. What can I say? She’s my sister!! What is it about people named Vicki???? You described in your blog my sister Vicki and later in life, Vicki from the Rights & Clearances world who was SO BAD to me out of jealousy and what have you…..that I still cringe. I NEVER trust anyone named Vicki and I turn and walk quickly in the other direction…….

    To ALL the Vickis in the world……PISS OFF. Us creatives are tired of your jealousy. It’s not our fault you don’t use your brain’s right side, so put your hand down!!!

    Excuse me….I just had to get that off my chest…….

  3. maxeyhouse January 30, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    My sister “Vicki” still tattles on me…….even in the cyber world!

  4. maxeyhouse January 30, 2012 at 5:25 am #

    VICKI……UGH!!!

  5. Dawn Pisturino January 30, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Great post!

  6. amymarie January 30, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I’ve given you a blog award! Thanks for inspiring me! http://theliterarymom.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/two-blog-awards-in-one-day-7×7-and-the-versatile-blogger/

    • Brad Geagley January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      Thanks so very much, Literary Mom! I’m both honored and flattered.

  7. esldonna January 30, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    You brightened my morning Bad Boy.
    I have also been bad, and receive a daily notice for one nasty hall monitor. He tells me to move my post, this has been going on for over a month. Finally, I told him to piss-off, and please delete my post. Now I get two posts daily from him. I love it. I must be driving him even crazier than he already is.

    • Brad Geagley January 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      What’s depressing is how these completely certifiable people can ruin a day – their own! What a small-minded SOB he sounds like. Let’s take him out by the baseball diamond and beat the shit out of him!

      Brad

  8. likeitiz January 30, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Brad, I’ll just say it as gently as I hate to shatter your bubble. If you want to take on these self-righteous, tunnel-visioned, dogmatic bunch, you may lose. Or you may only fuel their fervor. They may not be that many, but they are certainly loud. Just look at the extreme right-wing chest-beating bible-waving god-invoking bunch that the media love to feature in the news. They all want to save us from eternal damnation so we can all be admitted entry into the gates of their heaven.

    All I can say is, the Vicki’s of this world must be the loneliest and angriest people in this world.

    • Brad Geagley January 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

      You’re right, of course, but wouldn’t you just like to see all those you describe (particularly the “right wind chest-beating bible-waving go invoking bunch) brought to some kind of justice? I only wish I knew how to do it, other than holding up a mirror in my own books and showing them that way. But then they’d have to read, wouldn’t they?

      Thanks for writing!

  9. Sandra Gore January 30, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Publicity is publicity. Legions of minions responding sounds like traffic to me. Are you sure you didn’t plan it? 😉 That’s a just kidding, in case my feeble sense of humor fell flat.

    • Brad Geagley January 30, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Being as thin-skinned as I am, I never thought of it that way. As Michael Korda told me, bad reviews sometimes sell more than good ones. Thanks for a new perspective on the subject, Sandra.

  10. likeitiz January 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Brad, you got me thinking. Now I’ve blogged about the Vickies of this world you have called our attention to. Your piece got me going:

    http://wp.me/pYeWf-AE

    I’ve also written about similar types in the past:

    http://wp.me/pYeWf-rT

  11. Brad Geagley January 31, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Thanks so much! I’m glad my blog inspired you to more wonderful posts.

    Brad

  12. Ryan Tracey January 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Try contributing to Wikipedia. Not only are the Vickies there as you describe, but more often than not they are WRONG!

    • Brad Geagley February 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      Oh, God – I can just imagine! I use Wiki a lot for research when I’m writing – fiction, of course. I hate the thought of all the so-called “experts” out there coming down on me. Like being pecked to death by a flock of sparrows.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Brad’s Vickies | Not the Family Business! - January 30, 2012

    […] I read Brad Geagley’s recent blog about the Vickies of his life (see Hall Monitors of the Internet), my first thought was to think of what goes on in the heads of these Vickies.  I wondered what […]

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