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"If You Didn't Want Me To Kill Him . . . . ": Problem Solved

"If you didn't want me to kill him, why'd you leave me alone with him?"

-- Mouse (portrayed brilliantly by Don Cheadle) to Easy Rawlins (portrayed by Denzel Washington), from Devil in a Blue Dress

I so relate to that quote. I definitely suffer from "Mouse Syndrome" -- if you present me with a problem, I'm apt to solve it in my fashion, whether you like it or not. It's one of my character flaws that clearly still needs work.

A friend of mine called recently to vent anger and frustration about a problem. The problem then made me angry and frustrated, and I approached solving it in a manner far different from the more reasoned and diplomatic manner my friend would have employed, upsetting my friend. We go back over twenty years. I haven't changed. I guess I need to.

You see, I'm not the kind of person who can simply listen and commiserate when you tell me about a problem that is upsetting you. My instinct is to solve the freakin' problem. In my own fashion. The bigger problem is that I'm not nice or diplomatic when I solve the problem, but I get results. For example:

- When friends of mine I served with on the board of a non-profit complained that the president needed to step down at the end of his/her term but probably wouldn't, I solved the problem in my own manner: I went to the president's house, told the president that he/she needed to step down at the end of his/her term, and, in any event, I would be running for his/her seat at the end of his/her term. I did. I won. Problem solved.

-- When my sister complained that five cruise tickets I had bought for her, my mother, and my aunts had not arrived three days before the cruise, I called the cruise line and told them that if those tickets weren't delivered the next day, I'd be serving them with a civil complaint the day after. It was not a threat. The tickets arrived the next day. When my sister asked me how I was able to get the tickets to them in time for their flight to Miami, and I told her what I'd done, she was horrified. My response: If you didn't want me to solve the problem, you shouldn't have told me. You should be happy I solved the problem. Problem solved.

--When a relative of mine complained about her adult son not having a job and living off her, my response was curt: Put his ass out. Problem solved.

I just can't help it, and I come by it naturally. My parents are the same way.

My father was the kind of father who had little compassion for weakness. If you got in a fight and lost, his response was don't come home until you kick that kid's ass, and if you don't kick his ass, I'm gonna kick yours. Problem solved.

My mother was the kind of woman who didn't have patience for venting. Once my aunt, her best friend, "vented" about all the bad things her kids were doing and how her blood pressure had shot up because of their shenanigans. My mother calmly picked up her purse and keys and, while still in her slippers, went to my aunt's house, cussed out my cousins, and told them, "I'm not going to let you niggers kill my sister." Problem solved. At least for a while.

So if you tell me your boyfriend's beating you, I'm not commiserating. I'm downloading the form for a restraining order.

If you tell me that your ex-husband hit you when picking up your child for visitation, I'm not commiserating. I'm helping you draft your declaration and motion to re-open your custody and visitation agreement.

But commiserate while you vent? I'm so not the one, and I just can't help it. So just don't tell me unless you want me to solve the problem. And it won't be nice, but I always get results.

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