Opinions worth signing

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Dumb and Dumber.” Yes, it’s stupid. Yes, it’s sophomoric. Yes, I should have better tastes.

Dating back to the early 1990s, “Dumb and Dumber” is a comedy about a couple of well-intentioned but incredibly stupid young fellows who travel from Rhode Island to Colorado to help a young lady.

I’ve watched the movie at least three times. Frankly, one of the reasons I enjoy the movie is because I, too, have done some stupid things. As with the characters in the film, my intentions were usually good.

One such stupid but well-intentioned act took place nearly 50 years ago. A new coworker had a body odor problem, a problem so severe it was difficult to be in the same room with him.

This fellow’s wife had confided to a co-worker’s wife that she had tried to get him to clean up but he maintained he was proud of his “masculine scent.”

Ours was a close-knit group of workers. No one intentionally offended anyone else and we were at a loss as to how to remedy this situation without hurting our new co-worker’s feelings.

I finally had an idea! The next morning, before our malodorous subject arrived, I placed a can of spray deodorant and a bar of soap on his desk. That ought to be a safe but sure message, I thought.

When our B.O. buddy arrived and saw the items on his desk he was outraged. He went from person-to-person asking if they were responsible. I had told only one other individual what I had done so everyone else could plead innocence.

Finally, he got to me. Had I put the soap and deodorant on his desk? I confessed that I had. He wanted to know why. I explained as politely as possible that he had a B.O. problem which was repulsive to his co-workers and that we didn’t know how else to tell him without hurting his feelings.

Then he dropped a bombshell that still haunts me a bit today. “Why didn’t you just come to me and tell me to my face?” he demanded, comparing my method of communication to what more polite people would refer to as poultry manure.

He demanded a public apology, which I refused to do. He had a problem, I told him, which needed immediate correction. I would not apologize for telling him that. I did admit, however, that I should have confronted him directly. I doubt that it would have done any good, but it would have been the better way to do it.

He railed on about his rights and masculinity and other issues, failing to recognize that his co-workers had a right not to get sick to their stomachs whenever he stepped into the room. Later that day he turned in his resignation, packed up his things and left. I haven’t seen or heard from him since.

From time-to-time I think about this fellow and wonder if he ever changed his ways. I remember what he said about confronting him face-to-face rather than anonymously. That experience taught me that an opinion worth sharing is worth signing.

Because of the nature of the jobs I’ve had over the years, I’ve been the recipient of many acts of anonymous communication, usually unsigned letters. Most unsigned letters are, at the least, negative. Many are nasty.

Newspaper publishers are not alone. Elected officials, ministers, business people and others receive anonymous ? usually negative ? letters, too.

From my days in the newspaper business, I remember a politely written letter from someone who disagreed with me on an issue involving a religious organization. The letter included a pamphlet supporting the writer’s views. The unsigned letter ended, “In Christ.” While I appreciated the polite tone of the letter, I had to chuckle. Jesus would surely sign anything he wrote.

The folks I’ve talked with regarding this issue agree on one thing. Unsigned letters usually end up in the trash can. Some say they look for a signature first and if there isn’t one, they don’t even read the letter.

It all gets back to what I learned from a stupid encounter with a stinky co-worker nearly 50 years ago: an opinion worth sharing is worth signing.


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