Don't Be That Guy
“Don’t be that guy.”
This is a mantra I frequently think about but seldom follow, and have likely misattributed to Mike Tomlin as his “one rule.”
But who is that guy?, you say. I don't buy it. You know who it is as well as I do. I won’t quote Justice Potter Stewart, but it is a feeling more than anything. At any rate, in theory, this is a great rule: Don’t be that guy! In practice, though, it's very difficult to grasp in the heat of the moment.
If I do x, am I being that guy?, you ask, worried. You may not be able to say until a few minutes later, when the dust clears and you realize that you’ve shouted at a customer service representative who just handles support tickets and had no hand in creating the circumstances that frustrate you so.
One way to make the rule easier to follow on the fly is to substitute asshole for that guy. As in, don't be an asshole. I used to struggle with what that meant too, but I recently fell headfirst into clarity on the matter.
A coffee shop just opened next to my office. I won’t share the name because it’s unimportant, but it’s worth noting that this is a place that takes itself seriously. As someone who also takes his coffee seriously, I was (and remain) excited about this...which is to say that I have opinions. Strong ones.
This is a place that champions roasting its own coffee. As someone who appreciates a simple, well-made cup of coffee, I have to say that I appreciate this. So I thought it would be reasonable to expect that their single-cup pour over would be made well too. Alas, this was not the case. I didn't order one myself, but I saw a cup being prepared, and it was not good.
Many sins were committed against the commonly agreed-upon pour over rules that day. Ground beans were put straight into a dry coffee filter, dooming the coffee to a tinge of delicious paper flavor. The water came from the steam wand of the espresso machine, which is both inefficient and imprecise (as I've noted many times before, precise measurement is everything for pour overs). And most horrifyingly, there was not a gooseneck kettle to be found. The person making this cup was using...a milk-steaming pitcher! The gooseneck is so important because it allows you to control the amount of water you're pouring. Not using it is like trying to play catch without thumbs!
But don't you worry that the asshole in this story is the barista who committed these caffeinated atrocities. Because the true nature of assholery was actually revealed when I recounted the traumatic affair to my coworkers. I saw what makes someone an asshole in their faces and heard it in their questions: You may be "right," but Christ, you are being fucking insufferable about it.
There's a way to engage. There's a way to provide constructive criticism. And it's not by showing off a bunch of esoteric knowledge that may make you right, but also makes you a horrible companion. Doing that only sets you up to be the kind of right where people are willing to ignore facts to get away from you. Instead, you want to be relatable, humble, and considerate—or, not an asshole.
"Don't be that guy." A rule I failed to follow once again.