Friday, February 08, 2008

Flames, anger and trains....

I've actually been using computers for almost as long as I've played with toy trains. My first trainset was in 1967. My first computer was in 1976. Go figure. There has to be some kind of winning loto ticket in there somehwere.

I've read quite a few flames lately about vendors, other people on the internet and other toy and train collectors. Wow. Just when you think you've seen it all....

"What is a flame?" (off of
"A flame is a negative response to an email, newsgroup posting or instant message which is derogatory and attacking." I would actually expand that a bit to being a negative response to a purchase, transaction and/or interaction with another entity (being a person or company) and getting it published somewhere on the net.

Why are flames bad in the world of toy trains?
I have to say, I've seen people saying things on the internet that I think they'll regret long term. It's so easy to push something out on the net and it's fast.... It's kind of like that last middle finger you give the guy that cut you off before he turns right and you turn left (both at a dangerous 60 miles per hour). Except because you just avoided an accident and your body has had a full rush of endorphins you really don't feel vindicated or even a whole lot better.

It's tempting to say "beware". Beware of poor vendors, beware of rip offs, beware of mis-representations, beware, beware, beware. My favorite "beware" website is They actually do beware or be leery properly. What I mean by that is that they articulate a case as best they can from the perspective of reality. They don't get angry, they compile facts and dispel fiction and than articulate a case in one direction or another. It helps me ask intelligent questions in my own mind about how to proceed with any number of situations I may come across.
I've been on both sides of an arguement. I've been the guy that is being portrayed as screwing the customer/consumer and I've been screwed several times with diddly for recourse.
I would submit that there is no easy way to handle every situation. That's not what this article is about. I can't guarantee that you won't get ripped off, that you won't react badly or that someone that made promises/sold something/bartered something won't rip you off or give you less than you bargained for.
How we deal with it is another story. Compromise is difficult. One thing I have learned to ask myself in difficult situations is whether I have exhausted every realm of compromise. One thing I have learned to do is that when I have a really complex problem, I sit down and write out the problem and potential options for solutions. Don't try to do this in your head. It works for train problems as well as problems with credit cards and the like. I made too many enemies in the train world (two or three more than I need) and I've learned to compromise because I can't keep burning bridges forever.
Why am I discussing this? Well, because our little train world has expanded past the borders of the TCA Quarterly and TTOS Bulletin. It has expanded past York, PA and has become pervasive on the internet. If you've noticed, even when I am fuming mad and I post on here, I don't name names and point fingers. Things we send out and post on the internet have a half life. They get archived and stay on the websites and on ebay and in mail files for years. If they flow to a business, the business must usually archive them for at least 7 years from date of receipt. There's a good chance that our posts will be around at least for the next half century.
Do you want to be remembered as the guy that got screwed for a boxcar on eBay or do you want to be remembered as the guy that had an amazing collection of 6464 boxcars? Okay, you may not care who or what remembers you. However consider this: your feedback, your email and posts hang around for a very long time. Probably longer than you will be alive. They are also can be subpoena'ed. Yes, they can be used as proof at some point further down the line. They were public so the information can be had. Getting a divorce? Your wife or husband can use your flames as proof. Are you in an arguement that requires an attorney and courts? Are you arguing with siblings or relatives about a will?
Proof of your hot head is all over the internet. Just watch Judge Judy and look at all the IM's and emails that appear on her show in one day.
I know it's hard to suck up a loss when you are angry. You feel so damn helpless and you are stuck with a train that is a reminder of what now equates to poor judgement. It just plain sucks.
But before you do anything rash, talk to people. Talk to your friends, talk to the TCA, talk to anyone and then sit down and wait. My Dad used to say that when he observed recruits in the Air National Guard (he was a drill seargent) they made the most mistakes when they were in a rush. Don't rush, the post office and email only go so fast. My Dad also used to tell me never to get into a fight about money. I looked at him like he was insane. He said the great thing about money is that he could always make more.
I have to remind myself of this almost every day but damned if he wasn't right. We aren't betting the college tuition here folks, it is just toys and trains. When people steal from us (and it has happened to me big time), I've started to let karma have its' way with them. As I've heard said in Little Italy in NYC many times: "What goes around, comes around." And when I have been on the sending end of a perceived bad deal, regardless of who wins or the compromise that came to fruition, I feel bad at the end; everyone that sells something (at least with a brain) wants a satisfied customer. It's just good business.
And by the way, we can't take the toys or the money with us when we're dead. Do you remember Ward Kimball or Lou Redman or Tom Sefton or Louis Hertz for their money or the train collections?
I know I'm in some thorny woods now so I'll leave it at this: criticism is one thing, a flame is something else. Take a deep breath and let the problem go until you can look at it minus the anger... I am working on it myself and I know I am far from perfect.
PS Here is a neat little ending from the "Ultimate Flame" that has been floating around the internet for the last 10 years. If you fall into using any (or most) of these words, you are probably creating a flame on the internet:
"You are hypocritical, greedy, violent, malevolent, vengeful, cowardly, deadly, mendacious, meretricious, loathsome, despicable, belligerent, opportunistic, barratrous, contemptible, criminal, fascistic, bigoted, racist, sexist, avaricious, tasteless, idiotic, brain-damaged, imbecilic, insane, arrogant, deceitful, demented, lame, self-righteous, Byzantine, conspiratorial, satanic, fraudulent, libelous, bilious, splenetic, spastic, ignorant, clueless, illegitimate, harmful, destructive, dumb, evasive, double-talking, devious, revisionist, narrow, manipulative, paternalistic, fundamentalist, dogmatic, idolatrous, unethical, cultic, diseased, suppressive, controlling, restrictive, malignant, deceptive, dim, crazy, weird, dystopic, stifling, uncaring, plantigrade, grim, unsympathetic, jargon-spouting, censorious, secretive, aggressive, mind-numbing, abrasive, poisonous, flagrant, self-destructive, abusive, socially-retarded, puerile, clueless, and generally Not Good."

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