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The Life of a Writer, Part 2

So, I worked for a local major midget hockey team last winter, and I wrote recaps for their games on their website.

The local Richmond News ripped one of my stories off, taking my story verbatim except for a few words, without crediting the team and me. When I reached out, the response was snotty.

When I contacted the Canadian Media Council to complain about this situation — after all, in the current 24/7 media cycle, even if it’s just about a local midget hockey team, “ASAP” implies providing a solution immediately — the response was also not satisfactory.

The takeaway: It’s okay to plagiarize??

I’m no longer a person – again

Once again, I’m back to being a non-person.

This is such a regular occurrence that I shouldn’t even bat an eye when it happens – again.

I have an older sibling who’s four years my senior. Just last Saturday, my sibling was buttering me up when wanting to borrow some cash for lunch (because that place is a cash-only establishment). I loaned the money and I was paid back later. No big deal. My sibling also wanted to borrow even more money, but I declined.

Interestingly, the next day, my sibling was no longer speaking to me – again. I don’t know what I had done wrong this time, but I mean, I’m again no longer a person. I’m back to being persona non grata. As I type this, it’s Wednesday night, meaning it’s been four days now of this silent treatment. I’m back to being invisible.

So, really, it’s nothing unusual because that’s how it seems with many people in society. When they want something, they butter you up. And when you’re no longer needed (this time), you’re kicked to the curb.

Just the other day, someone asked me rhetorically if I felt I was “childish” because I have a toy collection at home. I chose not to answer the question.

But being “childish”? I can say that the passive-aggressive approach employed by my sibling would count as that. And it is passive-aggressive behaviour, that’s for sure. There’s tension which can be felt. Yes, I’ve experienced this type of treatment from both my sibling and my father repeatedly over the years, so it shouldn’t affect me.

But I’m not a machine. I’m not AI. I’m not a robot. I’m a human being. A person.

Except when I’m treated like I’m not. Like I’m a non-person.

Now, when I was younger, did I ignore people? Yes, I often did in school. That was a time when I was extremely shy and afraid of talking to people. Did I offend anyone then? Yes, I’m sure I did. But again, at the time I was extremely afraid of talking to people.

When you’re older, you change. But some people don’t. I used to work at this school where there were two instructors who were like that. Now, keep in mind that we’re talking about grown adults who are educators. Let that sink in for a moment.

I was new at that school at the time. I said “Hi” to a math teacher whom I came across in the hallway. He stared at me without a word. Eventually, he returned the favour by saying “Hi” back, but the first few times were awkward. Then, there was this other teacher named Cicy. I said “Hi” when coming across her in the hallway. I was ignored. It happened a few times. Another time I was approaching the school building and saw her coming in my direction. I said “Hello” and was ignored.

Now, this Cicy was not shy because I’d seen her yapping it up with the school administrators and other teachers. So, I guess the question is this: Am I too much of a loser that people – in this case, Cicy – just don’t want to talk to? Again, let that one sink in for a moment: We’re talking about a grown adult who happens to be an educator. So, here’s yet another reason that I think teachers are overrated.

If this particular teacher had any issue with me, let’s discuss it. But this passive-aggressive nonsense is just silly. I often joked to myself that the “C” in the name of the school stood for “Clique” – It’s like this Cicy still thought she was in high school.

One time, I was told by a student who was from the same ethnicity with Cicy and the math teacher that in their country, if someone randomly said “Hi,” they would just walk away and thought the speaker was weird. Well, that’s fine. But hello? We’re in Canada. Besides, if you’re an educator and you’re behaving like that, well, I have to question your ability to teach and inspire kids.

Of course, how can you blame others for treating you like you’re invisible, like you’re a non-person, when you’ve received that kind of treatment from your own sibling and father? If family can do that, I guess that’s fair game by others. (Oh yeah, speaking of family, I heard that Cicy’s mother taught at a different location of that school, so I would guess that’s how Cicy got that job. Nepotism at its finest.)

There was one incident when Cicy brought her dog to school. My classroom happened to be across the hall from hers. My students were supposed to be focusing on their English 12 reading assignment, but they were too busy checking out Cicy’s dog across the hall. I closed the blinds but that didn’t work. Now, some peers will scoff and say that it proved I didn’t know how to teach. But the thing is, Cicy could have done something to help out the situation by maybe coming over to apologize and ask the students to focus in their class? This Cicy never even bothered to come and talk to me to acknowledge that her dog created some inconvenience for me.

So, okay, I collect toys. But the actions of this grown adult, this female teacher, should be considered even more “childish,” in my opinion.

And speaking of being “childish,” I can say that people who refuse to follow rules are childish. In some cases, they’re thieves. Recently, I took the bus (and, sure, some people will scoff and say “Serves you right for taking the bus,” but last time I checked, countless people use transit every single day) and sat at the back, where I witnessed this bald dude get on via the back door, did not pay (passengers are supposed to tap their Compass bus card on the system), and took a seat and proceeded to stick his knee out in the aisle during the duration of the ride in a way that would make Ulf Samuelsson proud (that’s a reference to the former Pittsburgh Penguins player who famously stuck his knee out and injured Boston Bruins star Cam Neely). And, oh, he didn’t wear a mask, even though for transit passengers in this city, it’s still mandatory to have a mask on.

So, you have this fellow who 1) didn’t pay (meaning he’s the equivalent of a thief), 2) didn’t wear a mask (a type of childish behaviour when we’re in the midst of a pandemic), and 3) stuck his knee out and was in the way of people who were trying to get to the back of the bus the entire ride.

I mean, at least this thieving fella wasn’t a teacher, I don’t think. But shame on people like Cicy and others who treat others like they’re invisible. And the sad thing is some of these people are teachers.

Oh yeah. This school that I referenced? I quit twice before and I was begged to return, so I did. However, I quit a third time recently – and I don’t think I’ll be back. If I wanted to be treated like I’m invisible, I could just hang out with family and get that.

Teachers who didn’t care

Last year when I spoke with Mark Langill, the LA Dodger historian, about advice for students aspiring to work for a sports organization, he recalled the time when his high school English teacher helped him by nominating him for the school newspaper:

Mark acknowledged he was very lucky.

Not everybody is, however.

In my own high school, there was no teacher like that. All I encountered were teachers who didn’t care. Or not enough.

At the time, I was shy and timid, afraid of speaking. I was often unhappy. Not one teacher ever pulled me aside to ask me if everything was okay. Not one.

After I graduated and then completed my first year of university, that summer I was looking to volunteer my time at the Neil Squire Foundation, to help people with disabilities learn to use the computer. I returned to my high school to ask some of my teachers for a reference. Two of them laughed and said, “Shouldn’t you be looking for a job instead?” It was obviously a harmless joke. Yet, for someone who didn’t have the highest amount of self-esteem at the time, being laughed at for wanting to do something positive was deflating. If I had completed eight weeks at Neil Squire, I would have received a certificate. I left after six weeks, not because I didn’t like it, but ultimately I let those teachers’ remark bother me (ie. I chose to interpret the comment to mean, “If you’re not chasing money, you’re behind everybody else and you’re a loser,” or something to that effect).

But I want to go back to English class specifically. It was Grade 8. I had just immigrated to Canada two years earlier and was new. In Dickson’s English 8 class, I scored the highest in the first term. I know that because Dickson, an older gentleman who had no sense of humour and was always very serious, read out all the marks for the class. He read out each person’s student number and percentage. I listened attentively and heard that my 83% was the highest. Nobody else got that or a mark higher than mine. To my utter disappointment, though, Dickson never acknowledged who had the highest mark (me) and also gave me a B, even though nobody else achieved a higher score.

So, on two levels, I was disappointed. Dickson did not acknowledge me. He also chose to grade us strictly by the book: 86% or higher would be A. Anything less would not be an A.

When you have teachers like Dickson who did nothing to support or encourage you, it is very deflating. None of the other English teachers I had after that — Comey, Comeau, and Borgen — cared either. Borgen was a funny dude, but he wasn’t caring.

I haven’t even talked about classmates yet. There’s a big deal about how there’s Asian hate crimes, etc. Not to dismiss any of that, but even Asians were bullying fellow Asians. There was an Asian classmate named Kenny. My name has the word “Kok” in it (and hence I’ve now shortened my name to KP), and Kenny and his Asian friends were mocking me once. (Once out of numerous times.) I’m Asian. Someone made a joke about my name, and Kenny said my dad’s name was probably “Dick” and my mom’s was likely “Vagina.” So, when you have fellow Asian classmates who treated you like crap and teachers who didn’t care, things were very difficult.

There was one teacher who was kind — although she wasn’t someone who actually taught me. She was a teacher in the school but I never had classes with her. She might have seen my career interest questionnaire results and thought that I really wanted to be an accountant. (I didn’t.) I don’t know why she assumed I wanted to be an accountant, but I never told her that I didn’t want to. She approached me and started giving me advice on how to pursue that.

Our school counsellor was also caring. But again, she wasn’t my teacher whom I saw every day.

So, even though I’m a teacher myself right now, anytime anyone asks me about teachers, I give the straight answer — based on my own experience: Teachers care only about themselves.

Unfortunately, that’s true. At least based what I have personally experienced.

The life of a writer

When you’re writing a book, you don’t get to see the final product until months, if not years, later — particularly when you’re working with a traditional publisher.

Just last month — December 2021 — I received a request by my publisher for my sports careers book to edit my manuscript. The contract had stated I was to submit a manuscript with 90,000 words, but I had sent in one with more than 160,000 words, which was well over the maximum number of words the publisher wanted to see.

Of course, it’s easy for an observer to say, “Well, just cut the book in half and then do a second volume.” It doesn’t work like that. That brings me to the following point: I’ve seen reviewers on Amazon criticize fellow sports authors for not including certain information in their book, etc. without realizing that often times publishers dictate some of these things. From personal experience, I know that in my 1988 Dodger book, I had a section with the aftermath of the Mets and A’s, but the publisher said to get rid of all that. Even photos, too. Some reviewers will mock fellow sports authors for being too “cheap” to put photos in the book without realizing sometimes the costs are massive. To give a personal example, one professional sports franchise wanted to charge me $1,000 per image to use in my book, so I said no and went elsewhere.

Anyway, getting back to my Christmas “break” in December 2021, it wasn’t much of a break. My publisher contacted me on Dec. 20th and wanted me to cut the 160,000 words to 90,000-100,000 max. And they were expecting me to have this done by Dec. 29th.

So, every day I worked on this bit by bit, cutting out massive chunks of content. In the background, I had MLB Network on for a distraction here and there. (Now, not to go off on a tangent, but MLB Network during the off-season is awful. I literally charted this and noticed the programs just kept repeating themselves. For example, the Billy Martin documentary would air on a Tuesday at multiple times and then re-air on Saturday and again the following week on two different days. Same with the Johnny Bench, 1988 Dodgers, Randy Johnson, etc. documentaries. They would air it on a Thursday at multiple times, and then repeat the same documentary the following Monday and then Friday, and then the following week again.)

When I cut out 500 words from one chapter, I considered it a major victory, only to realize that it didn’t move the goalpost much, so to speak. In a few chapters, I literally cut out half of the content, making sure things still flowed. I did this every single day, staying up past 1 am some nights. Finally, on the night of Dec. 28, I kept going at it until past 1:30 am, and completed all these cuts and managed to have the manuscript at roughly 108,000.

Since the due date for these cuts was Dec. 29, and the publisher worked on the East Coast (while I’m out west, three hours behind), I knew I would not have any significant changes on Dec. 29 itself. So, at 2 am, I submitted everything by email and then went off to bed.

But it was a difficult week, editing my work and going hours and hours at it, all the way until the night of Dec. 28 and finishing just before 2 am (on Dec. 29). It was tough.

After that, I took some time off writing. Even now, in mid-January, I’m still not doing any writing. It’s tough to stay motivated, so to speak, or have that drive to keep going — especially after that final week in December.

It’s tough, especially when there isn’t a lot of support from peers and others around me. In fact, I’ll say almost none.

I can recall the time when I was writing the 1988 Dodger book, and someone I considered a friend responded in a patronizing tone “So what?” when I was discussing the fact that it was the 30th anniversary of the Dodgers’ championship season. This was from a sports fan. When I chose to be upset because of his comment, he disowned me as a friend. He no longer responds to my calls and texts.

There was a guy, Rod, who basically is a troll. I was explaining that I was heading to LA for a charity golf event, and I was invited by the former GM of the Dodgers. It was like an extension of the book that I had written, having a chance to be introduced to some of those former players. Rod scoffed and said those peple were just using me and just wanted me to donate my own money, etc. etc. Very negative comments. Why are people so negative?

During the process of writing the sports careers book, numerous people whom I reached out to chose not to respond. For professional purposes where people don’t respond, that’s very deflating and demotivating. It’s changed me in the sense that I find it difficult to stay motivated — it’s like people are cancelling me or don’t want me to succeed, FOR A BOOK AIMED TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE!! Hello? Do people want to see my book fail? One that’s aimed to help students and others looking for a career in sports business?

Then, there was a publisher from Montana who asked me to write a book about baseball cards, and that publisher then bailed on me. He said he would connect me with others in the industry, and when I responded the same day via email, he completely ignored my email and follow-ups. Why do people do that?

So, I’m tired. I’m sick. If you’re getting an email or request from me — and follow-ups — and it’s for a professional purpose, and you’re choosing to ignore it, then I’m going to say you want me to fail. You don’t care about helping people. That’s very unfortunate. But I guess that’s what a lot of people are like.

Yes, there were some great moments along the way. But the bad ones stick out. Those make me question humankind.

And before we leave this subject, peers who are posting garbage like “This is why I NEVER buy anything from Amazon” and similar posts with a story about what Amazon has done wrong, etc., again, these people are simply wishing for me (and other writers) to fail, particularly when authors rely on Amazon for book sales. So, do these peers really wat me to fail?

Finally, podcasters: I’m grateful to go on a podcast, but it’s painful when hosts don’t take the time to do some prep. There was a podcaster whom I got to know. He had me on to talk about my John Cangelosi book but didn’t know how to pronounce the former MLB outfielder’s last name. I told him off-air and also said it on-air, and the podcaster kept butchering the name throughout. Like, do you think I would be proud to share this with others? How do you think John would feel if he hears this?

Anyway, we’ll see when I decide to get back into writing again. Maybe if people don’t want to talk to me or respond to me, I’ll do what a former 1986 Montreal Canadien Cup champion told me (very abruptly): “Why are you asking me what the coach said in the locker room [prior to a key Game Seven which the team actually won]? Go Google that s@%£!”

Yup, I guess I’ll just go Google that s@%£ if I choose to write again — if I get ignored by people whom I reach out to.

Life Lessons #003: People I’ll Stay Away From—Negative Individuals and Salespeople 

Some time ago, a friend tweeted a comment about how people continued to have large gatherings in the midst of a global pandemic. The context was that some people were being selfish and cared only about themselves. 

That was an appropriate tweet because, after all, a global pandemic was going on and people weren’t doing things that were best for others around them. 

But a friend of that particular friend tweeted this doozy of a reply to that original tweet:

Some of these people should ask their grandparents what it was like to shelter in place for 4 or 5 years or risk having a bomb drop on their ass. No internet. No skip the dishes [sic]. No amazon [sic]. No TV. Just a little radio if they were lucky. So spoiled and its [sic] still not enough.

Huh?!? What an irresponsible tweet. This friend of a friend was essentially hating on people who used the products or services offered by SkipTheDishes or Amazon, and also calling people who have the convenience of the Internet being spoiled? Huh?!?

What happens quite often is people (such as the person who posted that response to the original tweet) just have this negativity that sucks the life out of others. The original post was talking about selfish individuals who do irresponsible things in the middle of a global pandemic. Suddenly, according to the second person, using the Internet is being spoiled? Say, ordering food because one doesn’t have time to cook or leave to get food (because he or she is busy with work) is spoiled?? Say, ordering things from Amazon—which I did recently because my manager asked me to pick up SD cards and an SD driver to be able to complete some work-related tasks and the fastest way for me to get those items was through Amazon—makes a person spoiled? 

What also happens quite often is people just label others because of their actions. This second person did that by essentially calling those who use SkipTheDishes, Amazon, and the Internet “spoiled.” 

It’s too bad that it’s so easy to use your thumbs to type garbage on your phone (oh, which, by the way, requires the Internet for that tweet to be sent) without using your brain to realize that such a comment is insulting to those around you. 

(This friend of a friend is someone whom I have interacted with multiple times in person. Although he’s also a sports fan and is aware that I’m an author, he has never once congratulated me about my books or even asked about them. I would avoid people who do not cheer about your successes, too.)

Speaking of having advantages in today’s modern world, I recently took a Lyft because I needed to get to work by 8:00 a.m. and I didn’t want to drive and also transit wasn’t available that early in the day because it was a holiday. I’m guessing that commenter would label me as being “spoiled.” But I digress. 

I’m a busy person with work and other projects going on, and that wasn’t the first time I took a Lyft and it won’t be the last. 

That morning, the driver was particularly chatty—he’s a very charming person and a natural salesperson—and he gave me a card saying he could advise me on certain things because we shared some common interests. I took him up on the offer and reached out later on. 

Of course I should have realized he wanted to pitch me his non-Lyft-related services. I just didn’t realize that before. I don’t necessarily label people and I didn’t think of the Lyft driver as wanting to be a salesperson to me. I thought he just wanted to network for the purposes of making new friends. 

Anyway, to make a long story short, I was making a bid to purchase an item and he wanted to advise me on that. I ultimately ended up losing out on the bid because I didn’t offer a high enough price. That’s life. I accept that. 

The Lyft driver reached back out on an evening when I was having some difficulty related to family issues. I was distracted because of that and I mentioned it. He dismissed what I was saying and trivialized it, saying, “Join the club,” without really listening to what I had to say. He was also being very corporate by pitching me his services. I responded I was “distraught” and he asked why I would be since he would help me through the process of using his services. I explained I was referring to the family situation and he again trivialized it. Very corporate. It was obvious all he cared about was pitching me his services—and not what I was feeling that particular evening.

A few days passed and he asked me if I knew what the winning bid was for the aforementioned failed potential purchase. I responded with the price and added, “I should have bid higher instead.” It was just a comment added on to the question he had asked me. Nothing more. I didn’t dwell on it. I don’t have time to do that. I simply made the comment “I should have bid higher instead” after mentioning the amount of the winning bid. 

However, he then went on a lecture about how we shouldn’t “second guess” ourselves by talking about “should have.” I explained immediately that I wasn’t second guessing myself but just making a comment. Instead of letting it go then, the Lyft driver went on and on about how second guessing yourself is unhealthy (when that wasn’t even what I was doing) and proceeded to give a lecture about “could have” and “should have” over and over again. 

Well, when I was talking about a family issue, he trivialized it. When I was answering his question about the winning bid and I added a personal comment, he took those two words “should have” and became a lawyer and kept talking and talking about the “should have” comment and dissecting it—even though I was not second guessing myself whatsoever. 

Essentially, you can’t have a conversation (not a tweet, but a conversation) without someone picking apart your words and telling you what you’re thinking, the way the Lyft driver was doing with me, even though I specifically told him he had misinterpreted my comment. 

Serves me right. That person who tweeted that using services that are convenient in your life means you’re “spoiled.” I guess it serves me right for using Lyft.

Anyway, that was one of the last times I communicated with the Lyft driver. I guess I’m not interested in socializing with those who just want to pitch me things instead of developing a genuine friendship. Those who just want to sell me things—I call this being “corporate”—instead of genuinely wanting to be a member of my personal board of directors and give advice without any strings attached.    

The final straw came when Mr. Lyft/Salesman texted me to see how I was and also (once again) about offering his services. I responded immediately with “not well.” There was no follow-up from him for days, which told me all I needed to know.

So, a few days later, I called him out for treating me like I was persona non grata. I explained he was too “corporate” and that, to me, it was obvious he cared about making a sale instead of building a friendship. He said he didn’t understand—and that in his 40+ years of being in the business, he’d never heard of that expression of “being too corporate.” I explained his tactics came across, to me, as something a salesperson would do. 

Just to give an example (which I didn’t provide for Mr. Lyft), I’ve been in contact with an executive at McDonald’s corporate office to give feedback about the McDonald’s app. The exec knows me enough to know what kind of things I like to talk about. In our most recent phone call, he called and began the conversation by telling me an anecdote of how he had been in Utah and came across former baseball star Jose Canseco—and even had a chance to interact with the one-time American League MVP. That sort of small talk warms me up. At least the McDonald’s exec knows me enough to know I enjoy talking about or listening to stories like that. Then, we got to the “shop talk” about the app.

On the other hand, a guy like Mr. Lyft just begins every conversation with pitching his services and not caring that I wasn’t feeling well. At least say something like, “Hey, I see you’re not doing okay. Anything I can do to help you out, like pick up something on the way for you?” I would say “No, thanks,” in that scenario, but Mr. Lyft isn’t even “human” enough to say these things. He’s too corporate. All he cares to talk about is business or “shop talk.” 

Mr. Lyft even said to me that he thought my priority was making a purchase of the aforementioned item. I responded with, “Excuse me? Do you really think that a person who says he’s having some difficulties puts that as a priority?” To me, that shows he’s a salesperson. 

He countered with examples of how he helped me recently—he made a point of stating the three examples one by one—to which I said, “Do you actually keep such detailed scores of times when you help others?” I mean, okay, I don’t go around throwing that into people’s faces, like, “Hey, you know something? *I* helped you do THIS, THIS, and THIS…” You don’t throw that into people’s faces.   

To me, his actions show me Mr. Lyft is a salesperson. I would stay away from such individuals.