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Why Do We Always Exaggerate?

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

The other night, just finishing my shift, I was approached by a superior saying that 'none of the bins in the department' had been emptied. What an exciting life I lead. As my son says. I'm like Hong Kong Phooey. One minute mild mannered janitor, the next averting global catastrophe emptying bins from a department drowning under a deluge of debris.

Instead of bothering anyone else with the basic task, I endeavour to undertake the deadly deed - no exaggeration there, wink wink. So off I trot, peek in one area expecting a cataclysm of crunching coke (zero) cans, reams of discarded paperwork, biscuit wrappers and polystyrene food containers and, well, nothing. Not even a single sticky wrapped penny-chew Black Jack or Fruit Salad, whichever you prefer. Still excited, I glance around the next corner, fearful that I might yet be confronted with bins overflowing with detritus, but alas and alack, no, not even the crumb of a lowly hob nob biscuit. Of the eight bins in the department, none of which had apparently been emptied 'in days' and were 'full to overflowing' - spewing garbage in to work areas, hobbling individuals shuffling forward through the mess but ultimately creating havoc for the hard-working staff - I was only able to locate one solitary lonely bin with any rubbish in it (which, incidentally in a pessimistic sort of way, was only half empty). So why the use of dramatic language I asked myself?

My first shift of this week I encountered a similar experience. Having taken a call from another associate asking for a couple of milk pergals, off I trundled. But, before advancing with the creamy nectar of cow, I had to finish a couple of jobs off. Now, to walk anywhere (remember the need to exaggerate) within two areas of my workplace takes at least ten minutes. The jobs I had to complete took forty minutes exactly and then onto the task of providing the added flavouring essential for a restorative brew. I'd delivered one pergal and then was literally seconds away from delivering the second when the mobile rang. Same principal, who stated, 'I rang over two hours ago asking for milk and it still hasn't arrived'. Gosh, you must be parched I thought, especially bearing in mind that the request, when I answered your call, was 48 minutes ago; muted cheek and sarcasm are clearly my forte.

A Milk Pergal and Fridge

So why the need to exaggerate? What are we trying to prove? Recently, I've been reading the odd Facebook post from one of my former employers, Mrs Purdew OBE of Champneys Health Farms, each comment has brought about a wry smile or chuckle. Now, I think Mrs P, is a truly remarkable and formidable lady, who certainly made an impression upon me in my formative years in hospitality. We used to say that she should write a book about some of her experiences and certainly some of the unusual complaints and flacid, fabricated feedback from guests over the years. I certainly think she should, there's a wealth of material that we've contributed to out there. One of the pieces of 'constructive criticism' that I remember from my days as a Duty Manager was related to facilities, like a sauna, steam room or jacuzzi, which might have been out of order. The guest who couldn't use it would offer the extremely helpful feedback (for which there seemed to be an expectation of a dramatic discount from their bill) that 'we only chose to book here because of the sauna'. Really? You stayed for one, two or three nights (or longer) but you only booked to use the sauna? Equally, is it not laughable when, in a restaurant say, a customer who has been waiting for over half an hour for their main course (or any course for that matter) then demands to see the Restaurant Manager and proceeds to berate them (more often than not) expressing that their meal, their experience is a catastrophe. Sorry, but a catastrophe is simply poor grammar from a puss. Apologies poor attempt at a dad joke. Catastrophe is someone losing their life at sea, someone without hope who jumps in front of an oncoming train, a plane full of passengers plummeting to their doom, these are catastrophes, aren't they? A meal however delayed, is unfortunate, an unhappy experience but never, surely, a tragedy requiring such extreme use of language. Aren't we are funny individuals?

What do we gain by dramatising the situation, or simply over-egging an incident? Is it to gain an upper-hand? Or to claim some form of compensation? Does it make us feel more superior than the person on the receiving end? Are we simply becoming more entitled? Do you ever wonder or catch yourself saying anything so ridiculously distorted, you wonder where it came from? Would you even admit it? Take for instance the squirming, writhing action of Neymar trying to win a penalty, why? What is the need for such excessive acting? And why have we become or perhaps seem to be coming more detached from the real truth of an action or reaction? Money? Why can we not enjoy playing by and within the rules and spirit of the game? Or, is it simply a case of twisting and tweaking each nerve and sinew of the meaning from each rule to gain 'competitive advantage'?

The 'spirit of the game'; why we used to play and enjoy the sport or 'do' the thing we used to love. Those halcyon innocent days of recreating goals by your favourite player or believing each picture and finished brush stroke was a work of art (which to our parents they probably were), acting through episodes as a favourite character, teacher, doctor, artist, nurse, astronaut or super-hero?

Why can we not play by the rules, or are we as adults so corrupt we are incapable of still playing fairly? Unfortunately, I think that may be the case. Take VAR for example. having witnessed some of the appalling refereeing decisions in the Women World Cup, it appears as though we are, by magnifying and slowing each play action to a frame by frame sequence now inferring intent. It seems that the merest brush of a leg, swipe of fabric or protective reflex is now interpreted as intent. I'm sure VAR was meant to be an advance, to help the referees to take out some of the headache from game changing moments. To me, it didn't seem to be used in that way. Surely, there has to be intent, a decision to trip another player or the quick thinking of a defender who prevents goal bound header with the flash of their hand. Yet it didn't seem to be utilised in that manner. Penalties were a awarded on the vaguest of touches. For me VAR was used and seen in it's worst light and did nothing but corrupt the decisions and the outcome of games. Each blemish or microscopic margin, when slowed down, viewed to interpret cause and effect, seemed to take on emphasised meaning. The brush of leg, the touch of a shoulder, a flick of a wrist can be interpreted as a disproportionate act of defensive dishonesty.

Offside is another of the issues I take umbrage with. An incident of offside is an advantage for the attacker surely. If an arm is offside, how is the player? How is an arm in a 'zone' (how American) an advantageous state in the game of football? Sometimes it seems that offside is given, seemingly because a striker's finger (I embellish) is in an advantageous position, so fine are the margins. This is step too far? If that's the case then level is that, level. In my humble opinion there has to be daylight and therefore an advantage a forward might have over a defender. But maybe I'm old-fashioned and just don't get the modern game any more?

Yet still in a way I understand, exaggerations are reflections of our emotions, our inner turmoil but does this mean that we are so fervidly fuzzy that we aren't quite as in touch with our own truths. In a way perhaps we, as adults are still wired to respond with childlike voices, which betray our wants, needs and visceral rights? A grasp at the proverbial straw, perhaps? But just remember the last dramatic statement you uttered, how real and true was it? Now ask yourself, are we not always exaggerating?

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