Sunday, November 05, 2006

How Much "I" is "TMI"?

When I'm not toiling away in BlogLand, I'm at my Day Job in the retail flower business. Like a lot of people employed in small businesses (teeny, tiny might be more accurate), I cover more than one base. Part of what I do is bookkeeping, part flower arranging, part running interference between Cranky Boss Lady and the rest of the world, and part fielding an enormous amount of incredibly personal information from complete strangers and almost acquaintances alike.

For most people, flowers are a major event sort of purchase--birth, death, marriage, new job--and for whatever reason, people have a tendency to chatter on about whatever major event provoked them to purchase flowers. (Pointless aside: one of my favorite customer babble moments can be found here.) I've heard about pancreatitis and apendectomies and other more "intimate" medical problems. I know about people who have died at home alone and not been found for weeks and about a man who died the way Elvis did--on the toilet--but ended up wedged between the potty and the wall so that his wife had to call the plumber to remove the toilet so the coroner could remove the body. I know way too many husbands/boyfriends and a few wives who think it's easier to make amends with a couple of roses than to just act like a civilized (and loyal and faithful) human being in the first place.

Mostly, I think of these glimpses (deep) into other people's lives as a privilege--an opportunity to study human nature, to take notes, to gather material. Occasionally, though, I find myself struggling to maintain professional composure while someone rambles on about something I find disturbing, offensive or just plain gross.

The only thing worse than being on the receiving end of TMI is unknowingly dishing it out. I imagine each of our TMI indicators is modulated to a different sensitivity--something that makes you blush may barely register with me.

So in the interest of protecting the faint-hearted or squeamish among you (those few faint-hearted or squemish who haven't already run screaming from their monitors), Masked Mom will be utilizing the "Blurt Alert" in future posts--a warning that will appear before potentially offensive, distressing or just plain icky information, letting the sensitive types know how many paragraphs to skip ahead.

So read at your own risk--no crying, no whining and don't say I didn't warn you. I have a feeling a post a day is going to require a whole lot of "I."


  1. awe, thanks for the warning, but I'm all in!

    and being on the receiving end...I have to say just being able to tell someone helps in the healing process. My brother just lost their 19 week pregnancy, a perfect baby boy. He is grieving but doesn't know how. He tells complete strangers at the checkout isle in the grocery store that his wife just lost their baby.

    So in an effort to defend these people (and to show my appreciation for the job you do and for putting up with all the TMI) I want to say thank you.

  2. It's terrible what happened to your brother--I had the same thing happen once at 20 weeks and once at 16 weeks. It's sooo hard, especially when there doesn't seem to be a "reason" for it.

    And here's a dorky little thing I didn't want to say in the post, but for some reason I'm okay with saying in the comments: I actually feel flattered by it most of the time. Mots of the time, it feels good to be trusted with something so personal and a lot of the time it does seem therapeutic for the person.