The Devil of the Details

Some people like to make life a little tougher than it is.
-”Tougher Than It Is,” Cake

The petty dictator who finds fulfillment in tormenting other people in countless tiny ways is getting to be a familiar figure in fiction. We find him funny in movies and on television, often shown in some sort of position of minor power over the protagonist, who must find ways around “the system,” whatever that system happens to be.

You know the time. You’ve probably met one. These are the people who insist that every form be turned in, not just complete and on time, but also on the correct weight and size paper, using a black pen and heaven help you if you have used the incorrect format for the date.

These people are not sticklers for detail. I know sticklers for detail, and they (okay, sometimes we) are more than happy to help you sort out “you’re” and “your” and “it’s” and “its.” We seriously think you’ll find it useful, which may show that we’re delusional, but hey, at least we like to help out.

On TV, these petty dictators are usually bosses. I have never had a boss like that, for which I am extremely grateful. While these TV bosses are fictional,  shows do get one thing right–some people like to put themselves in positions of power over other people for the sole purpose of forcing them to jump through hoops. They tarnish the souls of the people they come into contact with and are a sort of low-grade evil influence.

It isn’t fair, but in this context I usually think of Dennis Rader, the BTK (Bind-Torture-Kill) serial murderer who slaughtered 10 people.

Most of these petty tyrant types aren’t killers or even criminals, obviously! Most of the time they adhere to the rules strictly themselves, which obviously doesn’t include murdering people.

But I can’t help but think of Rader, who was a supervisor of the Compliance Department and was in control of nuisance cases, like animal control. He was described as overly zealous and strict, a bureaucratic bully. One story has him measuring someone’s grass. Another has him allegedly shooting a dog for no reason.

The vast majority of the soul-tarnishing people, though, are just ordinary people who, for some reason, enjoy making other people miserable.

Whatever else you do today, don’t be that person.

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