Back-Seat Drivers

So, for those of you who are not native speakers of English, a back-seat driver is defined in Urban Dictionary thus:

1. A passenger in the back seat of the car who criticizes the driver.2. Anyone who offers unwanted advice.

Eg: “Stop being such a backseat driver. You will only make things worse.”


So, what’s the context?  What is the “domain of discourse,” to use an expression from a database design module I attended some years ago.  Answer – nothing to do with:

  • Tractors
  • Ukrainian
  • History

So, the back-seat driver.  Who is this person, and what have they done to cause me to nip into the nearest internet cafe and switch on rant mode?  Let’s go back a step to create a context.

Since 2012 I have been helping to project-manage our church Advent market.  It’s arduous at times, but everyone pulls together and it is personally rewarding and financially rewarding to know I have helped earn the church  €3000 to enable God’s work to be done on Earth, and also to pay the gas bill, the electricity bill, water rates, etc (because we don’t get any money from church tax).  In 2012 and again in 2013 I got hectoring emails from one of the stallholders, whom I shall henceforth give a cover name (“Deckname“) of “BSD.”

BSD does a very good job of running one of the stalls that earns the church a goodly sum of money.  She comes in the day before, prices things up, displays items beautifully and hardly takes a break at the stall.  Yes, how lovely.  Every church needs a person like BSD.  A prime candidate for a Banner der Arbeit.

Now for the “But” that you’ve been waiting for.  Every single year, BSD has written me and the other “project manager,” abrupt,  downright rude emails, hectoring us about

  • Price labels
  • Which goods we need to order
  • Why do we randomly make up the prices?  (Actually, we don’t – I spend hours checking prices on Tesco’s website)
  • We must tell the donors of such goods to give us their receipts
  • What a pity that we did not consult BSD about x, y and z
  • etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum

BSD’s latest mail got to me (in both sense) just before I was heading for bed and Radio 4 last night.

Bear in mind, this is from someone who sets foot in church only twice a year, namely:

  1. To work on her stall at the Christmas market
  2. To sing in the carol service choir, where she constantly tries to run the show, asking the Director of Music, “Why are we singing this carol, and not that carol?  I think we should change the carols.”  (Yes, you can do that, BSD, when you become Director of Music.  Oh, and when you attend church during the rest of the year, then your suggestions may carry more weight theologically.)

This year I told my fellow project manager that I will refuse to communicate with BSD by email, and my fellow PM, bless her, has agreed that she will handle all communications with BSD.  Now, I am not a stereotypical fiery redhead.  Seeing my former room-mate from university days get jailed for murder made me think about anger management.  Nonetheless, BSD could wind up a broken clock, sad to say.

So, what  to do?  So far, I have resisted playing email ping-pong.  Never argue with an idiot.  They will always beat you on experience and energy.  I have contacted my co-PM, expressing exasperation and disquiet at BSD’s terrible attitude.  I will also inform a church warden of the problems that BSD has created for me since 2012.  He can then decide what next steps, if any, to take.  His people skills (“Sozialkompetenz“) in such circumstances are far superior to mine, and I leave it to him.

What a shame that someone who is not a huge net contributor can have such a negative effect on others.

Suffice it to say, BSD’s actions have dented the effectiveness of yesterday afternoon’s motivation hypnosis session, and gave me a stonking headache and poor-quality sleep last night.  Thankfully, a stroll round the Altstadt and cup of coffee and chat with a German Pfarrer and Vikarin about our annual Christmas carol service have done me the world of good.

So, folks.  Now is your chance to be agony aunt/uncle.  What should I do?

Have a positive day, won’t you!


5 thoughts on “Back-Seat Drivers

  1. Schreib doch mal über nette Menschen… 😉

  2. Unser kleiner Trompeter war echt toll. Soll ich dir über ihn erzählen?

    Von all’ unsern Kameraden
    war keiner so lieb und so gut,
    wie unser kleiner Trompeter,
    ein lustiges Rotgardistenblut.[AM 1]

    Wir saßen so fröhlich beisammen
    in einer so stürmischen Nacht,
    mit seinen Freiheitsliedern
    hat er uns so fröhlich gemacht.

    Da kam eine feindliche Kugel
    bei ein’ so fröhlichem Spiel,
    mit einem so seligen Lächeln
    unser kleiner Trompeter, er fiel.

    Da nahmen wir Hacke und Spaten
    und gruben ihm morgens ein Grab.
    Und die ihn am liebsten hatten,
    die senkten ihn stille hinab.

    Schlaf wohl, du kleiner Trompeter,
    wir waren dir alle so gut.
    Schlaf wohl du kleiner Trompeter,
    du lustiges Rotgardistenblut.

  3. Och nein, kein kleiner Trompeter. Lieber ein kleiner Engländer 🙂

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