Embarrassaurus rex

Used to be that the family trees of any number of animals were on the tip of my tongue. You know, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, species. In the Latin, the last category is lower case.

We, for instance, are Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Homonidae Homo sapiens. Then there’s my personal favorite in college, the chimpanzee: Ditto Ditto Ditto Ditto Ditto Pan troglodytes. Not that we’re related to or descended from monkeys or anything. And not that we’d call them troglodytes to their faces.

Little boogers can be a tad, um, violent in their natural habitat. OK, really violent. Another Family resemblance.

Anyhow, Shop Boy’s been thinking a lot about science like this since a very significant discovery was made about me. See, Mary works in a crazy old turn-of-the-last-century printshop. Still, as it turns out …

Shop Boy is the dinosaur.

My professional industry, journalism, is just waiting for the final meteor to hit. And I worry, a lot, about what’s next for a democracy whose subjects seek out only news sources — and, ahem, blogs — that exclusively feed their preconceived notions about politics, religion, etc.

See, there’s where I’m standing and there’s where your standing. The truth is somewhere in the middle. But when someone plops down the truth, to me it looks like they’re putting it too close to you. Your vision is just the opposite. The truth doesn’t change, but soon we’re so busy calling “no fair!” that the truth becomes immaterial. And this great, dirty, difficult, complicated, ugly and — yes — beautiful experiment in freedom stalls. It’s troubling no matter what your political stripe. And we should all worry about that.

More importantly, though, we should worry about what happens to Shop Boy.

Um, right?

No matter. I worry enough for myself and several other people. Just ask Mary. Or, better yet, ask to borrow one of her enneagram books. You know, The Enneagram, The Enneagram in Love and Work, The Enneagram in the Printshop. (OK, I just made that last one up.)

Basically, the enneagram is this system that assesses your defining characteristics, assigns you a number (1 to 9) and places you on a satanic-looking chart. From there, your compatibility with others and future prospects at just about anything can be assessed.

Mary has informed Shop Boy that he is a Six: The Loyalist.

Which is sort of cool because I grew up a loyal Boston Red Sox fan and Rico Petrocelli, No. 6, was my favorite player on that team.

Not so cool: A Six is apparently, uh, kind of nuts. Passive-aggressive, embarrassed-arrogant, manic-depressive, bipolar kind of deal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And not that Shop Boy believes Word One of this tea leave-reading, crystal-gazing mumbo-jumbo.

I mean, check this out from the Enneagram Institute (where you can seek your own number if you dare).

Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent “troubleshooters,” they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion.

That’s just silly. I mean, you do like and believe in Shop Boy, don’t you? Really. I’m sure you do, right? Please tell me you do. Will it really kill you to say so? We had a deal! I don’t care anyway. You’re not the boss of me. In fact, you’re an idiot! Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Still friends? Thanks.

Key Motivations: Want to have security, to feel supported by others, to have certitude and reassurance, to test the attitudes of others toward them, to fight against anxiety and insecurity.

Like I said, that ain’t Shop Boy.

Of all the personality types, Sixes are the most loyal to their friends and to their beliefs. They will “go down with the ship” and hang on to relationships of all kinds far longer than most other types.

The perfect guy to be left holding the bag. Great.

Sixes are also loyal to ideas, systems, and beliefs—even to the belief that all ideas or authorities should be questioned or defied. Indeed, not all Sixes go along with the “status quo”: their beliefs may be rebellious and anti-authoritarian, even revolutionary.

You mean, like the idea that we can leave the printshop before 1 a.m. sometimes? Anarchy! Call the authorities!

In any case, they will typically fight for their beliefs more fiercely than they will fight for themselves, and they will defend their community or family more tenaciously than they will defend themselves.

If anybody is going to say anything negative about Mary’s lack of respect for sleep, it’s going to be Shop Boy. Don’t even dare. I’m tired and dangerously cranky.

The reason Sixes are so loyal to others is that they do not want to be abandoned and left without support—their Basic Fear. Sixes come to believe that they do not possess the internal resources to handle life’s challenges and vagaries alone, and so increasingly rely on structures, allies, beliefs, and supports outside themselves for guidance to survive. If suitable structures do not exist, they will help create and maintain them.

Which explains Shop Boy’s imaginary friends.

They say hello, by the way. Hey, which one of you forgot to clean the ink plate again?

Sixes fear success almost as much as they fear failure. … The old Japanese adage that says, “The blade of grass that grows too high gets chopped off” relates to this idea.

True story: Shop Boy returned home from D.C., late one recent night to find Mary glumly slicing corners off this fancy blue paper with an X-acto and a pica pole. “Whatcha doing?” Shop Boy asked innocently.

Mary: “I didn’t want to tell you. We need to line some envelopes.”

Shop Boy: “Um, OK, how many?”

Mary: “Uh, 125 … but then we need some samples.”

Shop Boy: “Um, OK, how many have we done so far?”

Mary: “Uh, like, zero. But you’re so good at this type of thing, I know it won’t take you long.”

Shop Boy: “Um, OK, how long do we have?”

Mary: “Uh, I told the guy you’d drop them off on K Street in Washington at 9 a.m. But we only need the first 75 by then.”

Shop Boy: “Um, OK, what does it entail?”

Three different, yet-to-be-cut lengths of double-stick tape, one placed inside the envelope just beneath the fold and the other two on the inside of the flap. Pull the non-adhesive strip off the lower sticky part, shimmy the blue paper past the glue into the envelope, check the straightness of the piece against the flap and, with the thumbs, press the blue paper onto the sticky tape. Now, without bending or otherwise shifting the flimsy blue paper, remove the non-sticky strip from the other two lengths of tape, check the straightness one last time, smooth out paper first with thumbs, then with a full hand. Set aside a moment. Then, fold the envelope flap and press the hand solidly across the back of the envelope, creating the clean fold of the blue paper. Bingo. Shop Boy, the ultimate conveyor belt guy, had a system mastered within, oh, an hour or two. Then, it was an envelope per minute or so.

Mary: “I knew Shop Boy would do this better than I ever could. Remember that last project? You were awesome. Do you mind finishing?”

Sixes are like a ping-pong ball that is constantly shuttling back and forth between whatever influence is hitting the hardest in any given moment. Because of this reactivity, no matter what we say about Sixes, the opposite is often also as true. They are both strong and weak, fearful and courageous, trusting and distrusting, defenders and provokers, sweet and sour, aggressive and passive, bullies and weaklings, on the defensive and on the offensive, thinkers and doers, group people and soloists, believers and doubters, cooperative and obstructionistic, tender and mean, generous and petty—and on and on. It is the contradictory picture that is the characteristic “fingerprint” of Sixes, the fact that they are a bundle of opposites.

Sort of explains the love/hate relationship with those beautiful envelopes. (Yes, they did turn out great — cooked my own goose once again.)

Psst! Did Shop Boy mention that the bride is in the Obama administration? Which just means I’ve got at least three and a half years to forgive and forget. I will.

And, as usual. I’ll give Mary a pass.

Loyal? Sure.

Somebody’s got to be, I guess.

Besides, it apparently runs in the Family. The enneagram family, anyway.

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