Dirty Laundry

We've all seen political campaigns. We know how nasty they can get. One candidate digs up as much dirt as he can on another candidate and it goes back and forth ad nauseum. I always wondered, what would it be like if every political candidate beat all their opponents to the punch and just aired all their dirty laundry right up front. Pull every skeleton out of their closet, turn over every rock in their lives and list their mistakes, their bad decisions, their embarrassing moments and talk 'em out. Explain their side of the story and, most imporantly, talk about what they learned from the experience. After that, they can proclaim to the world, "Here I am! Warts and all! Muck around all you want! I've got nothing to hide! And when you're done with that, let's talk about the real issues."
Can you imagine what the world would be like if that was a requirement to run for public office? First of all, I bet the lion's share of incumbents would "decide to retire" instead of run again and the next batch of candidates will consist of people who think they have nothing to hide (and maybe a few of them actually won't). If a candidate tries to hide something, you know somebody's going to find out about it and when the shit hits the fan the public will be like, "Why didn't you mention that little tidbit, junior! How are we supposed to trust you if you aren't up front about these things?"

Well, when I ran for Congress in 2010, I figured I could try my hand at being a genuinely transparant political candidate. So...
Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Joe Puente and I approved the creation of this web page. In the interest of full disclosure, I am now going to list every rotten thing I can think of about myself. But it won't just be a shopping list of mistakes I've made. I'll write about the incidents, figure out exactly what I did wrong and, more importantly, what I learned from these experiences. If, after all that, you think I'm the right person for the job, then vote for me.
So... Here goes. In no particular order.

On Narcissism
Actually I'm intentionally making this topic the first one because, in hindsight, it sheds some light on some of the reasons why I've made other regrettable decisions. I am one of over 30,000,000+ Americans who struggles with clinical depression and one of 19,000,000+ Americans who deal with Anxiety disorders (often these two conditions go hand in hand).
But my depression and anxiety issues are peripheral to another disorder I have that is considered much more serious. It's called Narcissistic Personaliy Disorder and for about the first year after I became aware of this diagnosis, I shied away first from learning more about it, and second, discussing it openly. But I turned over a new leaf and decided not to hide it anymore (especially since the symptoms are so damned obvious).
I discuss this disorder and how it has affected me on its own page.

On Breaking the Law
I guess I can start small. I've received a few speeding tickets. Two were when I was in the Navy and they were issued to me by military cops. All they cost me was the privilege to drive on base, but it was a real hassle. I'd have to park at the front gate and walk the rest of the way to the barracks or the operations center (which especially sucked in the dead of a New England winter). The last time I got a speeding ticket was in Mt. Pleasant on 5th west. A lot of people get tickets for speeding on 5th west. That cost me money. And that hurt a whole lot more. Now I make much more liberal use of cruise control. Even on 5th west. Turns out 25 miles per hour is the minimum speed for cruise control on my car.

I was once given a ticket for driving without insurance. Got fined $400 for that and my license was suspended for three or four months. I can't remember exactly how long. After the time had expired, I started driving again. Then I got pulled over for speeding in Ephraim (Wait! Let me explain!). I didn't realize I was speeding. There was no speed limit sign and I thought the limit was 35. Turns out it was 25. Anyway, the cop let me off with a warning but ticketed me for driving on a suspended license. That's when I learned that when your license is suspended, you have to pay a fee to get it reinstated. Well, I paid the fee, explained the situation to the judge and he suspended my $300 fine to $25. It hurt, but not as much as it could have. Now, if I'm driving, I'm insured and currently licensed.

Not long after I moved to Salt Lake City I got into a fender bender. I guess several years of rural driving can hamper your instincts when you're back in the city. I paid my fine and insurance covered the rest.

This isn't really about breaking the law but I needed to put it somewhere. When I was in the Navy, I got caught trying to sneak a book to a friend on restriction. When you're on restriction, you're only alowed to read your bible and The Navy Times. I tried to lie about it and got totally caught. That's because I'm a lousy liar. I felt really bad about it and even went back into the company commander's office to apologize.

I was actually tried and convicted of Disorderly Conduct in March of 2006. For more info on that, read the segment on this page under the heading "On Dealing with Idiots... Redux."

On Dealing with Idiots
(Note the signs of NPD.)

In January of '05 I was at a thrift store in Sanpete County. I was a pretty loyal customer spending about $100 a year there. Of course, I was friends with the owners and I could count on them to keep me posted about certain items I was keeping my eyes open for. Well, the owners had to move so they leased the place to someone new. One the of the first things this new owner did was change the hours that the place was open from closing at 6:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Most people don't get off work until five and I remember walking up to the front door with some other people around 5:00 in the evening (this was before we were aware of the new hours), there were probably five or six of us, and the new owner ran to the door, turned off the open sign and peaked out to say, "We're closed." As if it would have killed her to let us in for a few minutes. She probably would have made enough money to more than cover the cost of being open for another hour. I told her, "You're not going to be in business long if you keep running it like this."
On another day I went into the store and saw a whole load of new stuff that needed to be sorted and priced. Among them, an original 1998 Bondi Blue iMac. I asked how much they wanted for it but it wasn't priced yet. I called back a few days later and asked for a price. The person on the phone said, "$50." So, I grabbed a system disk and a power cord and went to the store. I asked if I could test the iMac first to see if it worked (the previous owners always allowed this). The new owner said, "All our electronics are sold as is!"
"I understand that," I said. "I just want to make sure it works before I give you my $50."
"We're not Walmart!" she said.
"I know that. If this were Walmart, the computer would have a warranty and if it didn't work I could bring it back. I just want to test it so I know I'm not buying a lemon."
"Get out!" she said. <== That would be the slight.
I couldn't believe it. This had to be the worst business person I had ever met. She was giving up a $50 sale all because she didn't want to take the chance of losing it if the computer didn't work. The previous owners tested all of their electronics. If they worked, they wrote "works" on the item. If it didn't work, they wrote "as is" on it. They also allowed customers to plug items in so they could test them before making a purchase.
I left the store, but not before calling her some nasty things as I walked to the front door and saying, "You'll be out of business by June!" I visited a friend who worked at Walmart (ironically enough) and told him the story. Then I ran into another friend there and shared it with him... then I got an idea. I gave my system disk, power chord and $50 to him and asked him to discreetly test the iMac for me and buy it if it worked. He even managed to haggle the lady down to $42. A few days later I picked it up from him.
Then I did something mean and stupid. I went to the thrift store and gloated to the owner all about my evil plan. Then I said, "If you weren't such a bitch to me the other day, you could have gotten the whole $50."
Of course, she got mad and told me to leave. Then I got mad. She was acting the same way she acted the last time I saw her. I was mean and called her some other mean things and grabbed some Christmas lights and threw them on the floor. As I left, she hung around the front door with the phone to her ear, calling the cops I supposed. I guess some people think being made to look stupid is illegal.
As I drove home, I started feeling really bad and remembered that while making someone look stupid isn't illegal, yelling at them, calling them names and throwing merchandise proabably is. That lady didn't deserve to be treated like that. I did it just to be mean and make her feel stupid. While I was probably successful at making her feel stupid, there was no satisfaction in it for me. I just felt like a jerk. When I got home, I wrote a letter to her to apologize.
I grabbed a few videos of mine that I never watched any more and took them to the store, with the letter, as a peace offering. When I walked in, she said, "You are to leave!" I guess she thought that sounded official.
I went to the counter, set my letter and the videos on it and said, "I just wanted to say I'm sorry and I wanted to donate some videos that you could sell.
"You are to leave!" she said again, like a parrot.
"Listen," I said, "If you don't want to accept my apology, that's fine. I just want you to know that I'm sorry," and I left.
Here's what I wrote to her:

I don't even know your name.
All I know is that you didn't treat me very nicely and I responded by treating you even worse. My mother always said, "Two wrongs never make a right." Of course, I only remembered that AFTER I snapped at you and had time to think about what a jerk I was.
I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. And I hope you will forgive me.
I also want to tell you that I think [the thrift store] is a very important business in the community and I don't want to see it close.
My concerns about its management haven't changed. But I want you to know that I want you to be successful.
(signed) Joseph L. Puente

(Joe Puente)

I printed my name on the letter so she would know who I was. I also did it to see what she would do (I was taking quite a risk here). I expected one of three things to happen:
1) She would do nothing. Which would have been fine with me. I had no intention of going back to the store, at least not as long as she was running it.
2) she might prove to be a decent human being after all, look me up in the phone book and accept my apology. Were that to happen, I would have asked nicely if I could come back to the store. It was one of my favorite places to shop, especially for props and equipment.
3) She would prove to be the evil bitch I took her for when I first met her and take my name to the police to file some sort of complaint.
The following week, I got a call from a police officer telling me I wasn't allowed to go back to the store and that the owner "Feared for her safety."
I asked him if she had told him about my WRITTEN apology and peace offering. He just repeated his instructions. Oh well. I told him that I didn't plan on ever going back to the store anyway so his instructions weren't really necessary.
"Just so you know," he said, "If you DO go back, she can call the police."
I was never formally charged with any crime or given a restraining order. I guess having the cops call me was official enough for her and that's okay. I don't hold a grudge over what she did, I expected it.
The store wasn't closed by June, but I've heard from other friends of mine who go there that it's really gone to shit. The place smells bad and they don't have much to offer any more. I still expect it to go out of business eventually, just not as quickly as I had predicted it would in January '05.
My friend who bought the iMac for me had gone back to the store to buy something else and the owner kicked him out too for being in cahoots with me on the iMac purchase. Again, throwing away another sale. My friend was pissed off about that and, like I said, I felt bad about it too. But we've both sinced moved on and are still friends.
As for the iMac... When I first brought it home, it worked fine. I was able to do a clean install of Mac OS 9.1 on it, then the CD-ROM started acting up. I paid for a RAM upgrade and a replacement CD-ROM but it didn't take. I spent close to $100 total on the machine and it turned into a lemon on me. Did I mention that I believe in karma? This wasn't the first time it had bitten me in the ass.
UPDATE: Disclaimer: What follows is "RumInt" (Rumor Intelligence) but it was from a direct source and not second-hand. As I write this, it has been two years since my argument with the proprietor of that store (one year beyond my prediction of its demise). I've learned that the owner is now trying to sell the business and is rather eager to do so. My source tells me that she is disappointed about it because she was very excited about purchasing the business to begin with. However, I have also learned that I wasn't the only person who was treated poorly by her.
I want to say that I am not pleased to hear this. I know what it's like to have a business fail despite all the time, energy and resources that were put into it. I knew that the way she was running the business would erode its viability as a source of income for her and as a resource for the community. A resourceful, reliable and friendly thrift store is a vital asset to a community that doesn't have very much buying power. I do not want to see this business shut down. If it's purchased, I only hope that it's by someone who can bring it back to life, who can operate it with the professionalism and energy of the family that started the business. And, of course, I'd like to be able to shop there again myself.
UPDATE: She was finally able to sell the business but the damage was done and it finally closed for good after a short period under new management.

On Financial Troubles
This is probably the most embarrassing and humiliating thing that's ever happened to me. In 2001 I filed for personal bankruptcy. Chapter 7, they call it. I managed to rack up more credit card debt than I care to admit to. Of course, the number is probably somewhere in "The Public Record." I would just as soon put it behind me. But that isn't what this particular page on this particular web site is all about.
It had only been a few years since I was discharged from the Navy. I dropped out of college because I couldn't afford to go to school and keep a roof over my head or food on the table. Not having a college education, my job prospects weren't very good and my ability to even hold a job was worse. I was living in a house that belonged to my mother. I was supposed to be making the mortgage payments, but after I paid the gas bill, the power bill, the water bill, the phone bill... there just wasn't anything left. In the end, I was basically just squatting.
I had a nervous breakdown and lost my job. That was when I bit the bullet and called an attorney. Oh, I tried debt management organizations and budget counseling, but they're all predicated on having a steady income. I realized that I didn't have a problem with budgeting. My problem was the fact that I had no money to budget with. And you think nothing of whipping out that card to pay for something just because you can. I guess I might have been a compulsive shopper. A habit I may have picked up from my late mother. Her thinking was always, "I might need that later, so I better get it now."
After I filed for Chapter 7. I tried starting a business with some friends but one of them got all Gordon Gecko on us and ran it right into the ground. I tried working for a small magazine, but then that fizzled. My step-mom even drove all the way up from Mt. Pleasant to offer to take me in. They had room for me and even a car, but I was determined to stick it out.
Winter came and the first thing to get cut off was the gas. Then they cut off my phone. The city turned off the water. I knew where the lever was, so I turned it back on. They came back and turned it off and put in a pin to keep it shut. I pulled out the pin and turned it back on. Then they put on a pad lock. I got a bolt cutter to try and cut it, but the lever was so deep in the ground that I couldn't get the cutters on it. I wound up walking to a nearby laundromat every day to use the bathroom.
When Christmas came, the only present I got was a letter from the power company informing me that they were going to cut my service. That's when I bit the bullet and called my dad. I asked him to come and get me. He and my step-mom came up and helped me pack. When we stopped to get gas before heading down to Mt. Pleasant, I just sat in the passenger side of my dad's truck, crying and feeling like a failure. Dad came over to me and put his hand on my arm and said, "It's okay, Joe. You're just going to start over. There's nothing wrong with that."
So, what did I learn from this? Well, whenever I get a credit card application in the mail, I tear it up into small pieces before dropping it into the trash. I don't usually have a lot of money but if you think about it, once food, shelter, warmth and friendship are covered, what else do you really need? I realized that just because I might need something some day, doesn't justify getting it now. And even though there might be something I just want, if I can't afford it, it's not going to kill me to do without it.
These were painful lessons to learn but learn them I did.

On Depression
I would like to start this section by stating that mental illness is just that: an illness. Like any other illness, it requires treatment. Treatment can consist of therapy and/or medication. When it becomes severe, it may also require hospitalization. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I only include it on my "Dirty Laundry" list in the interest of full disclosure and fostering awareness of clinical depression, not because I view it as a skeleton in my closet. That being said...
Okay, the nervous breakdown... actually I've had three... Okay, three and a half... and another half, which makes four, though I prefer to think of that last one as more of a severe anxiety attack.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was in the Navy.
I take antideppresants, which resulted in a better mood on my part but also a "jolly" physique to match the mood. I gained about 50 lbs right off the bat and have struggled with that ever since.
There were three times over about a 15 month period that I seriously considered suicide. I made plans but instead of following them through, I went to the hospital to get help. I got counseling and tried new meds and figured out what issues I was having trouble dealing with and moved on.
I hadn't needed to be hospitalized since the Spring of 2002, though I did go through depressed phases from time to time. In the fall of 2003, I hit a major emotional slump and became suicidal again but I made no serious attempts to kill myself. After an adjustment of my medication and a personal epiphany, I got through it.
Since then, I still get moody during the holidays and I was particularly sad when my mom passed away and whenever I go to weddings, I'm kind of a whiny bitch for about the next week or so.
Of course there are always those unexpected troubles that come up that tend to get me down, but I'll usually write about those.
I was most recently hospitalized for a few days in August of 2007 for a severe anxiety attack.
So, in a nut shell. I'm a dysthymic depressive on Duloxetine with Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) who cries at weddings (usually out of loneliness) and is a big believer in good old fashioned therapy and 12-step programs. Look into it.

On Dealing with Idiots... Redux
(This section consists of 26 paragraphs and links to an even more
detailed analysis of the events in question. Note the signs of NPD

Idiots... I tell ya, they're everywhere! The particular one I'm going to talk about here is a receptionist at a medical clinic that I NO LONGER trust with my medical care.
The parent company of this clinic entered into a contract with with the Veterans Administration to provide healthcare to local veterans so I was instructed by the VA to go to them for my medical needs.
I'll spare you the long version of the story but here are the core details:
After about a year of not needing any serious medical care, I made a call to this clinic to make an appointment so I could talk to the physician assistant about my prescription medication. The person who took my call scheduled me for an appointment that friday, August 26, 2005.
When I arrived for my appointment, I told the receptionist (A different person from the one who took my call earlier that week) that I was here for my appointment. She said that I didn't have an appointment. I told here that I made an appointment earlier in the week. She repeated that I didn't have an appointment. So, I asked her, "Do you see my name in the schedule?"
"Yes," she said.
"Then obviously I have an appointment."
"No, you don't," she insisted. <== The slight.
By this point I was getting pretty frustrated and decided that I wasn't going to continue this conversation so I asked to speak with the physician assistant, the person with whom, according to the appointment calendar, I had an appointment.
At this time, I also noticed a sign addressing a little fact that I forgot over the last year: VA Patients were supposed to make their appointments through the VA and not directly with the clinic. Well, after a year that seemed like an honest mistake.
But it was at this point that the line between frustration and anger becomes a little blurry because regardless of the error on my part to make my appointment THROUGH the VA, I still had an appointment at the clinic; the receptionist just continued to deny it and I raised my voice... I think it falls under that same assumption that American tourists have when they're visiting foreign countries: if the local's don't speak English, they might understand you better if you just speak louder. But in my case, it wasn't a language barrier I was dealing with, it was simply one of common sense... This receptionist obviously had none; then she threatened to call the police. My frustration then expressed itself verbally when I said, "God damn it!"
Uptight-rural-Mormon that she proved to be, this really rubbed her the wrong way, but at that point, I didn't care. She was an idiot and I have very little patience for idiocy in anyone, regardless of race, creed, color or I.Q.
So, the physician assistant finally came out, put my mind at ease about my prescription and reminded me about the VA red tape I had to go through for the appointment and I was happy to reschedule.
A week later, I had a new appointment for 9:00 AM on September 2. The details of which are discussed in my blog under the title "Homeland Insecurity" (Please take a moment to read this entry before continuing. This laundry item will make more sense if you do).
Needless to say, after these two incidents, I couldn't just keep it to myself. Sure, there were the two letters-to-the-editor that I wrote concerning the VA and the "terrorist threat" in Sanpete County but what it all came down to for me was that idiot of a receptionist. So, I did what I do best: I wrote her a letter. I told her how I felt about the way she treated me and her attitude and offered her a little unsolicited professional advice. I also told her that I was bringing my concerns to the attention of her employers in another letter so she wouldn't just blow me off.
I THOUGHT that would be the end of it. She get's a letter from me, her bosses get a letter asking that she be counseled (not fired or reprimanded) and that would be that.
Boy was I wrong!
Instead of addressing the receptionist's professional failings, they decided to cover them up by placing all blame on me. Granted, I do share some of the blame for the tension; I got angry (and justifiably so, I think) and I swore out of frustration, and I did goof by forgetting the VA Protocol for making my appointment to begin with but beyond that, there really wasn't much they could blame me for. Eventually, I would find out their philosophy when it comes to finding fault with someone: "Why rely on the facts of the matter when you can just MAKE STUFF UP!"
Their first act was to file a disorderly conduct charge against me with the VA Police. <== Another slight.
When I tried to talk to them about why I was being charged with a crime, they responded by slapping a restraining order against me (Specifically, it was a "Stalking Injunction," which is funny, considering at the time I had to bumb rides off of people). I've read the "documentation" associated with both and it accuses me of some pretty nasty stuff that, if any of it was true, I'm sure I would have remembered. <== Huge ass slight!
Well, this had a pretty devestating effect on me. Baseless accusations, criminal charges, restraining orders. Within two months, I was so distraught that I had to be hospitalized at the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City for two weeks.
Big fan of irony that I am, I have to point out that the reasons I was hospitalized, severe depression and anxiety, were the very same ailments I was being treated for by the medical clinic in the first place. That the people who were supposed to provide me with that care would go to such dishonest and unethical lengths to try and hurt me is indicative of either pure malicious intent or gross incompetence (another reason for my hospitalization was suicidal ideation. I was that depressed).
Another interesting bit of information is that VA Policy states specifically that a patient has the right to make a verbal or written complaint without fear of retaliation. Of course when I pointed this out to the VA, they wouldn't lift a finger to help me. <== A slight from the people who were supposed to be on MY side.
On March 23, 2006, I went to trial for the Disorderly Conduct charge. I told the truth, the clinic staff got up and one by one told the same lie. I was found guilty and fined. On April 5, I met with the judge concerning the restraining order and agreed to walk away and not contest it if it were sealed. I also didn't have to sign any other agreements that the opposing lawyer wanted so, in a sense, I guess I won. I had originally wanted the restraining order stricken from the record, something the lawyer promised to do (an empty promise, as it turned out) but having it sealed is just as good. It's on the public record but no one can read it. I find myself feeling alright about the whole situation because I know that what I've been accused of isn't true. Meanwhile, I have more important things to do with my time than to play mind games with homely, vindictive little shrews sitting behind reception desks. Like filmmaking!
So, what did I learn? Well, the words of my late mother keep coming back to me. She used to say, "The most expensive emotion is anger." It's when you're angry that you do some of the most stupid things. You make rash decisions. You break stuff.
I get it. I got angry. And maybe that did justify being charged with disorderly conduct. I could accept that. What I can't accept is the fact that these people didn't convict me on what I did. They convicted me based on their lies. How do they sleep at night?

On Sexual Harassment
I used to work for First Security Bank (right up until their merger with Wells Fargo) as a teller. One day I got called into my supervisor's office and she had me review the company's sexual harassment policy and asked me to sign it. I asked her why and she said that she had received a complaint of sexual harassment by yours truly.
I was shocked. "What did I do?" I asked.
"I can't tell you," she said.
This is where you cue the scratching record sound effect. Anyone who's ever worked in AMERICA knows that if someone is accused of sexual harassment, that person has to be told what they did. How else are they supposed to know not to do it again?
When I asked my supervisor just how I was supposed to correct my offending behavior without knowing what I did that was offensive, she said to me--and I'm not making this up--this is a direct quote:
"Just don't do anything that's suggestive of anything."
She tried to get me to sign the policy document again but I refused since I wasn't really accused of anything specific. Needless to say, what I did and the person who accused me of doing it remained a mystery.

Of course, there's a lot more to tell. I'll be adding incidents from time to time. If you are a friend, acquaintance or muckraker who might remember some part of my checkered past that I've overlooked on this page, PLEASE let me know and I'll add it to the list.