I've endured a great deal of hardship and pain in my life. I'll never forget the gastrointestinal distress I suffered two years ago after consuming an entire bag of caramel popcorn. Or the humiliation I felt in 1996 when I was stood up by a blind date. Or the time I spent an entire day wearing a shirt that, unbeknownst to me, was marred by unsightly deodorant streaks.
Devastating setbacks all, yet none broke me. These blows may have caused me to complain loudly, irritated by the inconvenience I faced, but when all is said and done, I am richer for the experience. It only confirms what I have long suspected: What does not kill me only makes me whinier.
So go on, world, I dare you. Sling your arrows at me. Steal my designated parking space. Cause every ballpoint pen in my possession to prematurely run out of ink. Give me an ice-cream headache. Ensure that my neighborhood drugstore no longer stocks my favorite body wash. Do your worst, world! For my capacity to piss and moan will always prevail.
Permit me to elaborate further. It was the morning of Wednesday last. I was awaiting the crosstown bus that takes me to work. According to the posted timetable, the bus was scheduled to arrive at 7:35. It was now 7:39. I was starting to get agitated. The minutes ticked by. I ground my teeth and restlessly paced the sidewalk, consulting my watch frequently and exhaling sharply and audibly enough to attract attention from the four or five other people waiting with me. It was not until 7:44—yes, you read right, 7:44—that my bus finally appeared.
I was only five minutes early for work instead of the usual fifteen. That gave me less than three minutes to hang my coat in my locker, put my lunch in the break-room refrigerator, use the restroom, and fetch a cup of coffee. As I scurried about the office, cross and flustered, my coworkers received an earful of my unpleasant experience. In great detail, I described all nine minutes of the delay and speculated on the reasons behind it. And I did it in a shrill, nasal whine that was difficult to stomach.
Now, granted, "The Tardy Bus Incident" did not result in my being fired, having my pay docked, or receiving a reprimand of any sort from my boss. Nor was I struck by a car as I exited the bus and sprinted across the street to my office. Outrageous as The Tardy Bus Incident was, it is becoming increasingly clear that I emerged from it intact and essentially unscathed. But, as God is my witness, my talent for complaint has grown stronger than ever.
I did not always possess this quality. When I was younger, I quietly and stoically accepted misfortune. A broken toy may have produced a few sniffles and a vague sense of loss, but nothing more. I adapted to the sudden arrival of a permanent grease spot on my favorite jacket as Neanderthal man adapted to the Ice Age. Aside from an initial crestfallen feeling, it did not even occur to me to complain, because I harbored a subconscious, intuitive presumption that life was full of these setbacks.
But as I grew into adulthood, I learned about a wondrous concept called "entitlement," and it changed my life. Why accept life's inherent imperfections when we can gripe incessantly about them? He who does not complain, who passively absorbs his misfortune, sentences himself to a life of mediocrity, of "also-rans" and "second-bests."
The Greek philosopher Plato believed that ideals existed apart from the everyday world. For the first time in my life, I myself began to envision a better world, one free of snagged zippers, flatware that has parts that taste too much like metal, and eyeglasses that rest too heavily against your face. I did not know how this wonderful world could be made my own, but I fully believed it existed. To make others aware of it, and to devise a way to help me cope with the maddening and dulling effects of reality, I embarked on a strenuous crusade of whining that flourishes to this day.
Some find my philosophy immoral, solipsistic, and even—this is a direct quote—"stupid." To my critics, I respectfully submit that whining is a noble act that can give birth to great things. For it is dissatisfaction, not necessity, that is the mother of invention. I'll wager that Henry Ford did not invent the Model T to create an affordable automobile for the masses, but because he knew that people's calves get all crampy when they're forced to walk, and who wants to put up with all the crowds of annoying pedestrians, anyway?
I must admit that I have never invented anything. In fact, I boast no particular intelligence, character, or mark of distinction. But if it is true that each man possesses a single genius or aptitude, let mine be whining—a whining incessant and intolerable, unfettered and ungelded! Let the workaday stiffs who make up a majority of the American public square their shoulders, swallow their lot, and be pummeled into catatonia by life's irritations. As for me, I choose to whine, whine, against the dying of the light.