Guy no Logical Gibberish IV


“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fattest of them all.”

“Not you, ma lord, for you still have a rock-solid chin, and it’s normal for a man your age to have bosoms.”

I believed him. I saw that picture I took ten years ago, and I believed my mirror when he told me that not much has changed since. Then the hair stylist spun me around to face a brand new mirror and a brand new form of reality.

“Hey, who’s the beer guzzling, Cheeto lover doing the Jabba the Hut impersonation?” The stylist pretended she didn’t hear what I said. I couldn’t tell if her delicate response was a result of her dealings with the mirror phenomenon, or if she didn’t know what to say. Whatever the case with her was, she found that the best response was to say nothing. Don’t add to the joke, don’t sympathize. Say nothing. 

The little, square sunglass mirrors in department stores don’t tell us anything either. I used to think the mirrors were strategically small due to the limited space their manufacturer’s rented in department stores. If you think they want to display as many sunglasses as they can on the spinning rack, that’s what I used to think. The more I look into those mirrors, the more I think their manufacturers designed them to help us avoid seeing our double chins and everything else that a pair of sunglasses cannot fix.    

***

Waste drives me batty. I’m not just talking about the more customary concerns we have about the amount of food we waste, or the amount of water we use. I’m talking about little things too. I’m talking about an obsessive quality that focuses on doing things like hanging your coat in a closet in the dark, to save electricity. I’m talking about finding something I love (as opposed to need) in a department store and putting it back to save money. My rule is if I still want it two days later money, and I think it’s worth the drive back to the department store I purchase it. I’m also talking about cleaning my plate, no matter how full I am, because I won’t waste food. Most of my obsessions, save for the latter, are quite healthy, but they also evolve some admitted obsessive traits. If I drink a bottle of water, for example, and someone else throws it away with some remnants of water sitting at the bottom, I might think about that amount of water for hours, sometime days.

“Why don’t you drink that?” I asked a friend who was prepared to throw his bottle away with remnants of water at the bottom.

“Because I don’t want it.”

“So, you’re just going to throw that bottle away with perfectly good water sitting at the bottom?”

“Yes, yes I am,” they said before throwing it away.

***

Friends of mine who watched Buggs Bunny as often as I did know that I’ve been ripping that show off for decades. Those who haven’t find me somewhat, sort of funny in a peculiar way. 

Those of us who have watched at least 4,000 monster movies know that if we have the correct worldview, savage monsters will not attack us. We also know that when it’s not convenient for the plot, they won’t attack.

When aliens attack, I suggest that we try using bullets and any other technological artillery available to us on them. Our leaders might try to achieving some sort of peace accord with them, and our scientists might suggest a methodical approach based on reason. If the aliens are as intellectually superior as sci-fi movies suggest, however, the nature of beings suggest that they evolved into intellectual beings at the expense of their physical strength. If that’s the case, we should introduce them to brute force to see how they react. We can be sure that most of our moviegoers, and other creative minds, will insist that bullets won’t work, but what if they do? What if, in our exhaustive search for their vulnerabilities, we find that they’re just as susceptible to bullets, and all of the technical artillery, as we are. Would we pursue that? We might in the streets, as those battles would involve personal confrontations that lead to survival of the fittest, but would our world leaders follow suit? If they eventually did, and we achieved victory would it ring hollow for us? In the immediate aftermath we might celebrate our victory. We might hold parades for our heroes, and one of the heroes for a day might take to the mic and drop a Ghostbusters’ phrase on us “We came, we saw, we kicked their butts,” and we might repeat that glorious phrase for a day or two. After the glory of victory dulled, and we all returned to our daily routines, many of us will recharacterize our victory. The idea that we were able to devastate their inferior forces will leave many of us feeling disillusioned, and we will experience survivor’s guilt. They will recharacterize our victory as primal in nature, and they will suggest that, as a species, we haven’t progressed much since Genghis Khan. Some of us might even start campaigns that focus on asking the aliens to give us another chance, and the alien’s second planned assault will capitalize on that sentiment to divide and conquer us. 

*** 

The Machine is a sci-fi flick in which a team of scientists devise a mode of communication to help us remember. They do not have the technology to develop internal mechanisms that could be inserted biologically, and even if they did, they decide that they won’t pursue it, because that might create some form of compulsory participation. These scientists are wary of anything having to do with compulsory participation that could lead us to characterize their intentions as ominous. They simply want to develop a intangible means to help us communicate in a way that we never forget.

“This might not be such a good thing,” Paul says. Paul’s team of technological scientists are devoted to the communication platform of the program. Paul’s concern addresses the programs of the remember team.

“Why,” Paul asks rhetorically to deflect any suggestion that he is jealous of what the remember team is creating, “because the power to forget is almost as vital to mental health as the power to remember. Some psychologists say that if we weren’t able to forget our worst memories, or our worst thoughts, as we grow, it might stunt mental and emotional growth in such a way that we might all become basket cases forever trying to correct the past. 

“I saw a documentary that interviewed people with a memory syndrome that is the opposite of amnesia and other forms of memory disorders listed. It’s called hyperthymestic syndrome. Sufferers suggest that they remember everything that ever happened to them so well that they relive them in real-time with real-time and acute emotion. Some of them are miserable, and some of them are basket cases because of it,” Paul adds. “If our program allows people to never forget, I submit, they never will, and they will pay the cost for it in ways we cannot foresee.”

“Perhaps, we shouldn’t have bad thoughts then, Paul,” the lead scientist proposes. “Perhaps the collective can teach other people not to have bad thoughts.”

Taken aback Paul says, “With all due respect sir, I don’t think you recognize the totality of what you’re saying.”

“Let’s not forget the primary directive of [the machine],” the lead scientist deflects, mentioning its temporary name. “It’s communication. Communication in a way Alexander Graham Bell couldn’t even dream. The acute memory function of our [machine] is not its sole purpose, but I think everyone here, except Paul, will admit it will be a wonderful byproduct.”

Paul does not concede on the issue, but he agrees to shelve his concern as they devise a way to pitch it to corporate leaders. “I don’t like the name The Machine first of all,” Paul says. “We need to develop a name that suggests that The Machine can bring communities together. A grandmother can keep tabs on their grandkids without having to call their estranged children, long distance friendships can be maintained, and a number of other communications of the sort. We need to focus on that. We need to describe how people can use this utility to gather together in intangible ways that supersede the telephone.”

“I take it you have an idea for a name,” one of the other scientists says.

“I don’t,” Paul replies humbly facing down the challenge, “but I think the name should involve properties equivalent to a net or a web that brings people together.”

“A worldwide web?” the scientist asks. “That sounds a little ominous, like if you step into the web you’re trapped there.”

“I agree with Paul though. The idea of a worldwide gathering sounds compulsory,” a fourth scientist says, “it can lead one to think if they’re not interacting, they’re missing out, which has its own marketing possibilities, but it can lead, as you suggest, to a more ominous sound. How about we focus our presentation on the idea and power of two people interacting? You can interact with your grandmother in a way different than by phone. Interacting, interweb, or internet?”  

***

Why did one group of people separate from the primary group of their day and eventually start speaking an entirely different language? When one ancient tribe splintered off from the primary society of the time, their language began to deviate from the primary language. The idea that they developed different customs is not as remarkable, because they did so to adapt to the climate of their new land, but why did they develop a different language? The initial deviations were probably subtle at first, but some began to deviate so much, over the course of hundreds of years that they sounded nothing alike. English and German, for example, might have some similarities, but for the most part the sounds are so different, they almost sound like communication from different beasts. Then, we have the stark differences in sounds from the neighboring countries France and Germany. French sounds fluid and poetic, and German sounds anything but. This is to say nothing of various forms of communication heard in countries that speak Mandarin, Arabic, and any of the other guesstimated 6,909 + languages now spoken throughout the world. Were the initial transitions so gradual that the communicators found them unremarkable at first and thus not noteworthy, until they incrementally evolved into a different language?

As we spread our search our search for answers out, we eventually find ourselves back to some point of origin, or the initial, primary form of communication heard throughout the relatively small world of communicators. There are a number of theories regarding the when, where and how various languages started, including the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, and it’s Greco-Roman parallels, but at this point in history, linguists have no definitive, documented history of transitions people made to other languages and other forms of communication. The history of languages is well documented, of course, but in my research there are no definitive answers, and I must admit I’m almost as uninformed as I am curious about the transitions in language that led to the phenomenon of so many variations people around the world have for describe the nouns around them and the verbs of their every day life. 

***

If I ever achieved some level of notoriety as an artist, I would learn to pick my battles. In the beginning, I would probably view every battle as germane, as people questioned everything from my art to my integrity, but after a while I’m sure I would learn to disregard some pot shots. 

A popular artist has to deal with many battles, on many different fronts, on a daily basis. As we see in customer reviews on Amazon, and elsewhere, every piece of art is either too something or not something enough. Most artists would say, as Don Schlitz once wrote, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Pick your battles, in other words. One battle I would draw up troops to fight is the ‘fake’ charge. When discussing artistic works, or artists, the ‘fake’ charge is often the last refuge of a critic who cannot express themselves well. Fake is such an arbitrary charge, and it’s subjective, but once it begins to gather moss, it’s so hard to defeat. Music aficionados probably hear this charge 100 different times about 100 different artists when discussing music. The contrarians often say fake and sellout in conjunction with one another, and most of just roll our eyes and walk away, knowing that the person actually knows little to nothing about music, but there are times when it sticks. A friend of mine said he thought the music bands Green Day and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) were fake. I never enjoyed the music of Green Day, but I did like the RHCP at one time. I probably considered them susceptible to the charge, but after that man dropped the ‘fake’ charge on RHCP, I couldn’t listen to them without thinking how artificial they were. I didn’t consider them fake over night, of course, but with every listen I became convinced that if they were more organic in the early years, but they lost it over time, in their efforts to prolong their career. Saying that an artist is fake is so arbitrary and impossible to prove, of course, as anyone could say as much about any artist who ever created more than one piece of art, and it’s almost as impossible to disprove. I don’t know the legality involved, but if an influential critic from a major magazine levelled such a charge against me, I would probably expend all resources to challenge that assessment. I know the man’s opinion would be protected by the First Amendment, and the critic could say that it was just his opinion, but I would take that fight to the stage, in the media, and anywhere and everywhere I could to defeat that critic’s charge in the court of public opinion. My motto for this fight would be, we just can’t let this go, because once it sticks we’re done.

The Frivolous Fun of 80’s Hair Metal


They were hairy and kooky, obnoxious and spooky, and altogether ooky, the metal bands of the 80’s. As fashionable as it was to love these L.A.-based heavy metal in the 80’s, it became just as fashionable to openly despise them in the 90’s.

I grew to “loathe” them too, until a co-worker said, “They’re not Bob Dylan, or John Lennon, I get it, but c’mon, they’re fun.” I immediately dismissed that response, because the guy who said it was a doofus. His musical tastes did not define his doofosity, but it was everything else that led me to dismiss just about everything that came out of his mouth. Yet, to my amazement this simple line, from a very simple man, fundamentally changed the way I listen to music. I became a “C’mon, they’re fun” guy too.

Prior to loathing them, I went through a heavy metal phase when I was a teenager. I owned a cassette tape of every major, and many minor Los Angeles-based, hair, glam metal band available. When I aged out of it, I sought serious, brilliantly complex music, but when doofus said what he said, I realized that I was taking myself far too serious. My takeaway was we can all seek complex arrangements in our music from artistic musicians, but let’s not forget to keep it fun. 

The beauty of the music of this era, this doofus reminded me all those years ago, and the book Nothin’ but a Good Time reminded me recently, was that the glam metal music of the ’80’s never claimed to be anything more than what it was. Say what you want about the bands of this era, and the music they wrote, but they never tried to be vital or important. They never wrote a seven minute opus on the Fall of the Roman Empire and how it might correlate with the modern rise of technology. The music of the Los Angeles-based hair bands were all about having a party, abusing their body with whatever substances they could find, having conjugal relationships, and any other forms of excess they could find to have a good time. As the book points out, they practiced what they preached.    

Shortly after I grew out of my love of hairy metal, I sought clever and complex music, but I never enjoyed deep songs with meaningful lyrics. This might be a result of listening to so many thousands of hours of metal music in my teens, but I have always considered deep, meaningful songs so silly. They do nothing for me. Whether romantic, socially conscious, or any other form of importance a songwriter tries to achieve with clever lyrics they hope we find intellectual, but they never reached me on that level. Some people seek philosophical substance in their music, and some seek it in other venues. 

We’ve all read critics dissect lyrics for the deep meaning the author intended, but most of them either have something to do with something political or social, or they contain some oblique, or over the top, reference to drug use. I listen to that music, and I repeat it numerous times, but it doesn’t affect me in anyway. Vocals, and vocal inflections, should be used as another instrument in a song. If they do it well, I’ll listen, but I don’t understand why we should care what Thom Yorke of Radiohead has to say about his view of the world any more than we do Bret Michaels of Poison. In this vein, Michaels’ lyrics might be more respectable, because he doesn’t engage in any of the “look at me ain’t I smart?” type of the self-indulgent lyrics inherent in Yorke’s work. 

Most of the “vital and important” music critics of the era loathed heavy metal, but we fans didn’t care. We didn’t need Nothin’ but a Good Time, and that served to undermine the power of the music critic industry. The critics knew that most of the hairy metal bands didn’t know how to play their own instruments, and they panned them for not only ignoring socially significant issues but damaging some. They loathed these bands for thumbing their nose at consequential issues, and they deemed them inconsequential. No one I knew cared. We wanted to play their music at our parties, and we wanted to play that same music in our cars while we remembered those parties. The book Nothin’ But a Good Time reminded those of a certain age that we no longer need to feel ashamed of loving that music for what it was, when it happened, because we were just kids back then who wanted to have fun.

How bad were the hairy metal bands of the 80’s? How good were they? It depends on whom you ask and when you ask them. As the book points out, the era was all about timing. Those who were in a Los Angeles-based heavy metal band between 1984 and 1988 who learned how the other half lives for a while, and they indulged in every excess they could think up. If a heavy metal, glam band had all of the above and they released an album as late as 1989 to 1990, a major record label probably signed them, but every album they made went straight to the $.99 bin. The idea that sales are all about timing is not a novel concept of course, but I don’t think any era in music was as stark as the heavy metal era of the 80’s was.

Were Motley Crue (‘83), Ratt (’84), Poison (‘85) that much better than Bang Tango (’89), Junkyard (’89), or Dangerous Toys (’89)? When we listen to classic rock radio today, which bands do we hear? How many of us even know the latter three? One would think that if the latter bands had music that was just as good that they would eventually rise to some levels of prominence. They didn’t, in part, because the more prominent bands of the era tapped into a time and place of the zeitgeist that will presumably never die in some quarters. 

What happened in the intervening years, some of those band members interviewed in Nothin’ but a Good Time say the dynamic in the industry experienced a subtle shift when Guns N’ Roses changed it a little in 1987. Others not in the book, say the industry tilted further away from the “Rock and Roll all night and party every day” rock theme when the funk-rap hybrid bands Faith No More (’89) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (first noteworthy album ’89) arrived on the scene, but most acknowledge that the Seattle, grunge movement led by Nirvana’s Nevermind in 1991 sounded the death knell of the hairy metal of the 80’s.

To read about 98% of most modern critics, the modern reader might believe that Kurt Cobain single-handedly killed ‘80’s hairy metal. The critics write this, because they loved everything about Cobain, Nirvana, and the single Smells like Teen Spirit. They love the narrative that ten minutes after Smells like Teen Spirit aired on Mtv, everyone knew the heavy metal movement was over. Some of the artists interviewed in this book, however, suggest that Slash might’ve done more to end the mid-80’s version of hair metal than Cobain. I consider that an intriguing notion, considering that most put the heart of heavy metal’s reign over the music industry between ’84 and ’89, and that it began to wane two years before Nevermind was released. As factual as that statement appears to be, according to record sales and Mtv plays, it’s not as compelling as the narrative that suggests one band, one man, and one song ended it all. Others claim that Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden did something so different in the years preceding Nevermind that they laid the Times-they–are-a-changing groundwork to pave the way for Nevermind. Regardless the who, what, and whens of the argument, Nevermind did put the final stake in the heart of the dying carcass that was the hairy metal of the ‘80’s.

***

As compelling as the argument of the death of heavy metal is, the tale of the birth of heavy metal might be as interesting. Almost every artist of the era lists Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin as the forefathers of their sound, and others state that the first Black Sabbath album, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and Quiet Riot’s Metal Health, and Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry all played a role. The over-the-top look, the stage theatrics, and the simple, arena, sing-a-long rock songs intended for nothing but fun, however, belong to KISS. Put simply, if KISS didn’t rule the 70’s, the hair metal movement of the 80’s probably doesn’t happen. Nothin’ But a Good Time mentions KISS a couple of times, but for the most part this book strives to cover the scene in this era, and it provides little backdrop for who (other than Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister) might have inspired it. Yet, if KISS inspired the movement, it would be a stretch to say they were the catalyst for the era. KISS came out in ’73, and they hit their peak commercial value between ’75 and ’77. Why did it take seven years for bands like Poison and Motley Crue to take their influence to platinum success?   

The missing link, in my humble opinion, arose from a shift the British band Def Leppard made away from their more traditional heavy metal sound to a more polished, catchy pop-metal sound that proved more radio friendly when they made the relatively successful High N’ Dry in ’81. In ’83, Def Leppard took that concept up a notch with the release of Pyromania. Pyromania’s success did not happen overnight, but in my world, it seemed no one I knew had ever heard of a group called Def Leppard on Thursday. By Monday, everyone I knew was wearing the Def Leppard Union Jack sleeveless T-shirt. The groundswell was almost that immediate.

The primary difference between Def Leppard and KISS, in my world, was defined among the teenaged girls I knew. I knew teenage girls who liked KISS, especially the song Beth, but the number of girls who loved a rock band was unprecedented in my world. When the songs from Pyromania hit the radio, it was the closest thing I’ve experienced to Beatlemania. Every teenage girl I knew listened to Pyromania and when teenage girls love something that much teenage boys pay attention, and they eventually learn to love it. Def Leppard’s formula of providing pop friendly rock music with catchy lyrics appealed to the girls before it did the guys I knew.    

The success of Def Leppard’s Pyromania (’83) led to Poison’s success (in ’85), and Motley Crue’s shift from their KISS-inspired (’83) album Shout at the Devil to the more female friendly Theater of Pain (in ’85). The formula Def Leppard set (by selling 6 million albums at the time) was to release a hard rock single followed by a more radio friendly ballad led every 80’s heavy metal act who followed, to include a more female friendly ballad.

The book Nothin’ But a Good Time begins right about here. The book doesn’t mention the integral role Def Leppard played, but after the success of Pyromania, every major label tried to sign their own version of Def Leppard/Kiss between 1984 and 1988. Most metal bands signed during this era went gold (selling 500,000 units sold), and some went platinum (1,000,000 units sold) to multi-platinum. As evidence of how crazy this signing spree became, a member of a band called Bang Tango said, “We weren’t even a real band when we were signed, and we had to learn quickly.”

Were most of the 80’s hair metal bands ridiculously excessive? Were they politically incorrect? Did they have the lyric “baby” in every song, at least once? Were they everything critics loathe? Probably, but in many ways that’s why we loved those bands. The big-hair-glam heavy metal sound was for the non-cerebral and non-political party we were all having as teenagers in the mid-80’s.    

At some point, the whole L.A.-based, hair metal, glam scene died. The definitions of when and how this happened differ, but it did die. Some bands were still being signed to major record companies, and in this book those bands say that they paid their dues, and they felt like they wrote a decent album, but the record company didn’t promote them the way they would have two years prior. The companies didn’t pour a ton of money into the band’s videos in a manner they would have two years prior either. They claimed that they were just as talented, or more so, than other bands who made millions two years prior. They missed the signing spree, and the multi-platinum awards for any band who could string together a halfway decent heavy metal ballad. They missed the crucial money making part of the era by two years.

For those of us who were young, easily-influenced teenagers during this era, the polished pop metal to heavy metal music produced during this era will always be “ours”. It seduced us into believing life could be fun, and it could be one big party that doesn’t have to end. Logic dictates that everything has to end, however, and there came a point where glam metal needed to die. An era defined by excess eventually became so excessive that it became a parody of itself, and those of us who once loved it developed a love/hate relationship that eventually came to an end, until someone reminded us how fun the music from the era was. Even with that, however, some of the artists interviewed in the book Nothin’ But a Good Time now admit that it became obnoxiously excessive, and it had to die under its own weight. Someone had to come along and burn the field to prepare for the harvest of something different and new. These facts about life and art can be as hard to accept as they are to deny, and as the book lists a number of bands who have experienced on nostalgia/reunion tours that some of them claim are as financially successful as those they did in their heyday. 

“Write jokes, get paid,” was the philosophy Jay Leno followed throughout his career in comedy. He said this to his fellow comedians who thought they could use comedy to change the world. The glam metal of the ’80’s followed Jay’s philosophy. They wrote fun, little meaningless songs that they hoped young people would buy, and we did, by the millions. The music was not important, vital, or consequential, but for those of us who lived through the era remember it as a lot of fun. When we comb through music timelines, with critics who write such things, we’ll see the lists of the seminal artists who defined an era and helped change the world, and we won’t find any of 80’s artists on those lists. Those of us who lived through the era know what a ridiculous time it was in music, in terms defined by music critics, but if we were to write a eulogy on the time period, we might say something like, “I don’t care what you write, or what you say, it was music that was fun to crank at parties and in our car, and you can take all of your self-indulgent clap trap about vital, important, and consequential music and shove it.” 

The Complaint Cloud


When the complaint cloud approached our table at a restaurant, we didn’t need a meteorologist to tell us that conditions were ripe for a chance of complain. All we had to do was talk to the complainant for five minutes.

“There’s something wrong,” she said to introduce her complaint cloud to us, and she added the international refrain of the complainer, “I don’t want to complain, but …” She probably expected us to stop to listen to her complaint, or run for cover, but we didn’t even stop eating. In lieu of that insult, she said it again. She won’t eat. She can’t, because she’s found something wrong with her food. The rest of the table gives her the attention she requires, and we’re silent and silently screaming at her to say it, but she won’t say it, because she “doesn’t want to complain” because she “[doesn’t] want to be seen as a complainer.”

She doesn’t call the server over, because she some part of her enjoys hovering over the rest of us with her hard-earned knowledge of the steps required in the proper preparation of the onion ring. She doesn’t want to lord her industry knowledge over the restaurant, the server, or our table, but she keeps changing the subject back to her improperly prepared onion ring. It might take less than two minutes for the server to come over, address her concerns, and return with a new plate of onion rings, but she doesn’t want to explore that possibility, because she knows her complaint time in the cloud will be brief, and she enjoys the respect she attains from the uninformed for the knowledge she’s attained in the industry. She smiles a strained smile to reveal her internal struggle to us, but she now knows so much that she just can’t eat a poorly prepared onion ring anymore that she knows it isn’t a temperature that the industry requires.

She could say her onion rings are cold, but she knows that exaggerated description carries no attention-grabbing exclamation points, so she says they’re “ice cold!” to superlative her way to gathering some real attention. When she’s done with her exaggerations, we fear touching them the way we do dry ice, knowing when they’re that cold they could burn.

To bolster her characterization, and the resultant sympathy that follows, she could also add that her slightly above room temperature onion rings are, “Gross.” Would it be a gross exaggeration to say that they’re gross, yes, but that doesn’t stop anyone else from doing it. Why do they do it, because no one  challenges the gross assessment. Gross is a relative term that should never face challenge, because it’s uniquely personal, and anyone who dares challenge the assessment should prepare for blow back.

All she has to say is her onion rings are gross and her table will crinkle up their noses and sympathize with her plight. Gross can now be used to describe everything from finding live insects in our food to tasting excrement in fresh seafood, but it can also mean finding a stray french fry in a serving of pasta, or an onion ring that is less than perfect. I once thought that one of my purposes in life was to try to unseat the word from its perch atop the lexicon we use to describe poor quality. I thought if I could start a personal campaign to limit the use of the word, in my social circles, I might give it back some of its power. I made some strides in my battle against the ’ly words, literally and actually, but my battle to limit the use of the word gross, even in my inner circle, was both pointless and pitiful. The word is gone, I realized in the midst of my battle, it just is. Overuse has diluted any meaning it once had, but people still use to gain attention.

When someone at the table tired of the grumblings in the complaint cloud, as a result of her carefully orchestrated drama, they called the server over. It was anticlimactic when the chef quickly arrived with a hot plate of onion rings that he informed us would not appear on our bill. Shows over folks, time to go back to our other conversations, because there’s nothing left for us to talk about in the immediate aftermath of a resolved dilemma.

“How are those onion rings?” one of the uninformed asks her.

“Eh, they’re all right.” The truth is that those onion rings are not right, because they never will be, because no onion ring can ever be right in the complaint cloud. They’ll never be as tasty as they could be, or as hot as they should be, or as crispy, or as pleasing as the industry requires. “I like a nice crunch when I bite into an onion ring, don’t you? Yeah, no, this isn’t for me. This is a fine restaurant that’s known for their food, but it just doesn’t meet my professional expectations.” She picked the restaurant, and she selected the meal she would eat on this restaurant’s menu, for which this restaurant is well-known. She knows restaurants, because she works for a competitor, and she knows what this restaurant specializes in, and she’s “always wanted to try it”. When it arrives, she takes it personal when they serve her something that is a couple of degrees below the industry standard that she knows too well.

“Do you have any idea who I am? I work down the street, and I am a manager, and there’s no way I would allow one of my servers to serve these onion rings.” She didn’t say this, but this was the subtext of her complaint, because no one knew who she was, and no one cared. Her entrance into the complaint cloud was personal, and she expounded on her virtuosity after they served her a second inferior plate of onion rings by saying (drum roll please), “I will eat them.” She was kind enough and virtuous enough to suffer through her “all right” onion rings, so we wouldn’t view her as a complainer after she spent the last couple minutes doing nothing but complaining.

Praised be the all mighty, now will you climb down and speak to the peasants, as you said you would when you invited us to try to enjoy an evening out with you dining?

Complaining is what we do. It’s what I do. It’s what I’m doing right now. I’m complaining about complainers who complain too much. We complain about our friends and family members, our politics, religion, and our place of employment. Complaining is just kind of what we do when we’re in groups, but we shroud most of our complaints in humor. Complaining can be fun, and it can provide provocative, engaging conversations. When we invite friends and family for a night out, however, most of us try to keep our complaints in check. We know some complaints bring an evening to a crashing halt. Some of us don’t even complain when we probably should, because we want to avoid bringing attention to ourselves in this way. 

“But you’re paying them for these goods and services,” complainants say to justify their complaints, “and the least they should do is try to provide you what you’re paying your hard-earned dollars for, and some of the times they don’t.” They also say such things about air travel, “You’re flying in their aircraft, and the airline should do everything they do to make you feel secure.” It’s all true of course, and it’s actually a good rationale to expect as much from our fellow man as we expect from ourselves, especially when we’re paying them, but as Malcolm Gladwell once wrote, there is a tipping point.

The tipping point arrives when everyone around you knows that you’re going to complain. You might not think you’re a complainer, and you might even say that you hate complainers, but when everyone who knows you knows that a complaint cloud will darken their table one minutes after that server puts food before you, it might be time to reevaluate your philosophy on moments like these. If it happens once or twice, it’s annoying. When it happens so often that the people at your table dread this moment, it becomes obvious that your greater complaint is not with the goods and services others provide, but with the way your life panned out.