Between the Rows: Airing My Grievances

How often does complaining have its desired effect?

Published online: Jul 05, 2018 Articles Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This column appears in the July 2018 issue of Potato Grower

The other day, my wife and I went to the wedding reception of the daughter of one of our neighbors. (It’s kind of strange to be at the point in life where the weddings we attend aren’t for our friends, but for their children. But that’s for another column.) I put on a nice shirt and tie, my wife donned a dress, and we headed over. The bride was glowing, the groom was grinning as if he could hardly believe his good fortune, and their parents looked exhausted but exceedingly happy. The place looked fantastic, and the cake was delicious.

Yet I was disappointed—not with the family or the wedding itself. I was disappointed with the guests. About half of our fellow wedding-goers were dressed similarly to my wife and me: basically in what you’d wear to church on Sunday. But many of the rest looked as if, when they got up from the recliner to get some Cheez Whiz during a commercial break in a Friends rerun, they had seen the invite on the fridge and, feeling guilty for having forgotten, hopped in the car and drove to the reception without another thought. People—real, live, respected adults—were there in jeans, cargo shorts, T-shirts, even flip-flops. I wasn’t exactly dressed for the Met Gala, but I had put in some effort. On the most important day of these kids’ lives, I figured taking three minutes to change my clothes was the least I could do. I was wrong; apparently I could have done less.

It just bugged me. So, spurred by my fellow guests at the wedding, I made the completely rational decision to compile a list of things that drive me insane:

  • Use of the word “epic” to describe anything other than a war movie
  • Grocery carts left in the parking lot instead of the cart return, just 10 feet away
  • Bow ties worn without a tux
  • Fedoras on people under the age of, say, 60
  • Hearing someone say sagebrush plains are ugly. Just roll down your window after it rains out there, and tell me if it’s still ugly.
  • Nine-year-olds with cell phones
  • People’s insistence on eating grass-fed beef and free-range eggs
  • The assumption that because my wife is super-nice, she’d love to watch your kids for six hours on 20 minutes’ notice
  • Lawns mown by mothers of able-bodied teenage sons
  • Finding a toilet seat left up. Just put it down, guys. The half-second of strenuous effort it takes is worth the gratitude of the women in your life.
  • Sports fans who refer to the team in the first person: “We drove down the field”; “Our defense really stepped up”; you get the idea. (Boise State football fans, particularly those who didn’t even attend the school, are among the most egregious offenders.) These are also typically the same people who blame any—nay, every—loss said team suffers on the officiating crew.

Look, I get it. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that, barely into my thirties, I’ve already become a grumpy old man. If by some miracle you’re still reading this, you’ve probably figured that out yourself. As I mentally assembled my list of grievances against society, I realized that, really, nothing on my list had any direct effect on me. I began to wonder, “What do I do that drives other people crazy?”

Several things immediately popped into my head. For example, my tendency to make fun of and talk through entire movies, even my favorites. Or the way I relate virtually any nondescript incident to some episode of Seinfeld. Or my overtly overenthusiastic gum-chewing.

Once I took just a moment to look in the mirror, I realized something: All these annoyances boil down to my own judgmental attitude. People really aren’t that bad. In fact, despite my natural inclination toward judge-iness, I’m a firm believer that there’s more good in the world than bad. I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt; I should reciprocate.

Life’s never going to be perfect, and neither are your friends and neighbors. Walt’s always going to have a dozen broken-down pickups and tractors and a big pile of old wire in that lot next to his immaculate lawn. Ken’s cows will find their way into your grain field once or twice every summer. Every conversation with Art will always include some conspiracy theory. Greg is never going to stop and pull his combine to the side of the road, no matter how many cars are backed up behind him. Jeff’s pivots will always spray onto the road. 

Truth be told, it’s really not a big deal.