There seemed always to be something wrong in my father’s world and growing up with the sound of his constant moans, his world became my normal.
When I was leaving the boarding school that I attended for two years in England, I asked some of the girls to write in my autograph book.
(Do such things still exist?)
One girl wrote: “To the most complaining girl I ever met.”
“Really?” I thought, “Do I complain more than most?”
No doubt I should have thought more deeply about it, but I was emigrating to America and life became full of very many things that were wrong.
So the comment was filed in my mind as “curious”.
Five years later, I took a job with our national carrier at Kennedy Airport which furnished a great many more things to complain about.
Not that it did a bit of good.
It simply encouraged in me the habit I had automatically developed.
A supervisor I respected once retorted:
“Carolyn you do complain a lot!”
Perhaps then I made a point of not complaining when he was in earshot. But I am sure I went right on moaning.
In those days, communication with people who were overseas was in letter form and that is how I corresponded with my parents.
Mum’s letters were mostly cheerful and informational.
Dad’s were a list of what was currently wrong.
Quite often, Dad’s complaints were related humorously. He could be quite funny when in the right mood.
But our correspondence became rather a game of challenge. Who had the greater or more serious complaint?
This ceased when my father stopped writing to me and my mother’s letters then began to include his problems relayed second-hand.
It seems strange to me that in all the years of psycho-therapy and self-examination I experienced, It never occurred to me that I was in fact a complainer.
Once I became a supervisor, I became the focus of all sorts of complaints, from passengers, from management and from the agents.
It was draining to listen to it all!
By then I had taken to writing letters to management.
Foolishly, I thought they would be interested to hear from the front lines. Surely improvements could be made that would benefit staff and passengers?
Soon, I gained a reputation as a letter-writer and on one infamous occasion I was encouraged to put in words the general dis-disgruntlement of the staff. A member of minor-management even agreed to hand-deliver it, for which she was nearly fired.
Finally, I got it. Nothing was going to change. At least not for the better. It was all about the share holders and the bottom line and evaluation charts.
Our lives were to be determined by clever business- school graduates that had not a single idea of airport functions (or dysfunctions).
Quotas and graphs and rules that must be obeyed.
And “Big Brother” was watching. We had progressed to email and our messages that I believed to be private were monitored.
If you checked in a passenger with more than the allowed baggage, there had to be a record of charges. No longer was waiving excess an option.
On one occasion, after a long computer outage, I sat with the passenger details from manual check-in (now there was a fiasco!) checking them all in to the computer. To expedite a tedious task, I entered all the baggage details next to a single passenger.
Next day a rocket from London. Where were the charges for 450 extra bags?
While I intended to complete forty years with the company, I can’t say I was sorry to retire two years short when my spine fell to bits.
Now, there were different things to moan about but somewhere along the way I had learned the value of not complaining.
What a concept! There is no point to most complaining.
State facts, by all means, but complaining takes so much energy and it seldom gets you anywhere, in my experience.
It was all driven home to me (literally) after my father came to live in the States, following my mother’s death.
My brother and I took Dad on a two-week car journey to Yellowstone and North Dakota. It was all a fabulous experience.
Punctuated daily, by synchronized moans from the Smith men!
I had grown up thinking it was perfectly normal.
No. It isn’t!
But this morning we had occasion to mutter:
…when the kitchen lights suddenly went out.
The other day it was my bathroom lights.
We are really hoping all of this is not rodent-related.