Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 17, 2004


Try not to whine when things do not go your way


          Now that I am well into my seventy-third year, I understand why some of us are called “grumpy old men.” As you get older, things get on your nerves more quickly than when you were younger. So it is quite a challenge not to become a grumpy old man. How long I can successfully resist grumpiness is anybody’s guess, but right now I am trying.

          Since inner stances are more important than your circumstances, it helps to have personal convictions about what is good behavior. These convictions should set our standards high. They become the inward, moral goals for our actions and reactions in the course of daily living. Without them, we tend to overreact to every jerk we encounter.

          One of my personal convictions is that I should resist whining when things do not go my way. I am not always successful but I keep trying to remember that nobody, not one living soul, wants to listen to me whine about anything.

          Whiners and complainers lose, no matter what the game. However, we admire people who remain positive in the face of the crazy little things that happen to us all, things that annoy and frustrate us.

          Here is one example. Your wife gives you a kiss as you leave home. She is cheerful. That makes you feel good, perhaps because she has not kissed you like that for two months. You drive to work with a smile on your face. You are not in a hurry. You are mad with no one. You have peace in your heart. You feel so good to be alive, and to be married to that sweet woman.

          Suddenly, some jerk cuts in front of you, narrowly missing the front of your car. Words you did not learn in Sunday school are on your lips. Your peaceful countenance is history. If you are like me, your first thought is to ram the guy.

          I drive a large, used Crown Victoria. It is big enough to do major damage to a little Toyota. Reason takes over and I remember that ramming the jerk is not an option.

          My next thought is less wicked. I will do to him what he has done to me. Is that not the Golden Rule? My Crown Vic will move when I hit the gas, so I will gun it the minute I see a chance to cut him off. Before I can do that, he has switched to another lane, cutting in front of another poor soul.

          By now I am a bit calmer. My peace is gone, but my anger is fading. My inner resolve not to whine takes over. Then I begin praying for the jerk, something like this, “Lord, please let a state trooper catch him soon.” That works for me, when I remember that nobody likes to hear a grumpy old man whine.

          Another thing that annoys me is to step up to a counter in a business just in time for the sales clerk to answer his phone. The clerk ignores me, making it clear that the caller is more important that me. I have waited in line for ten minutes. I have places to go, things to do. I want to make a purchase and be on my way.

          Instead I have to stand there waiting for the clerk to assist a caller. “Yes,” the clerk says politely, “We have that in stock.” The caller must have asked the price, for the clerk then says, “Hold on, let me look the price up in the catalog.”

          I feel my blood pressure rising. What I am feeling is worse than impatience. I feel demeaned, insulted, and angry. Finally, the clerk puts the phone down and says, “Can I help you?” I want to say, “Yeah, you sure can; you can start by paying attention to the customer who is standing right in front of you.”

          Resisting saying that, I try to regain my composure. But I am still upset. Now I want to say to the clerk with a scowl on my face, “I have my cell phone with me. If you will tell me your number, I will call you on my cell phone so I can get waited on.”

          Before I can say that, the phone rings again. He says, “Excuse me,” and answers the phone. By now, I am so frustrated that I want to scream. I look around for someone, anyone, who will sympathize with me. Nobody has noticed me. My plight is my own.

          Outside the store, I want to stop traffic and tell somebody about my frustration. I want to get on a soap box and rally the public to insist that businesses stop this annoying practice of answering the phone while customers are standing in line.

          Finally, I remember again my resolve not to whine when things do not go my way. What a struggle it is! Yet I must fight on because I do not want to be remembered as a grumpy old man who whined about everything.

          So I often pray, “Lord, help this old man to remember that the perks of heaven will make up for the annoyance caused down here by the jerks and the clerks.” + + + +