Monday, September 28, 2020

Complaining: A universal language

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I love complaining. I have often retorted to accusations that I complain too much with a reason that it is always for a good reason. Why settle for anything but the best?

That said, a normal day for me consists of numerous complaints about anything from the weather to the hike in food prices. I will complain about how cab companies take so damn long to respond to a customer, and how hideous that dress looks on my housemate. I will complain about what a drag life is. I will complain to the restaurant manager if my cocktail is served in the wrong glass, and probably walk away without paying the bill. My friends think I am a snob; I respectfully disagree. Why should I grin and bear it? It’s my money, it’s not like I am begging. All I want is value for my money.

Come to think of it, complaining about poor service or life in general is a daily occurrence for the average person. I have never known of a person who doesn’t complain. It’s a normal human trait that is used to show or express unhappiness or dissatisfaction about a matter close to one’s heart. Sometimes it helps to complain and let it off your chest, even though most of the times complaints usually fall on deaf ears.

It has been said that keeping things to oneself can be unhealthy for an individual. Successful companies worldwide recognise the need to address customers’ complaints because it helps them improve their services and gain more clientele. They realise that if the clients are not happy, they will easily walk to a place where they can get better service.

Even the most passive of people are likely to complain about something at certain stages of their lives. Unlike the vocal individuals, they will not go to the restaurant manager and complain about the service, but they will complain to their peers. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just women who like to complain; men too have jumped on to the complaining bandwagon.

Men will complain about how much women love to complain about unnecessary things. They also complain about traffic. A guy friend of mine incessantly whines about the congested traffic in Gaborone during rush hour, despite the fact that he has been draining in the city, and complaining about the same thing, for the last five years. Men will complain about how beer isn’t just the same nowadays, about not getting a promotion, car problems and how lazy their favourite soccer player has become.

Women on the other hand, whether single or married will always complain about two major topics, men and money. Everything else falls second.
Growing up, my father would always complain about how the players in his favourite team were not competent enough, and how the coach had become useless and needed to be fired.

“Pass the ball! What are you doing!! How can he squander such a chance? This team is so stupid! The players are stupid! The coach is stupid! They must all be fired!” he would shout to the television screen, all by himself. The next say he will be whining at the bar with his friends, complaining about an issue in which they have absolutely no control. I would marvel at their passion, and wonder how a bunch of grown up men can be so frustrated by an issue in which they have absolutely no control.

The fact is that everyone complains. Complaining is also a way through which people, especially the elderly, make small talk and socialise.

One day they will be complaining about how blazing hot the sun is, and how they cannot wait for the rains to come. When the rains come, they complain about how their crops and animals are being killed by the rain, and how they can’t wait to see the sunshine again.
When closely scrutinised, the traditional African way of greeting actually encourages complaints.

Dumelang! (Hello)
A le tsogile? (Are you well?)
Ga re a tsoga, bana ba tsenwe ke mohikela, mmabone o phaketse a ile Phikwe go ba isa sepateleng, kana ga bana rrabo,e sale a ba lathile….(We are not doing so well, the kids caught the flu bug, their mother took them to a hospital in Phikwe.The poor kids don’t have a father, he abandoned them when they were still infants).

Another example is of tertiary students whose complaints keep pilling everday.They complained when their allowance was a mere P1000, and it was increased to P1, 700, they complained some more and the allowance was increased to P1, 900.They continued to complain when it was reduced to the current P1, 400.This amidst complaints of tough lecturers, boring classes, retakes, the terrible food at the refectory, skinny girls, cheating guys and everything else under the sun. Even students who do not even know each other will find solace in their common disgruntlement with how the Ministry of Education is failing them.

The other day I took my grandma to visit her friend, who is the same age as her. The whole conversation was full of different complaints, about the weather, about their children and how their sons’ wives are poisoning them against their mothers and how their grandchildren are spoilt. They also complained about their health, and actually tried to outdo each other by comparing notes on who has the worst ailments.

I gave up when my 7-year-old niece came home crying, complaining about how she hates school and everything that has to do with books. That’s when it became evident to me that it is human nature to complain.

Everything considered, I feel much better about my complaining habits. In fact, I don’t think I complain enough.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.