Behind Closed Doors: Our National Pastime Is Past Its Prime


Don’t waste time grumbling about life's minor inconveniences.

Complaining is as American as baseball (the games are too long!) and apple pie (the crust isn’t flaky enough!). Many of our problems simply aren’t that serious, but that doesn’t stop us from griping about, well, nearly everything. Nothing will bond a group of us together more than long lines, bad weather and rush hour traffic. It doesn’t matter if we have zero control over our circumstances, complaining is how we cope. Strike up a conversation with a stranger waiting behind you at airport security and let the commiserating begin. You’ll be best friends by the time you find out your flight is delayed.

Technological advances are a wonder to behold. They’ve improved everything from how surgery is performed to how you interact with patients. And yet, the better and easier technology makes our lives, the more we find to complain about.

I can remember when my family got our first television set. We gathered around the wood-paneled monstrosity, spellbound at what was appearing before our very eyes. But it didn’t take long for the complaining to start.

“Why are there 13 numbers on the dial and we only get three channels?”

“Someday, they’ll have 13 channels.”

“They can’t even fill the three they’ve got with good shows!”

Fast forward to today. Even with Sling TV, Netflix Originals and Amazon Prime, we still lament that there’s nothing to watch.

I’m so old that I can remember when my family shared one telephone. How barbaric was that? Now everyone has their own smartphones. And are we happy? No. We complain constantly about lack of service and slow downloads. I was proud of my iPhone when I first got it, but now that phones are the size of movie screens, I feel completely out of date. I might as well be walking around with a rotary dial model in my pocket.

I recently overheard a woman in a restaurant complain to the server that her fish tasted “fishy.” It’s a FISH! But, as is often the case, people get rewarded for their complaining. The server actually took a few dollars off of her bill! I thought, well, I’m going to try that and said, “Excuse me, but this pork chop tastes ‘piggy.’ And my friend’s hamburger is a little on the ‘beefy’ side.”

So many illnesses and injuries have been eradicated through cutting-edge surgical procedures. But if you let a pre-op appointment or surgery go a few minutes past its scheduled time, I guarantee the complaining will commence. Luckily, patients now have their oversized smartphones to entertain themselves while they wait. But if your facility’s WIFI isn’t 25 Mbps or higher, you better believe you’re going to hear about it. Why? We’re complainers. It’s what we do.

Yes, our lives are full of problems, some more significant than others. We really do have legitimate concerns, but we should stick to complaining about things that really matter and stop worrying over the things that simply don’t. The next time you feel compelled to complain, remember the five-by-five rule: If it’s not gonna matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes being upset by it. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t take all that’s good in our lives for granted. So the next time your fish is too fishy or the movie you’re watching on your phone is lagging, take a second to decide if your future self would care enough to complain. OSM

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