Thursday, November 08, 2012

WWPD Guides: complaining post-storm


-Your home was damaged, but not altogether swept away by the storm.

-Your subway/train (or a viable alternative) continues to run, but your commute now takes twice as long and is twice as crowded.

-You have not had power/heat/hot water/Internet for a week or more, or for at least two days with no message re: when it's being restored. Assuming you have perspective, you're allowed to complain even if the electricity being off doesn't mean some machine that literally keeps you alive will stop working. Nor do you need to engage in Luddite romanticism about how great it is to sit by candlelight, or - horrors - how refrigeration is overrated. If anything, refrigeration isn't given its proper due. (Says the person who optimistically bought replacement ricotta, despite living somewhere where three raindrops means the power will go out.)


-Complaining about a loss of power in your home to anyone who'll pick up, from your cellphone, on an extra-crowded rush-hour NJ Transit train. Yes, dude behind me this morning, I'm talking about you. A shame that you've been without power, but guess what - by virtue of their presence on this train, they either are or until very recently were in your situation, or maybe worse.

-A momentary blackout lowered your inhibitions, causing you to OMG eat carbs.

-Your hair is a millimeter longer than you like it, and OMG your salon doesn't have power.

-You had to relocate to the Upper East Side, from SoHo, and uptown people are so square. I know, it's a pain to have to go to the Sephora on 86th Street rather than the one on lower Broadway, to the Barneys flagship rather than the Barneys Co-ops downtown. Uptown and downtown have been near-identical upscale malls (but with really good food, admittedly mostly downtown) since forever. Complain about relocation, but if you've relocated from SoHo or Tribeca, edgy you ain't.

-Your complaint, whatever it is, has been featured in the NYT Styles pages.


itgotthemustardout said...

Thank you! Your final point basically sums it up.

PG said...

Aside from the power outage one, are any of those complaints ones you'd consider acceptable even pre-Sandy?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


I'm not sure what you're asking. Which list? And why, pre-Sandy, would trains be this messed up, or downtown trustafarians exiled on the UES?

PG said...

The "unacceptable" list. I assume you'd consider it all right pre-Sandy for someone to complain about lack of power, but it seems implausible to me that you'd ever find it acceptable to complain publicly about: lowered inhibitions causing one to eat carbs; not being able to go to your preferred salon for a few weeks; having to live on the UES; or any complaint featured in the Styles section.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


I suppose both lists would hold. I'm generally not as annoyed by people talking on cellphones in public as most are (makes for amusing eavesdropping), but in a crowded train, yammering about nothing interesting is never cool.

But I keep being struck by how non-complaining figures into the post-storm discourse. This storm really did run the gamut, from minor, minor inconvenience to major inconvenience to lesser tragedy to full-on. Yet the Right to Complain is now reserved for people who were in no way impacted by the storm. Case in point: this week's Social Q's. If you're not sure where your adult child's boyfriend should sleep when visiting your house, by all means hold forth. But if you have problems relating to 93% of your town being without power (and I'd have kind of seen the point if the person with power was called lucky relative to those without), ah, then you need to be grateful that you're alive.

And it kind of makes sense - it's offensive to someone who experienced the storm as tragedy to hear someone else's story about the storm meaning inconvenience, whereas it's not explicitly offensive to said individual to know that in California, say, people are whining about unrelated nonsense. But there still - not to be contrarian - ought to be some allowance for the fact that sub-tragic situations can still merit a hearty waah.