WINNING THROUGH WHINING
A few years ago, a book called “Winning Through Intimidation” by self-help guru Robert J. Ringer became a heavy hitter on the bestseller charts. Self-improvement seekers and power junkies alike were snapping it up coast to coast. Within its pages, Mr. Ringer touted getting one’s way through mastering personal power tactics — in other words, how to get your way by bullying others in business and in private life too. Remember the schoolyard bully? Well, according the author’s theory, it all boils down to getting ahead by acting just like that obnoxious little bugger.
Then again, I’m not so sure those tactics would work for me. In situations that beg for a good verbal lashing, I’m the one who always ends up with the whip marks. As an employer and a parent, I’ve tried to rule by decree but I always end up getting sand kicked in my face. For myself and all the other wimps of the world, there must be a better way to impose our will upon others.
Recently, the answer came to me as I leafed through the newspaper, jumping right off the page, so simple and so obvious. Of course! It had been there all along! If I can’t get my way by intimidating others, why not try today’s most popular mode of expression — whining! Maybe I could even write a bestseller about it!
After all, it’s a time-honored tradition in our country, shamelessly indulged in even by our presidents. Remember Richard Nixon whining in one of his retirement speeches how they wouldn’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore? And George Bush Sr. whined and wheedled his way out of that “Read My Lips” campaign about not raising taxes, didn’t he? Bill Clinton whined up a storm about his alleged innocence in the Lewinsky affair. He probably blamed those stains on Monica’s blue dress to spilled soup. And Bush II held a full-scale pity party about liberal lefties who had the lack of patriotism to criticize his war policies. Now we have Trump whining about the press, loose-lipped leakers and fake news.
Even the debate between young and old in this country has turned into a whining contest, the Millennials and Generation X-ers bemoaning the state of a world left to them by the greedy, sellout Baby Boomers who whine right back, calling their younger critics slackers with no lofty ideals, scoffing at their cultural heroes: Bart Simpson, Justin Bieber and Spongebob SquarePants.
Senior citizens are getting into it too, joining AARP and marching off to Washington to whine about Social Security while they tell the rest of us we have no right to whine. After all, they were the ones who lived through the Great Depression and walked through hip-deep snow to get to school, weren’t they? Seems like all the generations are whining over which one whines the most.
Based on all this blatant bleating, I came to the conclusion that whining is happening, it’s now, and it’s time for me to get with the program. So instead of asking my staff at the grooming shop to sweep up that pile of dog hair, I’ll mournfully point out how I’ve already done it three times today. “Am I the only person who knows how to pick up a broom around here?”
I’ll slump my shoulders and grab my lower back, complaining how I’ve thrown it out again and can’t possibly groom anything bigger than a Toy Poodle. I’ll whine about the employees coming in late: “Just once in my life, I’d like a little help in the morning taking these dogs in.” I could get good at being a martyr.
I’ll point out how my coffee turned cold because I was too busy to drink it, how I’m getting a cold sore and can’t find a pen that writes. I’ll whine about taxes and toilet paper too: “Am I the only one in this shop who can see that the roll is empty?”
Of course, there’s a flip side to all this. The employees themselves have been known to whine about the horrendous traffic jams and overturned tractor-trailers which so often make them late for work. To say nothing of those rambling wrecks they drive, the ones held together with duct tape and Super Glue that are forever breaking down.
Then there’s always PMS, a favorite source of female on-the-job whining. “I’m so bloated I can hardly zip this uniform,” whines one young lady as she opens her second package of Twinkies.
“That’s nothing,” I tell them. “Just wait until you’re faced with menopause. It makes PMS seem like a picnic in the park.”
They think they’ve got mood swings? I’ll show ’em mood swings! Like a giant roller coaster ride where you don’t even need to buy a ticket — everybody else pays! At last — a reason to whine all month long!
I noticed a side benefit from this chorus of carping: the dogs seem to be getting quieter. Maybe they’ve taken a cue from my bather, a solemn young man who doesn’t even try to compete with a roomful of women working on a full-bore whine. He recently told me he intends to stay single, planning a life as a hermit or monk once his days at the tub have ended and he passes the nozzle to a worthy successor.
But like most enjoyable activities, whining can be overdone. I feel I must include a warning: it can be habit-forming. Some people I know use it as a form of relaxation, their only comfortable form of communication after a long hard day in the workplace. (A perfect opening: “How was your day?”)
I even tried it out myself at home:
“I’d love to cook dinner but I haven’t got the strength to get up off this couch.”
“I know you want to watch that two-hour special on trolling for trout but I haven’t seen Masterpiece Theater since Cher dumped Sonny.”
“I just wanted plain cheese but you go ahead and order that anchovy and pineapple pizza anyway. What do you care if I have to make myself a Fluffernutter — again?”
It’s not a foolproof strategy. Returning from a recent week away, I wasted no time whining about the minefield of mutt muffins in my backyard.
“I guess you didn’t have time to pick up the doggy-doo while I was gone,” I began as my husband watched me tackle the hazardous waste problem from his lawn chair, his feet propped up on the picnic table.
“Are you kidding? I was out there scooping all the time,” he claimed, his voice filled with shock and indignation.
“Then roving packs of wild dogs must have passed through the yard overnight while we were sleeping,” I mumbled.
“You know, Honey, you’re getting pretty good with that thing,” he said with a smirk, resting his motorcycle magazine on his lap. “If scooping the poop was an Olympic event, you’d bring home the gold!”
I know what you’re thinking and you’re absolutely right. And I probably could have gotten away with it, claiming self-defense or temporary insanity. But I must admit my husband’s courage impressed me that day. Only a brave man would have dared to toy with a redheaded Irishwoman holding a loaded pooper scooper.