Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Meaning of Kvetch

As an occasional listener of NPR's Fresh Air and somebody who can't bring himself to delete anything off iTunes, I heard a good interview with Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch. In illustrating the meaning of the verb to kvetch, he told a joke that went something like this:
A man gets on the train for a long trip, sits down and begins reading the paper. At the other end of the train, a little old man sits down and immediately begins complaining. "Oy, am I thirsty." (the joke teller did it in a yiddish, lower East Side sort of accent, but I'll spare you the creative spellings) Every few seconds, "Oy, am I thirsty." The man realizes that he will get no peace with this going on, so he goes to the water cooler at one of the train car, fills up a couple of the little conical, paper cups and carefully carries them up the aisle to the little old man. The man looks up, utterly delighted and gratefully downs the water. The man returns to his seat, picks up his paper and thinks he's heard the end of the matter. Seconds later, he hears the old man.
"Oy, was I thirsty. Oy, was I thirsty."
So, that's kvetching: complaining long after the injustice or problem is over or solved. I bring this up to tell you about about a guy who has to whinge about something unjust to him personally pretty much every time he's in. I've gotten earfuls about library hours and the speed of the FREE WiFi from this guy. I have had to sit through long harangues about lighting, heating and noise with him as well. We are in the process of upgrading (or at least changing)our WiFi, which, I believe I may have mentioned, is FREE. Somehow, he had gotten it into his head that with the big change, users of the FREE WiFi would now be limited to two hours per day. It was news to me, not that I'm especially in the loop. Not just the library loop, by the way. Any loop. If you want to find me, don't look in a loop--you'll just be wasting time. So he treated me to a bitter jeremiad about this horribly unjust policy. After I had absorbed the major points several times (policy sucks, people who set the policy suck, he's a voter only too happy to withhold his support, blah blah blah), I politely interrupted to tell him I would check with the management to make sure I knew what the real deal was. I left him and asked the kindly library manager who assured me that there were no plans to restrict WiFi. So: bring your laptop to DeskSlave Central, log in the moment we open and stay connected until we 86 you. I reported this to the patron with a smile, happy that the dreaded and anger-producing policy would not be implemented. The patron, who will henceforth be know as The Kvetcher, said that it was a damn good thing that we weren't going to restrict access, because if we were going to restrict access--and then he went back to restate his original pile of resentment. It was kind of spellbinding in a boring, depressing kind of way. He couldn't drop it. He had worked himself up to a full head of steam over this one, and damned if any reality was going to dent his dudgeon.

1 comment:

beth said...

WOW. Not only a "bitter jeremiad" but also some dudgeon thrown in for fun. I'm impressed.