By David Carroll
I remember an older lady from my youth. We’ll call her Mrs. Ballyhoo. She and her husband were fairly well off, and didn’t seem to have a worry in the world.
But there was one question you did not ask Mrs. Ballyhoo. Very simply, it was, “How are you feeling?” If you made that mistake, you might as well pull up a chair. She would respond with a lengthy list of aches, pains, and complaints. In lengthy detail, she would list every ailment. No one doubted her. We just didn’t want to hear her complete medical history.
Despite her professed frailties, she lived a long life. She didn’t quite make it to the Facebook era, which is where most people choose to air their grievances these days.
Social media sites are filled with people whose goal in life is to be contrary. If I post, “What a sunny, beautiful day we’re having,” reflecting my view of the world from southeast Tennessee, some friend in Illinois will reply, “Not where I live!” as if I had just ruined their day with a bald-faced lie.
In recent years of course, America has been divided into two camps: you’re either a Donald Trump fan, or you’re not. Now the same thing can be said for Joe Biden. In 2020, the rap on Biden was, “He’s been in Washington for 47 years, and hasn’t done a thing.” Perhaps in response to the complainers, he has ramped up vaccine distribution, pushed the COVID-19 relief and stimulus package through Congress, and proposed a massive infrastructure program that could impact the nation for generations to come. So now the complainers who derided “Do Nothing Biden” are angry that he is doing something.
Trump can’t catch a break either. “I never want to see his face again!” shouted many Never-Trumpers when he left the White House in January. Yet when Trump (who was vaccinated earlier this year) did not appear in a vaccination promo with other former presidents, those same people yelled, “Where’s Trump?” But I thought you said….well, never mind.
There’s nothing like the weather to bring out the angry people. As a television newsroom employee, I’m often the person who answers the phone, dodging the verbal bullets when our meteorologists take over the airwaves in an effort to save lives.
CALLER: “Do you realize that your station is not showing ‘Days of Our Lives’ all because someone in northeast Alabama is getting a little wind?”
ME: “Ma’am, I do apologize but it is actually a tornado watch. We are tracking a storm that is picking up strength as it moves rapidly into our viewing area, with the potential to topple trees, take down power lines, and do severe damage to homes.”
CALLER: “Well, apparently you are not the least bit concerned that Belle and Shawn are in serious danger!”
ME: “Are you talking about your family members?”
CALLER: “No, you moron, I’m talking about ‘Days of Our Lives!’ If you’re going to keep interrupting my show, we had better get a bad storm out of this!”
Yes, we get complaints if the feared storm fizzles out, or takes a slight turn, sparing most of our viewers from major losses. By golly, they have been told to prepare for the worst, and when their home remains intact, they actually seem disappointed. Never mind that their neighbors twenty miles to the west are removing a tree from their kitchen.
One can only imagine the complaints if our weather forecasters sat back and said, “Well, this storm will probably only affect a few hundred of our viewers. So let’s just relax in the break room until it blows through.” At least those complaints would be valid ones.
Besides, I have tried to explain to some complainers that Belle and Shawn have been in serious danger for about six months, because the plot lines on soap operas advance like a caterpillar in quicksand.
I know I am not alone. Anyone who works in retail deals with complainers every day, and “the customer is always right.”
Pity the poor highway department. If there are daily delays and traffic jams, social media and talk radio are jammed with people who wonder why our roads and bridges are narrow and outdated. Then as soon as construction workers begin a widening and repair project, the complaints grow louder because of more delays and traffic jams.
I often wonder how many thank-you messages, cards and letters pour in to that same highway department when the job is complete, and traffic is flowing better than ever. I think we know the answer to that one.
The complainers have moved on to something else. And whatever you do, don’t ask them, “By the way, how are you feeling?”
(David Carroll is a Chattanooga TV news anchor and radio host. You may follow him at ChattanoogaRadioTV.com, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405)