March 18, 2019

What’s All the Complaining About?

A waiter comes over to a table where old Jewish women are seated and says, “Excuse me, ladies. Is anything all right?”

Jews have a history of complaining. They complained to Moses about not having bread, meat or water.

But complaining isn’t always a bad thing. If we complain to our politicians, that’s sometimes a good thing. Complaining to your neighbors about late-night noise or a dog barking nonstop is also OK. If you knock on your neighbor’s door ready to kill them because they don’t mow their lawn, that’s not OK. If you’re calm and explain the situation, then most people will understand.

These days, people complain about things that aren’t important. The chimney sweep scene in “Mary Poppins” is racist. Plastic straws are an environmental hazard. And, of course, airplanes are ruining the world. As my mother used to say: “People have too much time on their hands” or “They have nothing better to do than complain.”

Because the United States is a great country and basics such as food, water and shelter are taken care of, we tend to look for things to complain about. You’ll never hear someone in the Sudan grumble about something green growing out of an onion. I come from a long line of complainers. There was constant complaining about family members, food and, of course, the weather. One of my uncles said about the day someone died: “He picked the worst day to drop dead. He couldn’t wait till Tuesday?”

There’s an old saying, “Be careful what you pray for because you might get it.” Jews pray for rain, but then when it rains they complain. “Every time I go on vacation, it never fails to rain.” “Of course it’s raining, I just washed the car.” 

People worry and get others worried. “Driving home from work, I couldn’t see a thing. It’s amazing I wasn’t killed” or “I’m not going to venture out in this.” They even try to persuade others not to go out. “Stay home today. What’s so important that you have to go out in this kind of weather?”

“I had an aunt who spent most of her life trying to figure out where the draft was coming from.”

People tell you the obvious: “If you go out, I guarantee you’ll get soaked.” They bring illness into it: “Are you looking to get pneumonia?” When it rains hard, they make it sound as if they were an assassin’s target: “Oh my gosh, I didn’t think I’d make it from the car to the house.” And, of course, they drag God into it: “A few more days of this and we’ll have to build an ark.”

Then, of course, when it doesn’t rain they get upset: “I wish it would rain so I could shut off the sprinklers.” Then, after only one day of rain: “Enough already. When’s it going to stop?” Heat also drives Jews crazy: “It better cool off soon. My AC bill is a fortune.” And then they talk as if they’ve spent time in hell: “Have you been outside? It’s hotter than hell out there.” They throw in cooking references: “You could fry an egg on the sidewalk.” They bring nonkosher animals into it: “I was sweating like a pig.”

Wind also makes Jews crazy: “I’m afraid a tree is going to come down on the house” or “If we lose power, everything in the refrigerator is going to spoil.” Even going to the beach becomes nonstop terror for Jewish people: “Put on a lot of sunscreen, otherwise, 50 years from now, you’ll regret it.” And let’s not forget sand: “This time, try not bringing half the beach home with you” or “Thanks to you kicking the sand around, I have an extra crunchy tuna sandwich.”

You get the point. It’s endless what a person can complain and worry about. I had an aunt who spent most of her life trying to figure out where the draft was coming from. She’d walk around with her hands up, testing the air.

Complaining, worrying and living in fear may not ruin your life but it certainly will make your life less pleasant. I work very hard at trying not to complain about people, places and things. It’s not easy but I am improving — except, of course, when it comes to complaining about my wife. 

After all, I must have some fun.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.