Berger’s Burg: True confessions of a card-carrying kvetch

By Alex Berger

There is a long-held, deep, dark family secret hidden within my psyche, lo' these many years, that I wanted to keep secret and carry to my grave. The only ones who know about my personal scourge are Gloria, my two sons, four grandchildren and Scorpio, my cat. All my in-laws, friends and readers were never told. But middle-age has been creeping up on me and I think it is time to get this monkey off my back, my chest and my psyche. And so, at this moment of truth, forthwith, therefore and pro bono, I will hereby reveal my sworn-to-secrecy secret to you, my readers, whom I consider family. Hold your collective breaths while you read my following admission: I have been, and still am, in the strictest sense of the word, a kvetch. Yes, readers, a kvetch. Let me count the ways.I kvetch about globalization. At first, outsourcing seemed a good idea to me, but it is carrying me off the edge. I find myself consuming increased quantities of antidepressants correlating to the growth of corporate call centers around the world. Last week, I called to have my Internet connection checked. I was put me on hold while I was being connected to a Patrick Sanji in Bombay, India. He anglicized his first name so I would think he was an American. With that accent, he didn't fool me one bit.At my bank, I was standing in front of the counter with four employees behind it. One sign read “Sylvia Plotkin,” the others, “Next Window.”Another time, I called to check on a credit-card purchase and I was connected to a representative whose first name was Tiffany (I couldn't pronounce her last name, let alone spell it), in Manila, the Philippines. “I can't understand you” made up the bulk of our conversation. It is not that I don't like people in foreign countries or that their accents aren't charming. The problem is that “customer service” is supposed to mean that the person on the other end of the line is user-friendly, not frustrating.I wanted to join an organization that fights inflation, but they raised the dues. Who are these strange people I now speak to? Within my breast, I feel that Sanji and what's-her-name – good guys though they may be – don't understand me and I don't understand them. There is no meeting of our tongues.My little black book doesn't have a name that doesn't end with “M.D.”Listen, corporate America, I want my customer service back. I want it stateside, I want it homegrown and I want it with an American accent. Hire Americans, with American names such as Barack, Santiago, Chan and Mohammad, who speak American! I can't kvetch too well with foreigners.Airplane schedules are very useful. How else would I know how late I am going to be?Readers, I apologize for being a kvetch. I can't help it. When I am at a restaurant, I will kvetch about the service and send my entire meal back; when I am at the theater, I will kvetch about my seat not being close enough, or too close; and when I visit your home, I will kvetch about mutual friends and you will need a Prozac the minute I leave.It's not so easy to get parking tickets these days. First, I have to find a place to park.But did you know you have a lot in common with me? You may not realize this, but you have a tendency to kvetch also, if only about yourself. A woman kept a week's diary of her kvetching and was surprised to see how frequently it occurred. This motivated her to stop. You also may be unaware of how often you voice a negative viewpoint and how you spread gloom around you. A diary can highlight it all.I went on a celery diet once. It has 5 calories and I had to burn up 25 just chewing it. Kvetching, an expression of frustration, leads to a pessimistic view of the world that ultimately damages you and all those whose lives you touch. It makes a problem worse and most likely won't change a thing.It was so cold this morning, I put on my coat to take out the garbage, and it didn't want to go.I don't want to be someone whom no one wants to be around. I don't want to be someone whom I don't want to be around. So I will immediately start a diary to keep me on track. But, guess what? Gloria nixed the idea. “Don't change,” she said. “Yes, you are a kvetch, but a lovable one.”

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