A complaint may simply be a boast in disguise

Years ago, I was having dinner at Brasserie Jo with a friend, her husband, and her out-of-town colleague. The colleague, a professor from somewhere in the Midwest, asked me about our experience of the public schools in our town. I described the school system’s exceptional quality, and I paradoxically whined at length about the excessive homework, competition, and parental (over) involvement.

Listening to myself, I didn’t like what I was hearing. I broke off and said to him, “I’m so sorry. I have a lot to be happy about, and I’m only complaining.”

He replied, “You’re boasting. I hear you. That’s okay.”

His remark was illuminating to me, and I have thought about that often. Whenever I hear someone else complaining, or even myself, I wonder if it really is a boast in disguise. I wish I had the guts that he did, though, and could say to someone else what he, so cheerfully, said to me.

And now I have a complaint that’s really a boast. Read on.

For six months, our old Kenmore washing machine has been dying a slow death. Repaired many times over its 12 years of life, it finally started to rust out over the winter, and Jimmy and I propped up the crumpled base with wooden toy blocks. It kept going and washing until a couple of weeks ago, when water started to leak out the bottom, and we realized we could no longer put off the errand. So we went to the store and ordered a new washer and dryer.

The plumber came Friday morning to disconnect the two (we have a gas dryer, and a plumber is needed) before the arrival of the appliances, scheduled for Saturday. With the appliances pulled away from the basement wall, we could see that the drywall was damp and crumbling up about 24″ off the floor. It would have to be fixed before the plumber came back Monday morning to connect the new appliances. No time to call a handyman — we’d have to do it.

My handy brother-in-law Kenlie came by, demolished part of both the wall and the frame supporting it (sections of the sole plate were rotted too), and told us what to do.  That “us” became “me” — poor me, that’s my overt complaint — and I spent a few hours on Sunday repairing the wall when what I had really wanted to do was not much of anything.

Watch this slideshow, and you’ll see the process. I wish I had a “before” picture, but the moment the appliances were pulled away from the wall was so disgusting — dirty and wet plaster everywhere — that I didn’t think to photograph it. The show begins after I’ve put in the pieces to replace the rotted sole plate, which I painted red: paint to make them a bit moisture resistant and red because it’s what I had nearby.

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And what’s the underlying boast? This was my first experience with drywall and plaster, and it came out very nicely, neat and clean.

I’m wicked proud of myself. There, I said it.

Thanks to Grace and Jimmy Guterman for the photography.

6 thoughts on “A complaint may simply be a boast in disguise

  1. Whenever anyone would tell my father how busy they were complete with the requisite tone of complaint, he would always ask them if they were bragging or complaining…and we all knew the real answer. He has been hanging around my parts a lot lately, so I am guessing that he is still with you, too.
    As for the drywall…very impressive. Nothing I ever aspire to do, but I am impressed, nonetheless.

    • Mark was a man of wisdom, and cheer. I could see him asking someone if they were bragging or complaining, and that person minding not at all that he asked.

      I do think of him, Julie. Hopefully he’s the Mayor of Heaven by now.

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