On grumpiness and comfort

I spent a lot of the past week, being stranded in airports and such, in the company of very grumpy people. Not all of my fellow travellers, by an means–but even five or ten percent is noticeable when you’re in such a large group. People like the woman who was convinced her visit with her sister was ruined–ruined!–because it would be two days long instead of three. Or the boy who kept announcing just how many minutes late we were taking off. Or the man who insisted that all the airline employees were liars.

Now, I can get grumpy with the best of them. I can stress out too easily, snap at people without cause, fail to make the best of things when deep down I want to, blame others for things I can’t control. That wasn’t my response to this week’s travel delays, but it’s been my response to enough other things through the years.

But watching all the grumpiness around me–the unattractive, unhelpful, and highly irritating to those who are trying to cope in more functional ways grumpiness–has me thinking about ways to resolve to Not Be Like That. I don’t want to be one of the stressed out people, one of the people who thinks her case is worse than everyone else’s, who thinks she’s been actively mistreated when all that’s to blame is incompetence and overwork and circumstances beyond everyone’s control. I don’t want to be taken advantage of, but I also don’t want to be one of the people everyone backs away from because she’s making such a fuss.

I’ve always known being calm, and rolling with the punches, is a way to be effective. As one airline employee said to me as we were chatting, “The best thing you can do is be calm. We can do so much for you–but not if you make us hate you and not want you on the plane in the firs place.”

It seems, as my peers and I all move through our thirties and forties, there’s a tendency toward increased grumpiness in us all. Not grumpiness of the cane-stamping kind. But of the “my bed isn’t soft enough and this food you’re serving me is too weird and the seats are too hard and the air conditioning is too high and this shirt is too itchy” variety. A sort of increasing obssession with comfort and familiarity. Some of that has to do with the changing physical demands of one’s body, of course–but I think some of it is a sort of mental ossification, too.

I’d like to believe that–short of physical limitations–we don’t have to be the victims of a desire for comfort. That one can roll with the punches there, too. And I think I’m going to resolve to be on the watch to do so more often.

Because you know, I don’t want to be one of those little old ladies who’s frowning over her food and complaining of drafts and the danger of tripping. I want to be one of those little old ladies who’s telling cool stories and making you think she must have been formidable, in her day. And presumably attitude is at least part of getting there.

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