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    The Psychology of a Complainer
    By Enrico Uva | March 14th 2013 08:00 AM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    At the age of nine I was still a year away from learning about smoking's link to emphysema, cancer or heart disease. In fact I was decades away from knowing there were 4000 compounds in secondhand smoke or of the existence of third hand smoke, residual combustion products clinging to dust and surfaces which either combine with oxygen or reenter the gas phase.

    Yet as much as I loved the smell of fresh tobacco, I hated the stench resulting from the combustion of cigarettes. Whenever it was my father's turn to host the weekend game of cards between neighbors, my Mom would play the role of the good hostess and serve coffee and baked goods. And although she resented that our house stank the following morning, she would never complain in front of the guests. She'd whine about it to me and my Dad after the fact, and quite forcefully at that, but would not dare upset the social fabric of the neighborhood.

    One night while I was in bed and they were playing in the downstairs kitchen---yes, we were one of those weird families with two fully functional kitchens---the smell was unbearable, and I remember thinking it was unfair that Mom could never say anything out loud. After tossing and turning, I leaped out of bed and stormed down. Cigarettes almost fell out of the men's mouths as I screamed about how there was something wrong with them for shamelessly stinking up a guest's home and preventing a little kid from falling asleep. 

    As I ranted, I remember feeling uncomfortable. These men were not just my father's friends but my friends' fathers, and they had always been nice to me. But something had snapped and let loose a force whose dual mission was to get rid of the smoke and to give my Mom a voice.

    I was scolded, naturally. My dad said he was embarrassed in front of the neighbors. No kid on the street had ever displayed such behavior...  

    "This is a beaker, and this is a test tube", said my grade six teacher, who from her flushed skin and unusual tone, was clearly uncomfortable discussing anything remotely connected to science. But after having already remained politely silent during the previous week's identification of glassware, I put up my hand and pleaded, "Can we move on to chemical reactions?". Naively, I had expected support from my peers who also felt the lesson was lame. But our teacher was the only one who spoke.
    "Well, we have to cover the basics first."
    The basics of glassware nomenclature was our last science lesson of the sixth grade. 

    A few months later, we went on a religious retreat at Cap de la Madeleine for our "reconfirmation". The premise was that we were now old enough to understand what had occurred four years earlier at our first communion and confirmation. After the service we all ate together, but then we were abruptly left to wander without adult company. As we left the cafeteria, we saw the clergy seated in a separate dining room, flirting with our young teachers. 

    While the man who I had confessed to was probably still chain-smoking and extending his other arm around the mile-long hair and smooth shoulders of Miss B. , most of my friends robbed the religious souvenir shop blind. I was trying to dissuade them while they stuffed their jackets with little statues, magnets and other paraphernalia, but my efforts were in vain. Hadn't we just accepted the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence and the Spirit of holy fear in God's presence? 

    The following Monday our teacher asked for feedback. I, in turn, asked why we had been left alone.

    "Henry, you're always complaining!", she snapped. "We figured that on the day of your reconfirmation, you'd be mature enough to be on your own."

    "Sure", I replied. "But you don't know what happened while we were without supervision." 

    You could have heard the murmur of distant traffic from the classroom. And naturally, although I had no intentions of revealing more details, she never investigated.

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    Is this really psychology or are you complaining again ?  :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
    Neither. It's really just a short story with a little science-vocabulary.  :) 
    Gerhard Adam
    I did get the sense that you don't like smoking.  Of course, I might just be reading too much into your post :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Cigars are what makes life worth living - in moderation, of course. And anyone who objects to a pipe should get back to Siberia and stay there.

    Cigarettes, I agree, can be nasty. I know smokers feel put upon but it would help if they didn't believe every outdoor public space was an ashtray for discarded cigarette butts.
    Gerhard Adam
    I agree, but it would also be helpful if instead of a place being inundated with "No Smoking" signs, they actually had signs that indicated where one could smoke.

    Hmmm .. I wonder which of the three of us is a non-smoker, a cigarette smoker, and a cigar smoker ...

    Oh well, we'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
    Cigars are what makes life worth living - in moderation, of course..
    A little hyperbole there from a cigar aficionado?  :) 

    And anyone who objects to a pipe should get back to Siberia and stay there.
    I absolutely love visiting pipe shops for the smells of various unlit tobacco.  
    rholley
    Cigarettes are a blight on the whole human race
    A man is a monkey with one in his face;
    Take warning dear friend, take warning dear brother
    A fire's on one end, a fools on the t'other.
    http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=1191

    These lyrics are the Tim Spencer version, probably the original or very close to it.

    Here’s a link to a YouTube (which cannot be embedded) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS1f81HeBys
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    MikeCrow
    I appreciate the glassware story, in High School, I decided I wanted to learn about physics, I like physics.
    So even though I had my 1 required science credit to graduate, I signed up for my physics class. 3 or 4 weeks in, after spending at least a week explaining the velocity slope of a swimmer in a pool, I had had enough, and based on the glazed look in the eyes of almost everyone in the room, complaining would have gotten me no where (and I vaguely recall discussing it with the teacher).
    I went to the guidance office and dropped the class, gladly taking the F, since it was after the drop out deadline.
    I miss not taking the course, but I would have shot someone had I stayed int he class.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    If you had understood more physics, you could have thrown your book and hit the teacher in the back of the head, thereby demonstrating a semi-elastic collision.  I'm sure that would've been informative. :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Funny that most boys by that age could get the same result without the need for the class.

    Now, to write the equation for doing that would require the class first.

    The F did nothing but affect my GPA, clubbing the teacher in the head with a book would have had a larger impact, both literally and figuratively.
    Never is a long time.
    UvaE
     The factory approach to education is not always in the students' best interest....When I first got into teaching we were operating out of a house converted into a school. Our students were aged between 17 and 22 and were former dropouts and delinquents. We had a great team of teachers and we really turned some potential criminals around into better citizens. But of course the government killed the program by obliging kids in that age group to attend the factory of adult education programs.....I'll be writing about that adventure some day.
    MikeCrow
    The "funny" part is no one in the class had to be there, these would have almost all been kids planning on going to college. As we went into the second week of class on a linear equation with a slope, I was looking for a window jump out of, but being the first floor, at most I would have twisted an ankle.

    But you're right, it's a wonder that there aren't more high IQ dropouts than there are.
    Never is a long time.
    vongehr
    Hadn't we just accepted the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence and the Spirit of holy fear in God's presence?
    Yes, and they all understood, except for stupid Henry again, that dummy.  Who the hell is Henry anyway.  You are Enrico, right?
    UvaE
    My favorite teacher also had the great habit of anglicizing beautiful Italian names.