Last summer, we had some construction projects going on around campus. I decided to have lunch with the crew—it’s fun to fraternize with folks from whom one can get a straight answer without having to form a committee.
The first day I joined them, a fellow named Gus unwrapped a sandwich and said, “Oh, no, not again! Sardines and mustard.” He shook his head, his expression leaving no doubt about his displeasure and disquietude. “Oh, how I loathe sardine and mustard sandwiches!”
He asked if anyone wanted to trade. No one did. Gus didn’t even rewrap the sandwich; he balled it up, slam-dunked it into his lunchbox, and flipped the lid.
I felt kind of sorry for ol’ Gus.
Next day, the same thing happened. “Sardines and mustard: Is there a sorrier sandwich anywhere on Earth? I can’t eat that $#!+!” Slam! Splat! Seethe!
This went on for three days. You know how a chronic complainer can start to get on your nerves and wear you out after a while. Finally, on the fourth day, one of the other guys said, “Gus, for cryin out loud, if you hate sardine and mustard sandwiches that much, why don’t you just ask your wife to stop makin ‘em?”
Gus’s eyes widened; he sat up straight and said, “Wife? I’m not married. I make my own sandwiches!”
Now, if you and I are feeling a bit smug and uncharitable, we might be tempted to cast aspersions, expressing doubt about the man’s mental wellbeing. But, before we do, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves if we might not be guilty of the same thing as Gus. I don’t mean the sandwiches. Let’s dive a little deeper: What was Gus doing?
He was complaining bitterly about something over which he had complete control.
Of course, you and I would never do that. . . .
(This is not an original story, just my version of it. I do not remember where I first heard/read it. th)