Is It Just Me – Gripes of Wrath

“What is wrong with this dealer? Everyone else gets good cards except for me. I’m going to have to take out a second mortgage on my house.”

“What is wrong with my parents? They won’t buy me Air Jordan basketball shoes. All my friends are getting cool runners except for me. I’m going to have to wear extra-long jeans to hide my embarrassing footwear.”

The difference between these complaints is that the latter was spoken by a fifteen year-old boy and the former was spoken by a woman I encountered at a Blackjack table who is well past forty, yet behaved like a petulant eight year-old.

Recently, I took a casino vacation. I am one of a billion idiots who enjoy the mindless entertainment of money-chewing machines that release aural fireworks every time you win twenty-five cents. I also relish the rush of splitting eights during an intense game of Blackjack, the quick decision-making, the quiet drama of losing – okay, sometimes, not so quiet.

I am a gracious gambler, regularly thanking the dealer for good cards, wishing my co-players luck whenever one of them is dealt an ace and enjoying gentle, humorous banter with anyone at the table who might be feeling sociable. But, on this trip to the casino it hit me: we are besieged by a generation of adult whiners.

There are whole book shelf displays devoted to how parents can teach their children to quit whining. There is “Super Nanny” and a host of other television shows that focus on eradicating this behaviour, deemed a national epidemic. Apparently, our progeny whine because they want to control us, because they are tired and hungry attention-seekers, because they are being raised by people who often give in to their requests just so they don’t have to listen to the constant, annoying thrum of, “I want a Play Station. Why can’t I have a Play Station? I cannot survive without a Play Station!”

But, how can adults morally criticize children’s whining when they regularly indulge in the exact same behaviour?

While observing the offenders in the casino, it occurred to me that there are two major causes of this unappealing adult conduct: lack of control and centre- of- the- universe syndrome (COTUS).

Some gamblers think that if they strategize at the tables or if they touch a lucky pendant to the front of a slot machine, they will win. Other than illegally counting cards, there is no sure-fire method for winning at the tables. And, you can slather your entire body in holy water and rub it all over the reels of a slot-machine for luck. You will make a spectacle of yourself, you may even get arrested, but the spiritual world will still not grant you a jackpot. Eventually, gamblers are confronted with the horrible truth that they don’t have control in a gaming house. So, they complain. “Come on! I’m playing by the book, but I keep losing. How is this even possible?”

Children also face a lack of control in their lives – every single day. In many cases, they are not allowed to choose what they eat, when they go to bed or how they may spend the time in between. They are told to wash, to eat their broccoli, to do their homework now, to get their shoes and coats on right this minute, to stop having fun and come home. But, they are admonished for whining.

During my trip, I noticed that too many gamblers take their losses personally. The forty years plus, well-maintained woman sitting next to me this one morning bemoaned her situation aloud without cease. “This dealer hasn’t given me one decent hand. He busts me every time. Everyone else gets good cards except for me.”

That’s right, Lady. This casino was originally built as an interest-free bank from which most players are allowed to take vast amounts of money. But it has expressly chosen you to be bled of every cent you possess. You are unique. You are special. You are so full of your own self it’s a wonder there’s even room for all of you on that stool.

After listening to this woman bleat for half an hour, I finally turned to her with a smile and stated my concern that she might be feeling persecuted.

The woman considered for a moment before responding. She’s turning a corner, I thought hopefully. She’s going to laugh and apologize and then we can all have some fun. COTUS Interruptus.

“That’s exactly the word”, she said to me, instead. “Persecuted. I drove up here early with my kids so we could check in and I could leave them in the room with a movie while I played. I’ve been sitting here for three hours losing hand after hand. I do feel persecuted.”

Kids in a room, alone. Three hours. Average video: ninety minutes. And SHE was whining.

Just then, our dealer put an ace next to her queen. “Look at that!” I said with as much enthusiasm I could muster when what I really wanted was to whack this woman upside her griping, selfish head. “You drew Blackjack! Maybe, your luck is changing.”

“No”, she sighed, pulling in her winning chips. “It was just a fluke. Anyway, I should go upstairs and check on my kids. I’m sure they’re in complaining mode by now. I hate their whining.”

As she laboriously rose from the table, the dealer and I exchanged intrepid smiles and I felt grateful, not for the first time in my life, that I am not alone. There are whiners in the world, but there also exists a peaceful cell of whine-nots. Maybe, our children do stand a chance.

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