Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The First World Problem Club



The day I joined the neighborhood bulletin board/forum/listserv, NextDoor.com at the suggestion of a fellow Clinton-Division resident, I posted to my first thread.  Garbage pick-up early in the morning caused Suzanne in Creston-Kenilworth distress.  Amen, sister! 

Ever since the food cart pod opened across the street, early morning garbage pick-up with the trucks beeping reverse into the lot then the loud thump and clang of the dumpster mixed with the tinkling crash of broken glass falling into the back of the recycling truck, has become a fact of life.  Sometimes I wake at 4:00 a.m. wondering if I’ll be able to get back to sleep before my alarm sounds at 5:00.  Other times it’s 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday and the propane delivery truck is pumping gas into one of the carts on our street.  Nothing sends me from 0 to super pissed like interrupting my sleep.  (Ask my daughter who has witnessed some of my lowest moments in parenting when she woke me in the middle of the night.)  Admittedly I have gotten used to the noise.  It still wakes me but I don’t lay in bed stewing about the goddamn motherfucking food cart pod like I once did.  I rouse, think “fuck the gas man” then fall back into my recurring nightmare that we sold our house and are desperately searching for housing in the impossible Portland rental market.  After limited success with getting the loud live music quashed at the pod, I had all but given up on ending the early morning-middle-of-the-night noise.  Until Suzanne in Creston-Kenilworth flicked her sweet lighter beacon of complaint and I found my people. 

I am not alone spitting complaints into the dark while my husband asks sleepily, “Are you going to do something about it?”

Today my answer is a definite maybe.  A short and to-the-point email to the food cart pod powers-that-be squats in my drafts folder.  Not the run-on half-quoting of city regulations that is my norm, but a simple request that the food cart landlord ask the garbage haulers to hue more closely to the residential pick-up hours.

With each notification of another comment to the thread, I felt fortified, understood, heard. 

Then this post landed in my inbox.  Mandy* from Brooklyn writes, “Ummm three words for this issue: First.  World.  Problems.”

Well, aren’t you above it all, Mandy. 

If you think about it, NextDoor.com should be subtitled A Place to Discuss First World Problems.  Even though this is not my first trip around the internets, I felt a little stung.  Hurt even.  Pissed definitely.  I can understand how a person could think that.  I read other threads on the site that didn’t exactly jibe with my point of view, but instead of typing words onto a screen and clicking “Post” I opted to different-strokes-for-different-folks it and move along with my life. 

Then Thomas* from Foster-Powell chimed in: “Wow, can’t believe this is actually an issue for people.”

Now, Thomas, do you sit before your glowing screen in disbelief because you can’t understand how the trash haulers would be so insensitive as to not understand that the loud thump of dumpsters crashing to the ground in the wee hours of the morning would wake sleeping residents?  Or are you a card-carrying member of the First World Problems Club? 

People continued to post, to commiserate, to ignore Mandy and Thomas.  But Thomas just couldn’t let it go: “It’s all just a part of living in a city.  Cities are loud.  Deal with it.” 

As Abraham Lincoln once wrote (if brainyquote.com is to be believed): Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.  That goes for you, Thomas. 

Grayed out below the posts are the “like” equivalent of NextDoor.com.  The thank.  Heather thanked Thomas.  Thomas thanked Cindy.  I imagined the three of them, the First World Problems Club, rolling their eyes at their silly neighbors and their frivolous complaints. 

“Get a load of Susan in Creston-Kenilworth.  Her Christmas lights won’t light and she’s asking for help.”

“First world problem!” They blurt in unison.

“What about Rich in Hawthorne complaining about fireworks.  Sheesh.”

“Doesn’t he know that we live in a city!  Fireworks can erupt at any time.  Even midnight in the middle of December.” Thomas snorts.

“First world problem!” 

My stewing about the many inconveniences the food cart pod has brought into my life was temporarily replaced with stewing about people complaint-policing the neighborhood website.  Can’t we all just get along on the internet?  Accept that we all have different brands of itches that need scratching and when someone else’s itch is different from ours, go along our merry way without trying to shame them. 

My policy on internet commenting is threefold:
1.              Never read the comments.
2.              If you read the comments and feel possessed to respond angrily, type away.  Let the hate flow through you and explode in a hundred angry characters on the screen.
3.              Delete that which you typed and see number 1.

I got very first world in dealing with my feelings about the First World Problems Club.  I posted about it on Facebook.  I felt relieved when a few people “liked” my post.  A friend who has lived all over the world and was a member of the Peace Corps noted that “self-righteousness is the worst first world problem there is.”  Amen, Christy!

As Elsa forever urges, I have let it go.  But not without typing up my angry response to the First World Problem Club:

To those who do not see the problem with early morning noise interrupting residents’ sleep: I invite you to use your first-world technologies to remove yourself from this thread and then use the extra time you would otherwise spend shaming your neighbors for perceiving a problem where you see none to bask in the glory of your self-righteousness. 

And then I hit delete.


* Names have been changed to protect the mostly innocent.