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.

4 comments:

Christine Vieregg said...

So, here I am, in my Not First World country in the Balkans, and I say... fuck those whiners. Can pretty much promise you they don't know shit about shit and probably don't even own a passport. Getting woken before your alarm, in those grey wee morning hours when sleep is deep and restorative, is an "every fucking place in the world problem." Here it's typically roaming packs of dogs, because people don't spay them and they breed like Catholic rabbits, and rumble from about 3 am to just about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off. This morning I thought I was being roused by some drunk with a megaphone, then I snapped into enough consciousness to realize it was the pre-dawn call to prayer from a distant mosque. And when I say snapped into consciousness, it was because the nearby mosque with a loudspeaker about 20 yards from my apartment then began their predawn crooning, and I remembered where I was. Oh yeh. And there's no group that I can take these issues to, because no one gives a rat's ass about the dogs and I'm not about to grouch about something that I actually find really beautiful (the call to prayer). But man, if there was a way to get those dogs spayed and off the streets, I'd join whatever forum I could.

What these fuckers on your forum don't understand is community. In community, you work and act together for the betterment of your little society. You all talk about the issue, want to get it changed, work toward change, and then...NOT magically, change happens. That's a wonderful thing. When someone then gets on and tells you to get over it, they are acting against the ability of humanity to collectively and productively GET SHIT DONE.

So the actual First World Problems in this situation are THEM. On my behalf, tell them that someone in Albania thinks they are truly useless sacks of drivel, and to please not pollute the rest of the world with their First World self righteous "do actually nothing" attitudes.

Roland said...

Well I was a little disappointed to read the asterisk'd (or is that, be-asterisk'd or perhaps en-asterisk'd? -- anyway I adhere to the Shakespearean 'd regardless) note about the names having been changed. Because did you ever notice how everyone named Mandy* is an insipid twat? It's weird. I presume that's why you chose that name.

*Be-asterisk'd note: Except Mandy Patinkin -- he's an actor, which as you know, includes a certain amount of inherent insipididity, but not twatliness, necessarily.

The thing is if you're trying to be derisive, Mandy (the reader may feel free to mentally substitute "you twat" henceforth herein), isn't the "First World problems" snipe canonically supposed to be about problems that are LESS severe than those typically suffered in the Third World? Problems the Third World would be glad to have, as it were? It offers a sense of perspective per se, like wow, yeah I really am a spoiled-rotten lout for complaining about this when in fact what I should do at 4am is get up and console myself by counting all my MILLIONS, MHWAAA HA HA HA HA AA! YES YESS, SWEET MONEYYYY!!!! I'M SO BLOODY RICH!!! I OWN APARTMENT BUILDINGS AND SHOPPING CENTAAAHHS!!!!

Ah yes Mandy, I read you loud and clear, but what happens when they're problems with which Third World people are completely unencumbered? Problems whose absence they enjoy as a luxury that we can only dream of? Well I'll tell you what happens, Mandy: Your analogy FAILs, and you become literally correct. i.e. People in most of the Third World do not have to be woken up by trash trucks. Because for starters, they generally do not generate the obscene amounts of waste that make it necessary to use a gigantic, loud-ass contraption powered by all the might of fossil fuels, to cart it away. And what waste they do generate, Mandy, esp. in rural areas, is mostly organic and can be composted right there on-site. Which is easy to do when you're used to working, in shape, not obese, and don't have the internet. Mandy.

Roland said...

as if I even needed to include this

It's for the wife, mostly. Hi honey!

Roland said...

Can't stop. So many layers to this. It's like an onion. And it's like the Onion. I kept peeling back layers just now whilst doing chores. Here now, extrapolated as well as possible from the "three words" needlessly expanded to nine (if you count "ummm") is...

The Mandy Worldview

1. There are two kinds of people in the world: Assholes who listen to their neighbors' problems with care and concern, and awesome people who provide the service of correcting their obvious lack of gratitude.

2. It is inappropriate to have First World Problems while living in the First World. But if forced to have a First World Problem, one should bear it in silence like how I learned to deal with my problems alone, without the help of my narcissistic parents back in Ohio or wherever I moved from a couple minutes ago.

3. It is important, for purposes of fitting shallowly into an online environment which constitutes the only community I understand or in which I'm capable of participating, to speak entirely in cliché, such as:
- the "two kinds of people" thing in point 1 above
- pre-enumerating how many words are to follow ("I've got __ words for you" etc.)
- well-known vacuous catch-phrases ("First World Problems")
- Punctuating. Every. Word. Like. An Insipid. Twat.