Andy Rooney has done his last bit of griping on 60 Minutes. A friend of mine suggested that his retirement creates a job opening for yours truly, the not-so-subtle implication being that I like to complain. I disagree. I don’t like to complain per se, but I don’t shy away from it. I merely speak my mind while others slavishly adhere to the old adage if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Some people take that a step further. I know a woman who doesn’t ask questions because she doesn’t want to risk saying something that might be considered rude or offensive. Since she never knows what that might be, she avoids questions altogether. Finding that out was a revelation. Until then, I assumed that she didn’t like me, because I take the opposite approach. I ask questions to express my interest. I do it to show that I care and want to know what you have to say, what you’ve been up to, and how the world is treating you. I also feel it earns me the right to tell you, in return, how I am, what I’ve been up to and how the world is treating me. I operate on the premise that if I ask you something you’re not comfortable discussing, you will politely decline to answer, or change the subject, either of which works for me.
In the interview 60 Minutes did with Andy Rooney on the occasion of his retirement I learned more about him than I wanted to know. I had always thought of him as a quirky, plainspoken guy, someone who could make being a curmudgeon charming. In real life it seems he was a little low on charm. You can watch the video if you’re interested; I mention it because there is a difference between speaking your mind, and being small-minded. I don’t think I would have liked him very much. And if I’d gotten to spend a few minutes with him, and I’d asked him a few questions, I’d have figured that out pretty quickly.
I will grant you that I am more inquisitive than most, but I’m never malevolently motivated. I’m just plain curious. Lots of people seem to equate curiosity with being rude. If I had a dime for every time I asked a question that someone else thought was inappropriate I’d be a wealthy woman. Ironically, the people I ask the questions of rarely seem discomfited. I have friends who wish they could be more like me, but having been raised to bottle things up inside, they can’t. Then there are the people who use me as their proxy to ask a question they can’t bring themselves to ask, but whose answer they are burning to know.
Do I sound like I’m complaining? I don’t mean to. I’m making an observation about the way people interact with each other socially. Sure it involves some carping, but I do hate it when… Hang on. Sorry about that. I’ll stop here. I don’t want to be the next Andy Rooney. I don’t want my legacy to be that I complained; I want it to be that I expressed interest. What do you think about that?