Insisting On The Grievance

Not so long ago, I was traveling in Asia under the auspices of a certain organization. In one city I met two colleagues whose next destination turned out to be the same as my own. We shared a car to the airport, checked in with the airline and out with passport control, then walked together to our plane. A certain sheepishness became apparent at that point, culminating in their going up the first-class gangway while I went to my own place. Ten minutes passed, during which time I confess to some mental and probably sinful exultation (I knew my friends).

Sure enough, just before takeoff, an airline official came into the economy section, identified me, and passed a message from my senior colleague that said, in effect: “Friend, come up higher, and I will pay the difference when we arrive.” With old-fashioned courtesy I said to the messenger: “Please express my thanks to Mr. X, and tell him I’d rather have the grievance.” He did so with seemly gravity, I discovered later. I naturally saw no reason to add that I had three seats to myself and would journey more comfortably than they.

Now, however, the tables have been turned on me, and I am writing under the weight of what can only be described as The Grievance Unsought. It came, fittingly, in an airport lounge where I was awaiting a tardy flight. Pushing his way through the crowd was a friend who has developed to a high degree the art of communicating anxiety. This time he excelled himself. Spotting me, he said loudly in passing, without breaking step: “Hi, Eut, I pray for you every Tuesday.” (He didn’t call me that, of course, but oddly used my full name—a piece of gamesmanship that always somehow ...

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