Well, sometimes you have to moan/When nothin’ seems to suit ya.
– Cat Stevens
My last post reminded me of a fun afternoon from college.
It was a gloomy early spring Saturday, on a weekend before an exam. I was in my dorm room puzzling over something, when I heard someone talking out in the hall. Actually, it was more like they were making a series of angry announcements. I looked out through the peephole.
My room was beside a room full of three freshman guys – they got feisty, but we were on generally good terms. It was one of them out in the hallway, sitting alone on the floor with a book. And now that I was closer I could hear – and see – that it was him speaking, making a series of complaints to the world at large. “I hate chemistry!” he crabbed. “I hate reading about carbon chains, I hate atomic weights, I hate memorizing different categories of elements, and I hate molecular fractions!”
Something made me want to join him. “You know what I hate?” I said, opening the door. He gave a guilty start, thinking I was about to complain. So I quickly went on – “what I hate, is trying to keep straight all the different political theories driving Soviet foreign policy when we are in the middle of Glasnost anyway so it doesn’t matter.”
“Okay, here’s another thing I hate.” he closed the book and turned to me. “I hate how there’s ten of us in this chemistry class but they only have nine Ehrlenmeyer flasks so we have to share, and that is somehow our problem when we can’t complete lab work.”
“Oh, that’s like my Modern Drama class – they actually ran out of copies of the Antonin Artaud book that’s only got all the most important readings for this part of the course.” I had come out to sit on the floor beside him at this point. “And my roommate’s boyfriend is in the class with me and said he’d loan it to me, but hasn’t finished yet, and the test is in three days. I hate that.”
“Oh God, roommates – that’s why I’m out here, my roommate is taking a nap after his own midterm. I hate roommates!”
“And I hate roommate’s boyfriends!”
“And roommate’s girlfriends! And – oh, how the cafeteria is too loud to read in during meals, but they won’t let you in the space in between when it’s quiet so you have to sit out here in the hall!”
“Oh, God – I hate how they say that they’ve got study lounges on the second floor, but there’s all those guys watching basketball and they’re making so much noise…”
We sat there on the floor for a full hour, excitedly telling each other about more things that were just bugging the snot out of us. We were near the elevators, so whenever the doors opened and someone stepped out we would turn to them with cheerful smiles. “Hi! We’re hating things! What do you hate?”
The idea of a concentrated hate-off like that is frowned upon in some circles. Detractors point to the Two Minutes’ Hate from 1984, saying that dwelling in that much negativity just whips people up in to a frenzy and makes things worse. But quite the opposite – my neighbor and I had been gritting our teeth and coping with a lot, and this was a way to give vent to it all. The more we talked, the more we laughed. And everything we were complaining about was all piddly little stuff – the tiny sand-in-the-sunscreen kind of stuff that you feel is too petty to complain about, but it really gets under your skin.
To be frank, I can’t actually remember what he was studying or what I was studying on that afternoon; but I absolutely remember that sometimes, once in a very great while, sitting around and hating things is just something you have to do.