A month ago, someone I hadn't seen in a
decade, since his marriage ceremony, passed through Bangkok
with his wife.
Let's call him Jimbo. I was quite close with Jimbo's older brother while
growing up but life had since taken us in very different
directions, and I no longer keep in touch. Jimbo contacted me a month before his arrival and
commented it would be nice to catch up with me and my family
when he came to town. I invited him and his wife to stay in our extra
bedroom and offered to go over his itinerary if he so
desired once he had some clues. The exchange lasted all of about 5 minutes on a
I told my wife that very day about his
visit, and she immediately got on the internet to start
researching possible accommodation and itinerary options for
him. I had
to forcibly get her to stop. "Unless he asks for something, I don't want you
wasting a second on this." I'd been 'burned' before, pro-actively spending time
to make someone's situation a little easier when the
recipient could have cared less. My wife works in the tourism industry and is the sort
to become obsessive about travel research.
Ten days before Jimbo's arrival, she
planned to clean and organize our third bedroom for his
mind that I hadn't heard from Jimbo again since the initial
contact. I stopped her again. "Jimbo won't stay with us despite the invitation." She hounded me to get back in touch with him.
"Tell him I can book him at our five-star hotel in
Bangkok for 30% off. Mention I can get him an outstanding suite at our
luxury spa in Hua Hin." I told her to forget it. Jimbo knew she worked for a luxury hotel brand and
had been free to avail himself of the advantages contacts
Short of a week before his landing, he
sent me an e-mail. He and his wife had booked a room by the riverside,
and his entire itinerary was planned and sealed. I'd saved my wife literally hours of wasted and
Jimbo's visit, in multiple ways,
illustrates the fascinating concept of glustration. Glustration is a word I had to invent because there
is no word in English that I am aware of to describe the
concurrent feelings of gladness and frustration.
When Jimbo announced his visit, I felt
I had to, out of obligation, invite him and his wife to stay
Generally, I don't like having houseguests any more than I
enjoy being one.
Benjamin Franklin is noted as saying that "Guests, like
fish, begin to smell after three days." I suppose this quotation was never translated into
Korean because our past Korean houseguests have no problem
whatsoever bringing their entire families and staying in our
third bedroom for over a week.
I can get past certain
houseguests staying longer periods of time, people I'm very
close with and know quite well. My immediate family. Specific friends from my past. But Jimbo?
I think I have heard from dead people more often than I ever have from Jimbo.
So when Jimbo made it clear at the
ninth hour that he was staying elsewhere, I was glad.
I wouldn't have to go
out of my way to entertain him. My wife wouldn't have to do an exhaustive mopping and
wouldn't have to plan what to feed him.
But at the same time I was frustrated. What the hell? Jimbo hasn't seen me in ten years. He's flying halfway around the world, and he doesn't
want to go out of his way for us????
The glustration was just beginning.
In Jimbo's e-mail informing us of his riverside stay,
he mentioned that he'd heard my wife prepared delicious
pressure there though. We can go out to dinner if you'd like." It's always difficult to get my wife to prepare
ornate Korean feasts, so I exploited Jimbo's hint to my full
spent the weekend before his arrival preparing close to a
dozen different succulent dishes. Mainstream Korean dishes like marinated beef and
potato starch noodles, but also dishes Jimbo was sure to
have never tried, comprised of exotic Korean mountain
vegetables you'll have to work hard to see outside of Korea.
I didn't expect Jimbo or his wife to
devour the strange-looking Korean side dishes he couldn't
pronounce, but the beef and the noodles? Despite Jimbo and his wife praising the food, they
barely touched it! What
a great reason to get glustrated. I mean I was extremely glad my wife had gone to the trouble
to prepare all these yummy delicacies. She wouldn't have done this much without guests from
afar showing up at our door. And it wasn't like any of this food was going to wind
up in the bin.
We would happily consume it (and did!) for the next two
days. Yet I was
frustrated Jimbo and his significant other hadn't been
similarly entranced with this first-class gourmet feast. Maybe they just have so little experience with Korean
they really appreciated the meal or classify it in their
minds as an avant garde culinary encounter gone wrong? I'll never know for sure.
This is what the state of glustration
feels like. You
personally wind up better off, but you're still miffed all
One of my earliest experiences with
glustration dates way back to the seventh grade. I had designed an extensive science fair project
testing the influences of different types of music on
plants. It was a detailed study put together over several months. My science teacher, who was also my homeroom teacher
and could have offered courses on how to become a certified
idiot, gave me an A+, the highest grade possible, but I knew
he barely looked it over. He was impressed by how well a twelve year old had
organized the data and the exhibits. I was better off to be sure, but pissed. I felt I
hadn't rightfully earned the A+.
Glustration must be what intelligent,
deep-thinking beauty queens feel like all the time. They've got hot bodies and amazing looks. They get to skip the queues in night clubs and are
offered free drinks. The attention is all on them all the time. They have to appreciate they're better off than if
they looked like the average midwestern Wal Mart associate.
But if they're really intelligent and deep-thinking,
then they know everyone's being nice to them for just one
reason, which has got to frustrate them quite a bit.
Glustration must be how TV or movie
stars past their prime feel like when they attend
conventions dedicated to the TV or movie franchises which
made them famous. Here
they are, getting paid for historical glories. The fresh money streaming into their pockets for
something done long ago surely must make them better off. But it must also stick in their craw that they're not
basking in the same limelight and raking in the same amount
of dough as they were back in their hey days.
If I got rolling with my glustration
stories, this entry would have to be written like a serial. In 2001,
a not very close friend, Gary, his then wife, and another
couple, planned an overland South American odyssey in a
camper mobile they were driving down from Alaska. I'd met Gary in South Africa in 1997, and we shared a
love of travel, so I wasn't reticent in asking him copious
details about their trip. A month later, checking up on their blog updates, I
found out the team had driven right down the California
coast and were presently in Mexico. Did Gary look me up as he passed through Los Angeles? Nope. Did
I really care?
Nope. But come
it have hurt to look up an old acquaintance when you were
right in the neighborhood? This was before the Facebook era of online bonding
and sharing acceptably replacing the real thing.
When Jimbo was in Bangkok staying at
the luxury riverside hotel, my wife encouraged me to go down
and have breakfast with him to solidify the contact. My wife is so sweet, she didn't realize that Jimbo
seeing us for a few hours was just him checking off an item
on a list, no
different than marking off tourist attractions like taking a
cruise down the Chaopraya River or seeing the Grand Palace. Once the item's marked off, you don't dwell on it.
Jimbo passed through Bangkok again on
his way out of Thailand and spent a half day here. I only discovered this because Jimbo updates his
Facebook profile on the hour. According to Jimbo's initial description of his
itinerary, he was to fly back to Bangkok on a domestic
flight from a tropical Thai isle and then transfer to his
international flight home. He just failed to mention there was a twelve hour
window between these two flights.
Jimbo could have easily had dinner with
us again. Am I
immensely pissed off about any of this? I could only be pissed off if I cared and felt
slighted and, therefore, worse off. It's just glustration again. We had no reason to be priorities to Jimbo and his
wife on their visit, so why was it necessary for them to
make a big chunk of time for us when they're not our
We'd both be worse off for it. So they never bothered, but I was left slightly
peeved for not being deserving of just a little more
attention from them. Utterly insane, isn't it?
Back when I still lived in the United
States, there were weddings, bar mitzvahs, and receptions I
had no way to extricate myself from. I would have loved to have had excuses to miss most
of these -- like living halfway across the world, for
that I actually live halfway across the world, when I fail
to get an invitation to one of these events I'm ecstatic to
avoid, I get glustrated I didn't even warrant being asked!
I don't think of glustration as a
negative state of mind by any means. Would I have been so lucky to experience this much
glustration during the first half of my life. It would have made me a
much happier person. In the early 2000's, I remember Jimbo's mother giving
me the phone number of a single girl who'd just moved to Los
Angeles whose name I now happily cannot recall. Jimbo's mom knew this girl's mother, and the two of
them must have theorized that we were both young and single
and might benefit from getting paired up.
I felt obligated to make the call
because of the Jimbo mom connection so one day, bored out of
my skull, I rang her. The conversation didn't go badly. Picture it as the kind of conversation you'd have at
a cocktail party to kill some time: you're not bored while you're having it, but wouldn't
put in any effort to extend it. Jimbo's mom wanted me to meet this girl in the flesh,
so I called again. This second conversation went slightly worse, as you
might imagine a banal cocktail party type of conversation to
go if you had to conduct it twice. I said I was going to be in her area in the next two
days. Could we
meet in person?
She wasn't available that day. And so these pointless conversations continued until
they eventually and thankfully petered off. Wouldn't it have been much better all around if she'd
just blown me off on the third call and left me glustrated?
The world would be a much better place
if we could all be glustrated a lot more often. If I'd gotten married back in the United States, half
my wedding list would have been padded with "must invites,"
most of them people I could personally care less if I ever
saw again. I am
absolutely certain you've been in the identical situation. Wouldn't life be all the sweeter and cheaper if we
didn't feel obligated to have to invite that category,
leaving them better off for not having to come, even if they
got a tad upset they were excluded in light of their
must-invite status? Can you imagine only getting invitations to functions
you actually wanted to attend, solicited for reunions with
old connections you actually wanted to see, and being able
to spend your time in the company of people you really want
to spend time with?
It's an ennobling thought, but, like
cutting government sinecures' elaborate benefits and
salaries for doing nothing, just makes too much sense to
ever be feasible. You can be glad, you can be frustrated, but not both at the same time.