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Home / Egomania Case Studies  /
The Mixed State Of Glustration
glad and frustrated at the same time

You're not quite glad, you're not quite frustrated.  You're glustrated!


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 messenger app.

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 comfort.  Never 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 bring.  He hadn't.

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 thankless efforts.

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 with us. 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. Very 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 cleaning.  We 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 foods.  "No 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 advantage.  She 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 cuisine.  Did 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 the same.

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 on!   Would 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 priority either? 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 instance.  Now 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.

If you liked reading this, consider:
 The Fine Art Of Not Giving A Shit
 How 50-Year Old Magazines Can Still Keep (Foreign) Economies Going
 The Complete Article Index