May 27, 2007

There are times in life when good things happen unexpectedly. Recently I experienced one of those times. I arrived at the Virgin check-in and was told that my ticket had not been processed properly, so I was directed to the ticketing desk.

This is the third time in a row this has happened, and usually I complain. But this time I was silent. I couldn't bear having to explain yet again what the problem was. Also, I was preoccupied because I thought I'd left my wallet in the taxi. And I had a sore throat. 'Thank you for being so patient,' the ticketing woman said. Then she whispered: 'I've upgraded you to upper class on your return.'

I was stunned. By accident she had mistaken my silence as civility. From the moment I found out I'd be flying back in upper class, I couldn't wait for the trip to be over so I could return.

I called Joanna with the good news. 'I'm flying upper class!' I said. 'That's great,' she said, 'congratulations.' She was so happy for me. Then it hit me: it was so exciting, it was depressing. It could ruin my life, because I fly all the time. And this one-off experience would make going back to economy so much more difficult. Then again, it was a bittersweet luxury I could live with.

It got me thinking about how my life would be if I never complained. There are so many perks I'm missing out on. For instance, in a relationship. What's the reward for staying silent and being patient' Not breaking up.

Every time I meet the new girlfriend of ex-boyfriends, they are nothing like me. They don't seem difficult at all. I've always assumed it meant they weren't as interesting, but maybe they're interesting in a different way ' a less confrontational way.

The ex who I'm now friends with introduced me to his girlfriend recently. As soon as I met her I could see why he's with her: she was exceptionally sweet and agreeable. Whenever he's spoken about why it works so well with her, it comes down to one thing: she doesn't ask questions.

No wonder I'll die alone. All I do is ask questions. And it's the root of all turmoil. Especially questions that provoke an internal search. 'What are you thinking?' and 'What are you feeling?' Bad idea.

Especially after sex. Or when the TV is on. Or if the sun is out. Or if he's breathing oxygen. Questions that attempt to get information in general are never welcome. 'Where were you?' Doom. 'Who were you talking to?' Armageddon. The problem with these questions is, after time and perseverance, they invariably lead to an answer, which leads to a complaint.

And not answering is a mistake. It solves nothing. Or worse: an answer along the lines of 'You don't want to know.' Telling someone like me that I don't want to know is the verbal equivalent of sleeping with my best friend when I'm nine months pregnant.

All of which leads back to my upgrade. Because not asking questions was key. A complaint is never in isolation. It's engulfed by wanting to know more and what can be done to fix it. And there lies the biggest question of all: would I be happier if I never complained? Probably not. If I had upgrades every day, then it wouldn't be special.