In the past two days, two people have used told me that “It’s not the worst thing” in an attempt to mitigate my level of annoyance.
On Sunday, I was asked to remove my hat from a restaurant in New York City. This is a request that never sits well with me, and for good reason. When I protested, declaring that the restaurant was “dead to me,” I was reminded that being asked to remove my hat is not the worst thing in the world.
Yesterday a colleague told me that keeping me waiting nearly 20 minutes for a meeting “isn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened.”
Both times, the person was correct. These petty annoyances were not the worst things in the world.
However, I do not live my life with expectations as low as “the worst thing.” Nor should I be expected to do so.
Just imagine what an awful, terrible, no good life we would lead if the best we could ever expect was slightly better than the worst thing.
“It’s not the worst thing” is an attempt to mitigate concerns and complaints through comparison. It is an unacceptable platitude because there is always a worse thing, always a person suffering more, always a more difficult circumstance, but this does not mean we should walk through life in perpetual satisfaction because we are at least one notch better than someone else.
More importantly, people have a right to expect more.
This includes wearing a baseball cap at Sunday brunch and expecting punctuality in the workplace.