April 23, 2012 |

First World Problems

I opened the freezer this morning and a frozen ham steak fell out onto my big toe. It crossed my mind that I should probably go back to bed and skip what I knew would be a bad day.

A “bad day” is all relative, of course. What I actually had was a First World problem. Anyone in Ethiopia who read my column would think a ham steak falling out of anything was an absolute miracle. They would ignore their throbbing toe and busily cook four meals out of that piece of meat.

Unfortunately, if the poor guy was a Muslim, he’d have to pick it up the miracle with a stick and heave it into the desert for more desperate and less devout creatures to feast upon.

My First World Problems continued when I had to buy gas so that I could get to the grocery store. After arriving, I found that the kind of bread I liked was out of stock, the bananas were all green, and the only cans of albacore tuna they had were dented. Dented cans might have salmonella. I didn’t buy any.

I went to pay and the credit card machine was not working. They could only accept cash at that time, but the ATM in the lobby still worked. Sigh…

For Pete’s sake, I thought, am I in a Third World country or something?!

“Um, no,” my saner self answered. “In fact, if you were, you’d be out in 110-degree heat with a stick, hunting for a scorpion for dinner. If you happened to hear of a can of tuna (dented or not) that was within a 100-mile radius, you would gladly walk, or better, run, to try to snag it before it sprouted wings and flew away. If there were a high risk of salmonella, you’d take that risk and pay that price if necessary.

Oh… yeah. I only had First World problems, I reminded myself.

I drove home in an air-conditioned car with several bags of groceries, suddenly humbled – and a little guilty.

Why was I so lucky to be born in a place where pursuing happiness, prosperity, and a grocery store were possible? I don’t intend to trade places with an Ethiopian. I’m not that noble. I can certainly help those who are less fortunate, though. At the very least, I can stop complaining about problems that are not problems. None of my problems are a matter of life and death. They are just irritating. All things considered, they shouldn’t even be irritating.

My “bad day” continued when I arrived home. My little angels were busy trying to slay each other.

“Mom, he won’t let me play Super Smash Brothers on the Wii!”

“First World problem,” I answered.

“Mom, I got chocolate on my new shirt!”

“First World problem,” I answered.

“I’m hungry. What’s for dinner, Mom?”

“Scorpion-kabobs. Go out and hunt some down.”

All three of them stared at me as if I had grown an extra limb.

“Aren’t you guys glad you live in America?”

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