The Rant 

Now that Mayor Herenton has finally quit, or announced plans to do so in the not-too-distant future, all anyone seems to be able to do is bitch about the guy even more. For the last 16 years, those of us who don't care about such things have had to endure endless diatribes about what a despot the mayor is (although the people in question probably didn't know the word "despot") and the relentless usage of the term "King Willie." He couldn't get a handle on crime. He spent too much of the city's money on fancy things we don't need, like that FedExForum, his spacious-enough-to-land-a-helicopter-in offices, and his suits, which have to be special-ordered from the Big, Tall, and Egomaniacal store.

Now that he's leaving — if he does actually leave — all we hear is how he's being paid too much to go away; how he wants to be superintendent of schools — a job he didn't exactly ace the first time around; and how he won't leave until he has had ample time to pilfer office supplies and alienate the last few people in positions of power he hasn't gotten around to yet.

Here's a memo from the people who don't care: We don't care. If you can't think of anything to talk about other than what a gigantic tool you think Herenton is, please — we beg you — watch ESPN every once in a while.

Last week, I was button-holed by a guy who couldn't get past the fact that Herenton told the press that he had to run for mayor this term, even though he had no intention of serving all of it, to "protect" the city from the other two candidates. Setting aside what a laughable and offensive thing that is to say, why do people feel like this is appropriate bar conversation? Personally, I like Carol Chumney, whom I wouldn't choose as a drinking companion but who would make a fine mayor, and I like Herman Morris, who wouldn't choose me as a drinking partner but who would also make a fine mayor. But that doesn't have anything to do with my point. My point is this: Stop complaining about local politics, and the mayor specifically, in bars. It's unsavory and, frankly, a buzz-kill. Do you want to be a buzz-kill? Of course you don't.

In fact, let's stop all of the bitching as casual conversation. No one — and I mean no one — cares if it bothers you that gasoline is so expensive. You sitting there while the rest of us are trying to watch a game, kvetching that it cost you $60 to fill the gas tank of your massive truck, isn't helping. It's making the world worse, not better. Do you think if you bend enough near strangers' ears about how the Arab world and the oil industry have all us little people by the cranberries you'll eventually stumble onto someone from OPEC who will make a few calls?

While we're at it, let's also knock off the whining about your personal life. Yes, it sucks to be you. It sucks to be all of us. That doesn't mean you have a license to drain the life out of me talking about how your kid is lashing out at his stepdad and your boss is a drunken sadist who expects you to do every aspect of your job properly. No one cares. In order to write this column, every once in a while I have to manicure Bruce VanWyngarden's lawn and spend a Sunday visiting the elderly with Tim Sampson. Think that's fun? Of course not, but you don't see me spilling my guts to some guy I just met while he's trying to enjoy a little NBA action, do you? No.

The bottom line is this: Complaining to me, or to anyone else, for that matter, is a waste of time and will net you zero positive results. Maybe you'll feel better to have gotten it off your chest and onto ours, but that means we're going to have to return the favor and bellyache about our power bill and our frustration that Americans seem to enjoy watching desperate, former celebrities dancing badly.

So, from here on out we're going to do what our parents and generations before them found perfectly acceptable: We're going to internalize our unhappiness until it sends us to an early grave. Got it?

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