2590: I Shouldn't Complain

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I Shouldn't Complain
Bald-faced hornets are only a 2 on the Schmidt pain index, so I shouldn't complain. The tennis ball ejected from the dryer exhaust vent could have ricocheted off the nest of a much higher-scoring insect before knocking me off the ladder. Really, I'm lucky.
Title text: Bald-faced hornets are only a 2 on the Schmidt pain index, so I shouldn't complain. The tennis ball ejected from the dryer exhaust vent could have ricocheted off the nest of a much higher-scoring insect before knocking me off the ladder. Really, I'm lucky.


Megan has had a very unfortunate experience of falling into a garbage can and being repeatedly stung by wasps. Cueball expresses an appropriate amount of horror about it. However, Megan seeks to downplay this experience by saying "I shouldn't complain" and that she's "lucky" it wasn't worse. This has become a habit in Western culture, like comparing minor issues to "kids starving in Africa" or war-torn countries, notably Ukraine (this comic was published during the Russian invasion of Ukraine starting in February 2022 and was ongoing when this comic came out on March 7).

Humans have a tendency to re-calibrate their mental scales to place their actual experience in the center. Cueball, who has never experienced being trapped for hours with stinging insects, rates this in comparison to not being trapped at all. Megan, however, rates it in comparison to other uncomfortable places a person could be stuck.

The title text explains how Megan came into such a mess. A tennis ball used in a clothes dryer got stuck in the exhaust vent, and was shot out of the house through the exhaust vents hole in the wall. Then it hit the wasp nest and ricocheted over on Megan knocking her off the ladder she was standing on. Since she was close to the nest, she may actually have been up on the ladder in order to see if she could remove the nest. The fall from the ladder made her end up in the trash can where she could not get out. The angry wasps began stinging her legs. This continued for two hours.

In the title text, Megan continues to downplay her experience even though it was very painful. She says that the wasp nest was of the type bald-faced hornets.

The Schmidt sting pain index is a scale developed by entomologist Justin O. Schmidt to rank the relative pain caused by different stinging insects. This scale ranges from 0 (for stings that are completely ineffective) to 4, which denotes torturous and nearly incapacitating pain (originally, Schmidt only classed one species as a 4, but two additional species have since been added at this level). Megan says her stings were a 2 on the scale, which denotes "familiar" pain, comparable to that of the common Western Honey Bee. Most people would find that experience incredibly painful, particularly since she endured multiple stings over a long period of time, but Megan points out that there exist insects with more painful stings.

Megan concludes that she'd been lucky, based on the argument that she theoretically could have endured something worse than she did. The joke, of course, is that by almost any subjective standard, her experience was deeply unlucky.

She also further downplays the situation by focusing attention on the sting pain index instead of the sting lethal capacity, described by the author of the pain index. The two are not necessarily equivalent. Let's assume that all insects in the colony affected stung Megan at least once over her two hour ordeal. A colony capable of sustaining an attack over two hours would probably be at least as large as the typical maximum size for a bald-faced hornet nest. Such an attack might (depending on number of attackers and the species of wasp) deliver enough venom to kill 84 kg (185 pounds) worth of mice (or human?). Given such an attack, Megan would probably not be standing around in routine conversation, casually discussing the incident. She would far more likely be in a hospital bed, and in a gruesome fight for her life.


[Cueball and Megan are standing together. Cueball has his hands on his chin, shocked.]
Cueball: I can't believe you fell headfirst into a garbage can and were stuck there for two hours while wasps stung your exposed legs!
Megan: I shouldn't complain! Lots of people have been stuck for longer in worse places.
Megan: Really, I'm lucky.
[Caption below the panel:]
The more unpleasant someone's experience is, the more they apologize for complaining because it could be worse.

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Added title text explanation. I'm intrigued to know if it was a clothes-dryer, hand-dryer, hair-dryer or some other form of dryer, because that puts different interpretive spins on the trope I've suddenly remembered the name of. This is surely intentionally vague? 02:41, 8 March 2022 (UTC)

I don't think this is the right trope, as "noodle incident" is something mentioned by name but never explained, but here we have an explanation, more or less (it was the tennis ball). 11:35, 8 March 2022 (UTC)
I suspect it is a dish dryer or clothes dryer. Both produce a lot of heat and have vents to remove the heated air, which is close enough to be considered an exhaust vent. R3TRI8UTI0N (talk) 02:53, 8 March 2022 (UTC)
Dish dryer? That's a plastic thing on your draining-board that you stand wet dishes on when you use a sink, surely? If you use a dish-washer, I presume it's easier to dry things in that than transfer - like some do with clothes from washing machine to tumble-dryed (I hang mine up to dry, personally). Sorry, culture-shock of strange terms/practices, clearly. 04:38, 8 March 2022 (UTC)
For sure it is a clothes dryer since it is common to put in tennis balls with for instance pillows to keep them fluffy. One of these got jammed in the exhaust and was shot out. In old type clothes dryers (we still have one) the exhaust goes out of a hole in the wall, which is great because it gets the humidity out, but then again, it leaves a hole in the wall which is bad for the cold season... But this could explain why it shot a tennis ball at Megan and the nest... outside, and running while she was on a latter. Maybe even to do something about the nest. --Kynde (talk) 19:14, 8 March 2022 (UTC)

I feel that the key ingredient missing from this discussion is that, with all the terrible things happening in the world right now, there is more of this kind of apologizing for even mentioning your own problems than usual. 03:14, 8 March 2022 (UTC)

This comic together with 2587 (for the sake of simplictiy) feel a bit like they form a new series of "Misleading sayings" 07:54, 8 March 2022 (UTC)

I really do not see a connection. One is a trick to make complicated things go easier down for those you tell it to. This one is about a real world situation, that Randall has just made worse. And for sure it could be related to the war in Ukraine, but not necessarily. --Kynde (talk) 19:14, 8 March 2022 (UTC)

I'm uncomfortable with the comparison to the situation in Ukraine. It's really too much of a stretch. 06:57, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

I also would not have mentioned it, myself. But it's probably one of the biggest current news-stories worldwide (except in Russia, where it's effectively a censored issue!) and so I'm not surprised it was used by some reader/explainer as a possible comparison of "things that being unavoidably stung by insects is better than", in far too many real-world cases.
If I'm any judge of Randall, he wants to voice support to all the besieged and fleeing Ukranians, and would freely do a 'comic' to mark current events if he had something in mind worth publishing. I don't think this is that comic. I don't know how he would even do it, but that's not my call to make.
C'mon. Remember long standing banner "BLM, how you can help"? Remember "I'm with her" comic? If he wanted, he would do it. Tkopec (talk) 09:07, 9 March 2022 (UTC)
Yes, I remember both. I half expected a banner thing (I tend to visit explainxkcd more frequently than xkcx, so I might miss it at first except for such notes about it made in the appropriate wiki-pages) and can only guess as to why there isn't one.
"I'm with her" got a lot of push-back (as might have the BLM-banner, but that wasn't displacing a 'funny comic' space) and I really can't predict what he'd do (with loads of blue and yellow?) to put forward a message of support for the legitimate occupants of Ukraine that is worth a 'comic slot'. He might be blogging it/twittering/etc, but I'm not sufficiently a cyber-stalker to keep my eyes on those.
Hence my conclusion that while I think he's sympathetic, the message hasn't been made yet. Not in this comic, anyway. (I've seen that Wednesday is out early, already, but not yet visited its page on my current systematic read-through.) It's all just an impression, though. Didn't mean to make this (or the prior comment that we're in the middle of) an essay. It just takes more words to voice than is really quite a simple conceptual thought. 20:02, 9 March 2022 (UTC)
On the other hand, if untold future readers can't benefit from knowing it as a contemporaneous comparison then it would be very strange (or worrying). I say leave it, at least until more reflection (or subsequent events) changes the perspective/provides a newer and 'better' example. 08:45, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

"Given such an attack, Megan would probably not be standing around in routine conversation, casually discussing the incident. She would far more likely be in a hospital bed, and in a gruesome fight for her life." Given that nowhere in the comic is it said that this conversation is happening immediately after the incident itself, it seems reasonable to assume that said hospitalization has already happened, quite possibly a long time ago. Somdudewillson (talk) 15:33, 9 March 2022 (UTC)

Not THAT long ago. IMHO this conversation is first Megan and Cueball have since the incident. Maybe she got out of hospital and starts seeing friends? -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:22, 9 March 2022 (UTC)