Real quick, the difference between bitching and ranting: To bitch means to complain, which is to say, addressing one's complaints about something to someone who can do nothing about them with the expectation that somehow one's problems will get solved anyway. An example would be complaining about the size of an airline seat to the flight attendant, who does not purchase nor build airliners and has absolutely no say whatsoever about the size of the seats which are chosen to be placed in a particular airliner. (I see this happen every time I fly.) To rant, on the other hand, means to take issue with something and address one's complaint not just to those who have no control over it, but to the entire human race at large, usually in a very loud voice (or a blog post), and sometimes preceded with "I don't want to go off on a rant here, but..." before doing precisely that. When done as stand-up comedy (or a blog post), it's oftentimes hilarious, touching and enlightening (and Dennis Miller is the unacknowledged master of the art; I bow to you, sir.) When done on an airliner, it's often grounds for arrest. You have been warned.
I've been known to go off on a rant in this space pretty frequently. The subject is usually gay marriage and the thing that tends to set me off is my inability (in Texas, anyway) to quitclaim my house back to myself and Joan as a married couple. That's it. That's all I wanna do. Yet every time I think we can do it, bam! Another court rules some other way, and we're back where we started, which is to say, Dallas, circa 2004, signing a mortgage deed as two single women. Yes, it's nice to wake up in the morning and realize that I'm still legally married (for now) because the yes-on-8 crowd hasn't yet managed to undo the court ruling that left all 18,000 of us who managed to get married between May and November 2008 in California legally hitched. That's very nice, but it don't work here, or rather, we don't know how far we can push it here, and into property law is one place it probably won't go. Never mind that the way the deed is written, she gets the place if anything happens to me. That does not matter. I want to be a married couple in deed. (Indeed.) And it drives me crazy that I'm not. Thank you very much. This has been a sample rant, a live performance.
(By the way, Joan is going back to school, and she filled out the Big Student Financial Aid Paperwork Thingy this week. When she got to the "Are you married or single?" box, a little explanatory note popped up, stating that since it's a Federal program, according to the Defense of Marriage Act, she was single and could check the Single box, which meant my income didn't count toward whatever financial aid they end up giving her. So for the sake of the Feds, she can depend on no help from me whatsoever, even in the form of half the mortgage. Now, isn't that special. Play the system for all it's worth, says I.)
Rants are grand things. They're like public theater, street performance art. They make great reading, provoke thought, often provoke outrage, and at the very least, they entertain. More power to them. When it comes to bitching, though, I really wish people wouldn't. If anything they seem like a way for the bitcher to feel superior to the bitchee for a few minutes, often at the expense of the bitchee's feelings (and patience, especially if, as is usually the case, the bitchee can do nothing to help the situation.) Great. Congratulations, your anger has made you king. At least for five minutes. Then you'll realize how stupid you sounded, or maybe you won't. Maybe you'll settle into that airline seat with a note of smug self-assurance, confident that you told her how the seats ought to be on your planet. Never mind that they're still too small on this one.
I mean, what is the point of complaining, anyway? If you're not addressing a person who can actually do something to help you, you might as well not bother. And if you are addressing a person who can help you, please do him or her the favor of stating exactly what the problem is, how it happened, how it's inconveniencing you, and how you'd like it resolved. If the person you're addressing makes it plain that he or she can't help you, you'd do better to take it up a notch to his or her supervisor, or the supervisor's supervisor, or my personal favorite, the Director of Marketing. Often all you need in a situation like this, especially if you're dealing with a large organization, is one person who gives a damn. You're a lot more likely to find that person if you keep your cool, remain polite, and keep your requests reasonable. Bitter personal experience? Ah yes, my friends, I did disaster relief during Hurricane Katrina. And worked for Bank of America during the Security Pacific merger. Hard to say which was more harrowing.
And if you don't find that person? Well then, my friend, turn it into a rant. You've earned it, and the rest of us could use the entertainment. Play on!