Pete is walking down a street one day, and he happens to see his old high school friend, Jason. “Jason! How are you?” he greets his old buddy.
“Not so good,” says Jason.
“Why, what happened?” Pete asks.
“Well,” Jason says, “I just went bankrupt and I’ve still got to feed my family. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Could have been worse,” Pete replies calmly. “Could have been worse.”
A month later, Pete encounters Jason again, in a restaurant. “And how are things now?” he asks.
“Terrible!” says Pete. “Our house burned down last night.”
“Could have been worse,” says Jason again, and goes about his business.
Another month later, Pete runs into Jason a third time. “Well, how goes it?” he inquires.
“Oh!” says Jason. “Things just get worse and worse. It’s one tragedy after another! Now my wife has left me!”
Pete nods his head and gives his usual optimistic-seeming little smile, accompanied by his usual words: “Could’ve been worse.”
This time, Jason grabs Pete by the shoulders. “Now wait a minute!” he shouts. “I’m not gonna let you off so easy this time. we’ve run into one another three times in the past few months, and every time I’ve told you the latest disaster in my life. Every time you say the same thing: ‘Could have been worse.’ This time Pete, I want you to tell me: how could it have been any worse?”
Pete looks at James with the same smile. “It could have been worse,” he says. “Could have happened to me.”