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THOMPSON: The highly personal nature of pet peeves

 


OPINION


Often it’s little things in life that drive us crazy.

We all have pet peeves, mostly trivial transgressions of others that make us roll our eyes in disbelief. These minor annoyances - not worthy of a slap upside the head - are nearly impossible to catalog, they are so personal and reflect our individual manners, culture and core values.

We all know people who are human box graters…shredding our nerves with endless annoyances. I try my best to limit time around people who are chronic irritants and my life is better for it. Even though we all have our individual pet peeves, some are universal.

Once on a cross-country flight at 38,000 feet…a woman across the aisle started clipping her toenails. Buckled in an airline seat with no escape is the setting for at least a dozen of my Top 100 peeves. If you’re not put off by someone giving themselves a pedicure in public…with clippings flying about the cabin…well, you’re probably that someone.

Never say things can’t get worse either. The same woman - a couple hours later - flossed her teeth…flicking bits of leftover Delta chicken salad from rows seven to nine.

I asked some friends on Facebook to disclose their least favourite vexing behaviours of others…and they didn’t disappoint.

Seems one of the things that make people grind their teeth is widespread…simply being late. Pam Hayward - a friend in North Carolina - said it best: “I hate it when people are late. If you make plans to meet someone at a specific time then plan accordingly to make sure you are there at that time. I would rather be an hour early than a minute late.”

Apparently, the annoyance of avoidable tardiness even crosses borders with Canadian friends piling on. Jim Clipperton concurred with Pam: “I can’t like this post enough. Hahaha.” My friend, Peter Moore - known for his glibness - added: “Ditto.”

Closely related are those who make appointments and show up fifteen minutes late...but insist on the same one-hour massage or make-up session…or they without a call simply never show up.

Drivers who forget their vehicles have signal indicators are a popular peeve. Indeed, a lot of peeves happen when we’re behind the wheel…like following too closely and using bright headlights.

Those who don’t stop for pedestrians is a pet peeve…I see this more in the States than in Canada. Some spots south of the border you’re sure to end up on someone’s fender if you don’t look before entering a crosswalk.

I noticed - quite inexplicably - that since the COVID pandemic people stopping for a red light often leave 15 or 20 feet between themselves and the car in front of them. Some kind of vehicular social distancing? Maddening to some who know traffic lights allow just one or two cars out of a dozen-car line up to turn.

At risk of over analyzing pet peeves, maybe our grievances aren’t about the random habits of others. Perhaps we’re annoyed because someone else’s behaviour reflects an attitude or value that compromises our sense of what’s right. For example, I don’t care about the distance between cars per se…it’s about being courteous to my fellow road warriors.

A long-time friend - born and raised in New York City and a cultured sophisticate - couldn’t fathom slow walkers. On occasion while walking with him to a meeting in Mid-Town Manhattan he would give fair warning to tourists on sidewalks ahead, shouting; “No window shopping” or “You’re not in Kansas anymore!”

It wasn’t that my friend hated slow walkers. He simply had places to go…people to meet…and the tortuous meanderings of others violated his schedule. After all, you don’t have to be right or justified to make someone’s behaviour a pet peeve.

Elevators are another source of peeves for many of us. How many times have you tried to exit an elevator only to bump into the human equivalent of a salmon swimming upstream? If I press an elevator call button in the lobby…does it come faster if you press the button a couple seconds later?

A grammatical faux pas - written or spoken - sets some folks off. Things like “I could care less” or “I feel badly” or “Between you and I” can make grammarians clinch their teeth. When I was in the U.S. Air Force, I used to write memos for a crusty old Chief Master Sergeant, who advised me to “drop in commas and apostrophes wherever you like.”

The kitchen gives birth to many pet peeves. Using the same knife for mustard and mayonnaise…the same for peanut butter and jelly lovers…will get you a rebuke. I avoid chips and dips at parties because I know someone - like George Costanza in the infamous Seinfeld episode - will double-dip a Tostito in the guacamole or salsa…a great way to share bacteria.

Folks who say, “no offence” invariably offend…falling in the same pet peeve category as those who offer a non-apology apology: “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology. Apologies end with the words, “I’m sorry”…no buts…no ifs.

Some pet peeves don’t really exist…except in our minds or in movies. How many people have really heard fingernails on a chalkboard…other than hearing Robert Shaw’s character, Quint, in Jaws?

Your closest relationship likely does some things that make you roll your eyes, too, but I hope their good points more than balance their indiscretions.

Though, I read an article in Psychology Today entitled “How to Survive 50 Common Marital Pet Peeves”…and thought, if your spouse does 50 things that irritate you, he or she is probably an ex.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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