I’m feeling a bit curmudgeonly today.  And definitely lazy, so here’s a blast from the past first ranted on November 4, 2001. 

Here’s a list of my pet peeves.  Peeves being hard to care for, I’m thinking of letting these run free in the neighborhood, digging in your trash, soiling your gardens, and keeping you awake at night.  Enjoy.

  1. Packages that can’t be opened. You know what I mean. The box of Rice-a-Roni that says ‘Push Here to Open’ with a half circle of what appears to be perforated cardboard but is actually just painted on.  And when you try pushing as instructed the whole box collapses.  So you decide it needs something sharper to help the perforations, so you press with your thumbnail, but your nail also bends under.  At this point you try to tear the package open, but the paper shreds leaving behind an unbreakable seal of glue.  So you jerk at the box which finally yields and splits down the middle, spreading rice and vermicelli across the kitchen.  I’d love to get my hands on the sadistic engineer that thought these up and seal him in a Cheerios bag.  He’d never get out.
  2. Inserts in magazines. We have a family ritual in our house. When a new magazine arrives, we remove all non-reading material, all those damn little pieces of cardboard that make the magazine so stiff and always force it to open where you don’t want it to open.  In many cases the remnant after all the inserts have been removed is so flimsy and weak that we cancel our subscription on the spot.  I’ve always wanted to gather all that trash into an envelope and send it back to the publishers with a letter that says something like ‘Thanks for the crap, but we really don’t want it so we are returning it unread.’  Haven’t done it though.  Probably illegal in some way.  Probably violates some constitutional guarantee to irritate us.
  3. Telemarketers. Of course, the professional irritants don’t waste time with direct mail. They call you at home.  If you aren’t busy when they call, they can gladly call back later.  These guys are the real scum of the earth, right down there with car salesman and bean counters.  To make matters worse, these recent descendents of dogs have started using autodialers to find their victims.  They don’t even bother working from a list.  You know you’ve been tagged when you answer the phone and are greeted by silence.  The TMSOB is sitting back taking a smoke waiting for his victim to be automatically reeled in.  After you’ve said hello four or five times, he picks up his end and tries to sell you a subscription to the local paper.  We’ve started hanging up if we don’t hear a response within 2.4 seconds, which led to a recent tragedy.  A friend disobeyed the instructions not to drive through high water and had his car swept into the river.  His cell phone was new, and ours was the only number he’d programmed into it.  Unfortunately, he stuttered so we kept hanging up on him.
  4. Consumerism. Of course, the reason telemarketers call you is to sell something. Have you ever had one call you just to chat, to see how your day went?  Of course not, though my mercenary instincts think there may me some money in such a service.  Some kind of rent-a-friend service.  You sign up for a low monthly fee and a total stranger calls a few times a week just to check in and share some juicy gossip.  Sounds like a winner to me, because Americans will buy anything.  You see, our only purpose for existence is to buy something.  That’s why genetic engineering is so frightening.  Already, advertisers are adept at selling us crap we don’t need using only God’s basic design.  Think what it will be like once they can design babies with a built-in consumerism gene.  There’ll be no stopping them.  Actually, the evil lords of consumerism have almost taken charge now.  In response to the recent terrorist attacks [a dated reference to the then-recent 9/11 attacks], we as a nation were told that it was our patriotic duty to go out and buy something, it didn’t really matter what.  I kept looking around to see if anyone was laughing, but everywhere I looked I saw glassy-eyed zombies reaching for their wallet while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  I’m planning to leave the country, just as soon as I can buy enough survival gear.
  5. Non-news. The recent attacks demonstrated the power of the American media. It would be impossible for a state-run news organization to cover breaking news with the same efficiency as the free market zeal of capitalist news coverage.  I’m sure the nation’s leaders were watching CNN as closely as they were watching their situation boards.  But once the breaking news is no longer breaking, the news media is almost useless, or worse.  They have a mandate for 24/7 news coverage, and when there is no news they simply generate it.  Local stations are especially bad at this and compound their sins with inexperience.  I especially hate half-stories.  One of my favorite examples of a half story was a story broadcast in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The story noted that a local Sheriff had made the largest drug bust of the year when he stopped a driver and asked to look in the trunk of the stopped car.  Upon opening the trunk the sheriff found it filled with cocaine.  The story concluded by noting that the driver hadn’t been formally charged since he didn’t speak English and the authorities were waiting for an interpreter.  (Take a moment to think about this.)
  6. Loud noises. We’ve been bombarded with so much crap that we generally tune out the crap-purveyors. In response, they’ve resorted to shouting at us.  ‘Hey!  Look at me!’  It’s like being locked in a room with a two year old.  We have a family habit of muting all commercials while watching television.  Visitors are often disoriented to see us cut the sound and walk out of the room.  They are especially confused when don’t return.  We also don’t like loud music, loud people, fireworks, and thunderstorms.  In fact, I’m personally convinced that a person’s intelligence is inversely proportional to the amount of noise that person generates.  (Sorry about that, God.)
  7. Blowers. One particular source of noise that I really hate is blowers. I can’t think of a more despicable invention in recent history.  It used to be that when you finished mowing and trimming your yard, you took a broom and swept the drives, sidewalks, and street in front of your yard.  The early evening was filled with the gentle swiff-swiff sound of the bristles on pavement followed by the discrete scraping sound of dustpan.  The clippings were then disposed of, usually in a compost pile for recycling.  Those days are now gone.  Instead, after a hurried chop and swipe at the lawn, the blower is started up, generating enough noise to irritate neighbors up to a mile away.  And instead of cleaning up the mess, a blower simply spreads the detritus out in all directions, thinning it to an undetectable level or else pushing it onto the neighbor’s property.  I watched in amazement one day as my neighbor carefully blew his grass clippings across the street to the opposite curb.  What a wonderful metaphor for the total lack of responsibility in our society.
  8. Empty conversations. For some reason, people love to talk to me. I can’t understand why.  I’m as rude as I can be.  But they keep coming.  In my office, I’ve installed one of those take-a-number machines.  I sometimes see people lined up three deep to visit my oracle of wisdom.  I guess I should be honored and I try to take my role of part confessor, part seer seriously.  But at some point, I come unglued and start throwing things, starting with staplers and paper weights and working up to books, the bigger the better.  This usually happens when I realize I’ve just heard the same sentence for the fifth time.  Some people’s minds are perpetually stuck in a broken groove.  (I am fully aware that this analogy will be totally wasted on anyone who has never listened to a vinyl LP.  I’m glad.)  Conversation should have some purpose, a destination to be reached.  It might involve sharing information, solving a problem, or simply sharing our feelings.  All these concepts imply a journey that eventually ends.  But some people’s conversation continually backtracks on itself.  That’s when I do them a favor and start heaving books.
  9. Bitching. I really hate bitching, which I define as complaining just for the sake of complaining. (Writing lists of things I don’t like is not bitching. It’s a process of self discovery.)  When someone comes to me with a complaint (making me the bitchee), I react in typical male fashion and treat it as a problem to be solved.  So I start suggesting solutions.  But the bitcher routinely rejects all my solutions until I realize they are not interested in solving their problem.  At this point I classify the conversation as an empty one and start throwing things.
  10. Animals on the loose. The world is full of assholes. And most of them own animals.  Owning an animal involves a great deal of responsibility, far beyond the moral comprehension of most assholes.  One key element in the concept of responsibility is control.  You can’t be responsible for the behavior of your animal if it is not under your control.  We don’t allow elephants or Bengal tigers to roam our neighbors freely and we should exert the same control over our dogs and cats, as well.
  11. Trick or treat. The worst kind of free-ranging, out-of-control animal walks on two legs and worships at the altar of the boob tube. To be fair, most parents do a tolerable job of managing their children, with one exception that occurs annually on October 31.  On this night, we collectively go mad.  Think about it.  On any other day, we tell our kids not to be out after dark, don’t take candy from strangers, don’t eat too much candy, respect the property of others.  But not on Halloween.  On this one bizarre night, we deliberately break all these rules.  And it’s not just the parents, either.  Any other night of the year, if you knock on my door while wearing a mask you will get shot.  But not on Halloween.  Then my wife blithely throws open the door while I and the dog sit watching TV.  For real fun, suggest to your local neighborhood association that the practice of Trick or Treat be abandoned in your neighborhood.  You’ll be lynched by the Family Values vigilantes.  Though I’m damned if I can figure out what excessive sugar has to do with family values.  On the other hand, maybe the connection is clear.
  12. Lawrence Welk. Speaking of family values, this show makes me sick. I’m not talking in some abstract manner.  But retching, gagging, head-in-the-toilet-Oh-my-God-when-was-the-last-time-this-thing-was-cleaned sick.  Everything about the show, from the false smiles to the cheesy costumes is nauseating.  I’ve never seen more clear evidence that our population is slowing being abducted and replaced with plastic look-alikes.
  13. Television. Chance comments above may have given the impression that I don’t like television. I want to take the time to assure you that this is correct.  Next to Walt Disney and Microsoft, I consider the television, aka the boob tube, to be one of the greatest evils in the world today.  While a graduate student living on starvation wages my television broke down.  Not having money for repairs, it stayed broken for over a year.  Every Saturday morning, I would wash the screen and then paint a picture on the blank screen using paint.  This was my TV show for the week.  I still remember that year as an idyllic period of intellectual growth and freedom.  I’ve tried returning to that time, but my wife doesn’t share my viewpoint.  As a matter of fact, I recently caught her watching Lawrence Welk when she thought I was out of the house.  And her skin has been taking on a plastic sheen…
  14. Orange juice and bananas. Couldn’t find anywhere else to put this, but I hate to eat bananas and drink orange juice at the same time. It’ll really pucker your soul.
  15. Bloggers with nothing to say who write lists to up their word count. Hey, words is words. A writer writes.


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