Remember the line from the movie “City Slickers” when the husband and wife have a fight and the husband hurls the insult that, if hate were people, he would be Red China? If pet peeves were people, I would be Red China. I’ve got a lot.
Recently, my husband and kids went to dinner without me recently and my absence gave them the glad occasion to catalog the laundry list of pet peeves that practically cripple me in settings that involve other people. It’s a poorly kept secret, I suppose, that I’m the only person who doesn’t bug me in some way.
I like to think that I’m easygoing, but I just can’t tune out the annoying habits of people within my almost-bionic earshot. Restaurants and movie theaters being ground zero for the ill-mannered, it’s best for me just to stay home and not kill anyone, so upon their return from dinner, I asked my family for a recap. It took them 10 seconds to list 30.
It was then I knew I must be missing a Zen chip. There could be no peace in my world. No serenity. No “live and let live.” At least not until these (and many, many, so so many more) misdeeds are banished for all time:
The sound of anything being chewed annoys me. Gum smacking or popping tops this list because they send me over the edge to a dark place that turns violent in my throbbing head. That’s where I meet the sweet mom on the Cheerios commercial who is crunching and smacking Cheerios with her precious little baby. Once I’ve superglued mom’s lips together, I teach her baby to chew with his mouth closed. Problem solved.
During a client meeting at Panera last week, I noticed that I was starting to twitch to precisely the same beat as an incessant tapping in the background. “Surely, that will stop, whatever it is,” I seethed. Tap, tap, (twitch) boom, boom, (twitch), tap (twitch), tap (twitch), boom shakalaka boom (twitch, twitch, twitch). Soon, I could hear nothing my client was saying – just the relentless percussion behind me. I jerked around, expecting to see a mindless toddler, playing a 10-piece drum set he’d obviously found in the restaurant. Instead, I saw a slack-jawed man tapping two empty cups on the table, you know, just because … Let my full-blown spasms weigh heavy on your conscience and your cups-turned-tom-toms, Tapper Man. May Karma soon send you a dripping faucet to keep you company at 3 a.m.
I can tolerate whistling when it happens in the context of a sporting event, but even then, only if I’m on Row A and the whistler is on Row YY, Upper Deck … of another stadium. But to you, Mindless Whistler in Public Places Such As Lowe’s, I recoil at the sound of your keyless, tone-deaf warbling. No one – and I think I speak for everyone with ears – wants to hear it. Please amble back to your car, roll up the windows, pucker up and whistle out “Alice’s Restaurant.” Solo.
Sucking a Straw in an Empty Cup
What mother allows this? Chimp mothers, maybe. That infernal, air-in-the-line sound means there’s nothing left in the cup, so stop it right this instant before that neurotic woman whose eyeballs are rolling back in her head runs over here and shows you her uppercut. Related offense: using the straw to poke at the ice in your cup. There is never an occasion that warrants this. Please just poke my eardrums out with an icepick instead. Thank you.
Really? Is it such an imposition to walk that some people can’t be bothered to raise their feet off the ground? Because of you, Foot Dragger in Flip Flops That Don’t Weigh an Ounce, I am being eaten alive with the kind of frustration that can only be released by putting on a pair of substantial clogs and Riverdancing on your lazy feet.
The Loudest Voice in the Restaurant
It will shock many who know me to learn that the loudest voice in the restaurant is not mine. Without exception, it belongs to the person in the booth or at the table directly behind me. This person, The Human Bullhorn, doesn’t have an inside voice. The Human Bullhorn comes in many different forms and follows me on almost every outing. Most often, The Human Bullhorn is a whistling, tapping, foot-dragging smacker who sucks a straw in an empty cup.
Precisely why I’ll be dining in tonight.