There are the minor pet peeves, such as ketchup that won’t pour from the bottle despite aggressive tapping and shaking that suddenly releases a wet avalanche upon the plate. There is incessant internet spam on our computers. And how about telephone robo-calls?
But with perseverance, we can learn to deal with these kinds of annoyances.
It’s the really big peeves that require work. You know, things so maddening that advanced levels of Zen Buddhism are needed simply to transform apoplectic rage into a moderately controlled, lip-biting frustration.
Here are a few examples:
Wind direction changes during snow blowing
This one is vexing and incomprehensibly difficult to deal with because it is nature at its most devilish, devious best. Before clearing the driveway, you toss some dry snow into the air to test wind direction. You’re good to go with a constant breeze from the west. After getting started, sometimes half-way through the job, the wind begins blowing from the opposite direction. Snow cakes your face and body until you look like a mobile snowman. It melts and you are soon wet. You reverse the operation and it isn’t long before the wind switches again.
If you utter expletive deleted words and phrases, make sure they are at a low level. Neighbors at a distance can hear them better than you over the sound of the snow blower engine.
If you can avoid employing curse words in this situation, give yourself two points.
Freezing rain in the winter
This is a hideous blight upon the winter landscape and a ravaging tormentor of the human soul. It destroys snow for skiing. It makes driving death-defying. Last but not least, it is dangerous to we bipeds. Long-term experience in northern environs is insufficient when dealing with clear ice on a black asphalt surface. A person needs a combination of psychic skills that include clairvoyance, precognition and remote viewing. Before testing the surface with a tentative footstep, you must literally “sense” if the ice is there, waiting to show you an acrobatic move worthy of the most competitive Olympic gymnast. If you have any doubt, stick to the snowbank or wear ice creepers.
If you take a serious fall and do not use expletive deleted words, give yourself two points. If you refrain from getting in a bad mood and taking it out on family and friends, assign yourself a point.
Cars with super-bright headlights
People who report seeing UFOs talk about brilliant, “brighter-than-the-sun” lights. I sometimes wonder if automobile manufacturers have back-engineered alien technology with their Xenon, 10,000 lumen headlights. With an anti-glare windshield and anti-glare eye glasses, I’m completely blinded by these roadway legions of luminosity. On Eagle River Road I once flashed my headlights to high beam to warn an approaching motorist he or she was on high beams, and the driver unleashed a burst of luminescence that instantly turned part of valley from night to day. Thus, I no longer flash drivers who I suspect are on high beams. I slow down, divert my eyes to the side of the road, pray, and wait for the photon proliferation to pass. Alaska state laws must have some limit on headlight brightness, but I haven’t determined what they are.
If you are not attempted to mount one of those Hollywood style 60-inch carbon-arc searchlights atop your car, you can give yourself two points.
Loud coming attraction previews at movie theaters
I sometimes think I’m one of the few people in the Milky Way Galaxy who wishes to preserve my sense of hearing. It’s probably some misguided, throwback idea that I need my hearing for hunting, but I don’t do that much anymore. Maybe it’s because I just don’t like pain. I do not need brain-splitting decibel levels of 100, and sometimes higher. I put cotton or Kleenex in my ears and never see anyone else doing the same.
If you accept going part-way deaf and do not cover your ears during the movie “coming attractions,” you have learned to cope with this peeve, albeit in a perverse way. You deserve two points. If you are like me and cover your ears, you receive only one point.
I have come to believe that if you gave these people—our chronic litterers—a landscape painting with McDonald Happy Meal boxes, paper cups and other litter in the foreground, they would really like it. For them, I believe, garbage is acceptable part of the natural environment. And often their yards reflect it, with old auto bodies, car tires, old refrigerators and stacks of wooden pallets.
If you participate in the community’s annual Spring Cleanup, assign yourself three points. If you throw cigarette butts out of your car window, among other things, deduct three points from your score.
Scoring part one
(9-12 Points) You have reached the higher realms of transcendental awareness. You can wait in a very long line at the Post Office and remain in tranquil bliss. The Dalai Lama would probably wish to have an audience with you.
(5-8 Points) You have developed self-control, but have not yet achieved a state of sublime quiescence. You have learned to not raise your voice to inanimate objects. You are on the road to fulfillment.
(1-4 Points) Do not feel bad, you are only a human being. The fact you can refrain from screaming at the wind and not slamming your snow shovel against the side of your house shows that are evolving. You might try whispering “serenity now” to yourself. If that doesn’t work, go for a cup of coffee at Jitters.
Ed Note – The five “supreme pet peeves” detailed in part one didn’t cover the vast compendium of life’s gnawing irritations. The most frustrating thing about most of these aggravations is that we can’t do anything about them. As in part one, there will be a test.
Road grader snow berms
A conspiracy-minded, hyper-sensitive, paranoid person who perpetually feels victimized might believe that snow removal people are out to get them by leaving mountainous snow berms in front of their driveways. This is especially true if the homeowner is insanely fastidious about clearing his or her driveway. Such obsessive homeowners might actually believe the snow removal folks are indignant and somewhat insulted by the terrific job they (the homeowners) do in their neighborhoods – and feel compelled to mess things up to show who is Snow Clearing Boss.
If you do not utter expletive deleted comments under your breath as you remove hard, chunky snow berms from the front of your driveway, assign yourself two points. If you subscribe to the highly dubious theory that snow removal folks have it in for you, deduct two points.
Because of the proliferation of junk mail, there are now probably thousands of square miles of open areas throughout the world that once contained healthy, oxygen-providing, carbon dioxide- sequestering trees. One could argue that junk mail creates a lot of jobs, from the people who produce it to those who distribute to our mailboxes; and to those who recycle it so that the process can start again. The people in this chain get paid. We recipients who spend inordinate amounts of time throwing it away, don’t.
If you take every piece of junk mail home and paste it into a scrapbook, deduct four points. If you gnash your teeth, barely restrain your expletive deleted exhortations and comment to strangers how much you disdain this endless flow of transmogrified trees, give yourself three points.
Molded plastic packaging
Someone at some company somewhere received a big raise and a promotion when they came up with the idea of encapsulating every conceivable piece of merchandise in molded plastic so hard that it caught the attention of people in the Department of Defense. Extracting items from these containers, a set of screw drivers for example, challenges a standard pair of scissors. Wrist strength is critical. In some cases tin snips are advised. Standard equipment for attacking these impregnable capsules: a first aid kit, lest you severely lacerate your hands.
If in a quivering fit of rage you refrain from taking an axe to molded plastic containers and opt to open them carefully with the sharpest knife in your house, give yourself two points. If you hang the container on the pegboard in your garage without opening it, deduct one point from your score. In this instance your cowardice is excusable.
After buying a computer and software, most people I know just want to be left alone. But I suppose those who work in Silicon Valley have to keep their jobs. So, they continuously send updates to fix things that aren’t broken. I can understand security updates. But I really doubt a Word or PowerPoint program needs to be updated two or three times a year. I used to ignore update notices until my son convinced me otherwise – that for the health and efficiency of my computer– they are needed. I’m now afraid not to do the updates.
If you have remained true to your convictions and didn’t update any of your computer programs since 2004, and everything is still working nominally, give yourself three points. If you actively seek updates before you even receive notifications, deduct two points.
Biased cable TV news
Switching from the talking heads on MSNBC to those at the FOX News Network is like tuning in people from different planets. If I recall a watchword from my college days in journalism, it’s objectivity. Another word, perhaps even more important, was accuracy. My journalism professors were as fiercely dedicated to these two words as Zen Buddhist Masters to achieving higher states of consciousness. Where do we find factual, objective reporting on television these days? Some say PBS, which has a liberal slant – yet at least tries for a semblance of objectivity. There is British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), offering an outside view. Final answer? We can’t. The bias in radio and newspapers is also palpable. One approach is to take all of it in and make our own conclusions.
If you believe everything you see and hear on television cable news, deduct three points. If you read a lot and weigh opinions from a wide range of sources, give yourself two points.
Scoring part 2:
(12-7 Points) – You barely manage to maintain control during difficult situations. You are a part of 21st century civilization but don’t necessarily embrace all of it. You try earnestly to remain sane.
(1-6 Points) – You would like to have more control over things that irritate you, but realize it’s mostly futile. You thought about hiring a truck and front-end loader and dumping mounds of snow in front of the Department of Transportation’s fenced compound, but it was just too costly.
(-7 to -1 Points) – You are a lot happier than most because you believe you can outwit those people and things that annoy you, and therefore triumph over them. You spend much of your time laughing and graciously accepting life’s absurdities while scheming how to neutralize them.
(-12 to -8 Points) – You might be the most content of all because you’re in your own world and for you it’s the best one of all. For you the world is the way it is and there is no reason to get uptight about the irreconcilable. You love the honesty of animals.
Part 3 – Final Exam
Here is your ‘Supreme Pet Peeves’ final exam.
Loud car speakers
Speakers this size could be used in auditoriums or on U.S. Navy battleships. At the stoplight they not only make the owner’s car buzz loudly and vibrate, but also those of surrounding vehicles. People with these speakers have long since gone deaf. Like classical music composer Beethoven during his final years, they perceive sound through vibrations.
If in a fit of rage you seriously contemplate taking a pick-axe to these drivers’ speakers, subtract two points. If you remain calm and passive and wear ear plugs or headphones, assign yourself two points.
Living in Alaska and not expecting to be marauded by swarms of pestiferous mosquitoes in summer is like thinking you’ll be comfortable on a commercial airliner in the economy coach section. (See ‘Flying Coach.’) Some of us with light complexions, who emit undulating waves of heat and carbon dioxide, are doomed. If I am with eight people on a trail, 95% of the mosquitoes will be around and on me. I’ve sometimes worn enough DEET to melt my eyeglass frames.
If you swear and swat and flail around, perspiring more and exacerbating the situation, deduct two points. If you have clothing pre-soaked in DEET and wear a head net, give yourself two points. If you simply stay indoors and avoid mosquitoes completely, assign yourself three points.
Home equipment malfunctions – I suppose this is our own fault. Starting with our computers, we now find it necessary to have a high-definition television with WiFi so that we can stream videos and record them; a sound bar, plus a printer/facsimilie/copying machine. My dad was happy just looking out of the window. Somewhere between the modem and the router and the TV, modern technology fiendishly tricks us whenever it can. I’m on a first-name basis with several folks in Best Buy’s Geek Squad.
If you have a hammer and at any moment are prepared to smash every piece of entertainment equipment in your house, subtract two points. If you completely immerse yourself in this technology and actually understand it, give yourself two points.
Overflow on lakes freezing to skis
Is there anything more frustrating than having your gliding skis turn into useless boards when coated with ice from overflow? Isn’t it wonderful to freeze your hands as you attempt to remove the ice and snow coating your skis?
If you stomp and curse and generally throw a fit, deduct two points. If you’re smart and carry an ice scraper as part of your skiing kit, award yourself with two points. If you know how to avoid and skirt around overflow areas, which is very difficult, give yourself three points.
Flying coach on commercial airlines
I genuinely think riding in covered wagons of the 1800s was more comfortable. Instead of flying to Seattle, I’ve actually considered walking, which I’ve calculated would take me about 95 days. However, at my age time is rather limited, so I opt not to travel at all. No one takes me seriously, but I’ve told the airlines that I would rather be drugged into unconsciousness and placed in the airplane’s baggage compartment. Wake me up at the other end.
If you refrain from air travel at all costs, deduct one point. If you wear earphones to dampen the sound of screaming babies in the coach section, add a point. If you have the resources to upgrade to business or first class, give yourself a generous three points.
There are people who will whine and complain and moan about everything in life, like this columnist. Learn not to take them seriously. If they didn’t have something to complain about, they would be devoid of ideas—even simple conversation. Though they are weighed down in negativity, do not shun them; because by comparison, you will feel light, airy and extremely blissful. Besides, perhaps in the glow of your positive attitudes, you might brighten their world a little bit.
If you are like the late Andy Rooney on CBS TV’s “60 Minutes” and complain about everything, deduct a point. If you can listen to our State legislators drone on about how they are going to fix the state budget, and not feel your blood pressure rise, assign yourself a point. If you live completely off the grid and do not care about any of the above, especially malfunctioning TVs and other home equipment, celebrate with a big four points.
Scoring your final exam
(11 to 17 Points) – You have somehow learned to successfully dodge and deflect life’s absurdities and move ahead with positive strides. Outwardly, you appear so perfect that some folks think you’re strange. You sometimes purposefully make small mistakes simply to convince others you’re human and like them.
(3 to 10 Points) – You become highly incensed by a full range of pet peeves – many not mentioned here – but come from a family that taught you about holding a stiff upper lip, as the British call it. Because of your amazing self-control, you are probably one of the most dangerous people around. At any moment you might explode and actually drive a pick axe or some other sharp instrument through the inconsiderate motorist’s car speakers. You consistently get good deals from auto dealers.
(2 to -5 Points) – You have a healthy attitude toward life’s irritations because you have friends who are willing to listen to you vent and rant. Sometimes, however, when you knock on their doors the window curtains move slightly, but no one answers. You frequently call into radio talk shows and write letters to the newspapers. You even complain to your dog– and after all these years–he has learned how to nod his head as if he understands you.
(-6 to -10 Points) – You might consider hypnosis to calm you down. On occasion your doctor has prescribed strong sedatives as well as long vacations in Hawaii. Some people say you become too angry to become an agent for change. But on many occasions you have proved them wrong. Your passion and dedication to your beliefs, even in adverse situations, enhances your potential to do great things. You just have to be careful. You need to take the time to walk before you run.
Freelance writer Frank Baker lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired school teacher. He is definitely not a psychologist or any other kind of mental health professional. His scoring answers are entirely made up.