My Peculiar Pet Peeves

I’ve got a long list of pet peeves like I’m sure many do, but I’ve noticed a few in myself that seem to go beyond noisy soup eaters and people who take too long to go when the light turns green.  Here’s some exposition on them.

1: Calling something a “Pet Peeve” when it is bigger than just a minor annoyance.

I believe that a genuine “pet peeve” should be something that, in the end, doesn’t really matter.  It’s something that bugs you but not necessarily anyone else, and if that pet peeve never happened again, the world would not necessarily be a better (or even worse) place.  A great example in my own experience: I get very passionately upset when discussing the dismissive and arrogant attitude Chicagoans have with the-rest-of-Illinoisans.  But I don’t call that a pet peeve because on some level (however small in the scheme of things) it matters.  I can argue a point as to why Chicagoans shouldn’t be that way; and I know of many Chicagoans who could and would argue back.  So when someone mentions that a person driving too slow in the left lane on the freeway is a “pet peeve,” I get peeved, because that’s actually a bit of a safety concern (not to mention a legal one).  But note that my annoyance at this ultimately doesn’t matter. Hence it being the first in my list.

2: Traffic reports on the radio made in the second person.

Have you ever noticed this?  I didn’t live in a place that even needed traffic reports until about seven years ago.  Then, when I started paying attention, I noticed that some days I had the information given to me and went about my day.  Other times I would listen and notice myself getting uncomfortable with what was being said to me.  Why?  There are a few traffic reporters here in the Seattle area that do their traffic reports in the 2nd person.

“And here’s Kimmie with traffic.”

“Well it looks like you’re having a really tough commute this evening.  You’re stuck in a three-mile backup on northbound I-5, and you’re slowing down on southbound, as well, as you’re distracted by that accident across the divider.  I-90 doesn’t look great as you’re coming off of Mercer Island, and you’re backed up pretty bad heading south on 405.”

Ugh.  It even made me cringe to write that.  It bugs me because in an attempt to make the traffic report *more* relatable by giving it in the second person, it has become *less* relatable.  Why? Because, no, I am not stuck in a three-mile backup on I-5 North.  I’m very likely somewhere else.  And if I AM in a three-mile backup on I-5 North, then your traffic report doesn’t help me very much, does it?  I already know I’m stuck and now your poorly-thought-out narrative style makes it sound like you’re mocking me.  I need a traffic report to tell me what things are like in places where I will *be*, not how they are where I *am*.  Do I get the same info either way? Absolutely.  But we’re not talking about logic here.

3: “Baby” instead of “The Baby” or “Your Baby” or “Our Baby,” etc.

I first took notice of this years ago when I spent a lot more time watching television, and there would be a commercial for some baby product. The commercial narrator would say something like, “. . . so that it doesn’t irritate baby’s skin,” or “. . . and its gentle formula makes it easier for baby to digest.”

Well, round about 13 months ago I got caught in the “all-babies-all-the-time hurricane,” myself, and this issue only compounded itself.  It’s as if all the having-babies and raising-babies industries and community forgot about articles and adjectives.

“You just need to do what’s best for baby.”

“. . . and that will give you more time to spend with baby.”

“Do some research on what things you prefer to have in toys for baby.”

People, I implore you.  What is so wrong with saying, “the baby,” “a baby,” and ESPECIALLY “your baby.”  “Baby” is not my child’s name.  “Baby” is what she is.  We don’t do this for other things . . .

“This will be the perfect gift for man.”

“Life can be a little rough when dealing with teenager.”

“. . . and it’s gentle formula makes it easier for guinea pig to digest.”

. . . so why “baby?”  I don’t understand and it’s annoying.

4: People I don’t know talking to me about my food.

In a broader sense, I just don’t like it when people I don’t know talk to me, period.  But I concede that in most situations it’s good for me to step out of my comfort zone and be forced to interact with people.  I think that’s good for all of us.  What would things look like if we weren’t so cold to strangers every day?

That said, I cannot stand it when strangers start small talk about my food that I’m eating or heating up.

“Oh, that looks pretty good.  Whatcha got there? Is that chicken in that?”

What the heck? Who are you and why do you think I’m okay with you putting your nasty vision all over my food?  I’m standing by the microwave to heat this up so I can eat it and continue working and go home.  There’s no reason for us to have any interaction about my LUNCH.

Useless small talk is always bad, but when it centers around a very private thing like my nasty-looking, cold, chicken curry and rice in a Ziploc container, it’s infinitely worse.  What response are they expecting?  Do they want a bite?  Because they can’t have one.  Do they want me to discuss how I made it?  Should I bring up the stores where I got the ingredients?  Or maybe my inspiration?  I’m very certain they’re not asking so they can make it themselves.  Am I now obligated to return compliments on THEIR food?  Should I bring up that I’m not sure which pepper slice is the one I dropped on my dirty kitchen floor, but it’s in there somewhere?

The worst example of this happening was years ago as I was heating up some KFC (freaking KFC!  Does day-old fried chicken and gluey mashed potatoes warrant a conversation?).  A guy started blasting me with questions about it–“Is that regular or extra crispy?” was one of many inquiries–and then worked his way into asking if I’ve ever been to Cleveland, Ohio.  When I said no, he proceeded to give me a specific location (as in street name and neighborhood) of a “great fried chicken place” that I should check out if I’m ever in the area.  And then he left.  To this day I wonder if he recalls that conversation as one of those cringe-inducing embarrassing memories.  I honestly kind of hope so.

As a quick disclaimer–if I know you, I don’t care if you comment on or ask questions about my food.  Seriously.  Don’t be afraid.  Chat away.  You see, to speak to another person about their food, I believe there should be an established relationship.   It is not small talk material.  Make a comment about my funny shirt, complain about the smelly work fridge, ask if I know where the extra salt is kept.  I don’t care.  Anything that works in a passing manner, but if you’re going to talk about what I’m eating or about to eat, we’d better be working toward some meaningful interactions sometime in the future.  Otherwise it’s like striking up a conversation with a stranger at a urinal.

5: People who can’t or refuse to make eye contact with you during a casual conversation.

This is the weird thing . . . I’ve never been able to find anyone else that notices this the way I do, but I can think of three people at least–none of whom have any connection to each other other than knowing me at some point in time–who, when getting really into the point they’re making in a conversation, look off far to the side and hold their vision there.  It’s hard to describe in words.

This is a normal conversation:

NormalEyeContact

And this is what the conversation looks like when I’m talking with the people that do this:

NoEyeContact

I *know* this has to be something  of a common thing.  Someone reading this will know what I’m talking about, or start noticing it.

6: When trivial pieces of information, which I know to be untrue, are brought into a conversation and I have to decide to be a jerk and correct them or to lie and pretend I don’t know they’re wrong.

Did you know if you soak a steak in Coca Cola for a week it’ll dissolve?

Did you know that Johnny Depp finished scenes as the Joker for The Dark Knight after Heath Ledger died?

Did you know that Washington State Unemployment determines how much you make on unemployment by picking a paycheck from the previous year at random and giving you a percentage of that?

Isn’t it crazy how fast the Die Hard movies have come out?  I mean, the first one came out in the late 90’s!

None of those statements are factual, and all of them I’ve found myself in conversations with people that either required me to kill said conversation by informing the other person of their error which inevitably and awkwardly brings the larger interaction to a halt, or to proceed with that conversation feeling like a complete and utter fraud because I’m pretending to be impressed by information that I know to be false.  This is the sad side to being someone so fascinated by such useless, trivial things.  I learn about them, I read more about them, and then I learn what’s true and what’s not.  As a next step, I then become fascinated not by useless and trivial things, but by misconceptions about useless and trivial things, which increases the probability that this happens to me.

But there’s a different side to this.  Sure, me immersing myself in knowledge of common misconceptions about a variety of trivia topics puts me in a self-imposed position to get annoyed by people who don’t know as much as I know about something.  But sometimes, it’s the other person.  Sometimes the other person either makes something up, listens to something that is made up, or doesn’t know how to be properly skeptical about things they read in email forwards, and then spit it out as fact.  And then the conversation gets *really* awkward because I now know that I will not believe anything they say for the remainder of the time I know them.

And then sometimes I don’t know WHERE they get their information.  Like that thing about Die Hard.  I’m not exaggerating that quote.  It’s paraphrased, yes, but not stretched at all.  I met a guy who expressed his wonder at “how fast Hollywood put out all the Die Hard movies” as he discussed that summer’s release of Live Free or Die Hard, and when I asked him to clarify what he defined as “fast,” he pointed out that the first movie was released in the late 90’s.  1996 at the earliest,  he was sure.  And he refused to listen to me when I told  him I remember very clearly watching the first Die Hard on TV in the early 1990’s.  (It came out in 1988, for the record; I’ll never forget that fact, now).

I actually spent a whole day talking to that guy and  he was this pet peeve incarnate.

7: The phrase “Wow! Small world!”

Because it’s not.   Spend some time on Google Maps and really take in how small your house or apartment is next to the nearest body of water you can find.  Then scroll out and take in how much space there is on Planet Earth and really ponder on how NOT small this world is.  When an amazing coincidence comes up, it’s okay to really marvel at how crazy that kind of connection is.  Because there are a lot of people.  And there are far more ways that coincidence could have NOT happened, as billions and billions do daily, than for it to have  happened.  Let’s be amazed.

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