Pet Peeves

I am currently spinning my way closer to another complete lap around the sun, closing in on the only birthday that is divisible by the first six numbers– a landmark event that should prompt reflection on the chaotic jumble of nature, nurture and accumulated experience that is me.  A 60th birthday is a time for reinvention, but what should I keep and discard?  Certainly it is difficult to wrestle with these weighty issues, but as a starting point I have decided what I definitely want to keep – my collection of pet peeves. Why should I address these harmless foibles after all these years?  By definition pet peeves should be idiosyncratic– minor annoyances that are mine alone and  give me an opportunity to laugh at myself.  Tom Wolfe wrote an essay about his dislike for suit jackets that have buttons at the cuffs but no buttonholes – apparently this is a sign of an off-the-rack jacket that cannot make a commitment to button holes since the sleeves might need shortening.  This is a perfect pet peeve for Tom Wolfe, who is always decked out in immaculately tailor-made suits.  Hopefully he can laugh at his pretentiousness every time he notices absent button holes, or perhaps he snickers at the pretensions of people who are smugly preening in off-the-rack suits.

My 8th grade yearbook listed the pet peeves for all myclassmates.  Mine were “dripping waterand smelly dogs.”  My friend Lucy saidthat her pet peeve was “people who take out their retainers.” I have notexperienced dripping water for many years, but my displeasure in smelly dogshas endured.  However, I have accumulatedmany more pet peeves since that modest start.  In no particular order here are arepresentative sample:

Christmas Cards that Show Exotic Vacations

Don’t get me wrong, every Christmas I look forward to receiving cards with family pictures, and in fact if there is no picture, I am disappointed.  But I do take issue with Christmas cards illustrating exotic vacations.  I get it that you are most likely to take a family picture when you are traveling, so if you are in Machu Pichu, fine – show me a picture of the Incan hideaway, or if you are sitting on a camel, you can offer a word of explanation. But if your family is just standing on a beach, you don’t need to tell me the beach is in Tahiti.  I distinctly remember when this pet peeve emerged.  It was circa 1980 and my parents received a Christmas card from a Detroit couple all bundled up standing in front of a pile of snow.  They could have been standing in their plowed driveway, and in fact, the snow was dirty and there might have been some yellow snow.  However, in the corner of the card it said, Antarctica, 1980. This fits the definition of a pet peeve; I can laugh at myself and recognize that perhaps I am a bit jealous that I have not been to Antarctica.

Magazine Table of Contents That are Hidden and Spread Out 

Vanity Fair is a particular pet peeve. I have to leaf through the pages one by one and the Table of Contents can be about 50 pages in, and then it is spread over many non-sequential pages.  The related pet peeve is that the pages aren’t all numbered, so even if I find the Table of Contents it is very difficult to find the article.  Vanity Fair forces me to wade through ads for perfume, stiletto heels and “très outre” fashions for tiny wisps of women – all ridiculously out of my demographic.  I don’t like to be so brutally manipulated.  Sometimes pet peeves are accompanied by equally idiosyncratic work-arounds that turn into quirks.  I read Vanity Fair backwards – there are fewer ads that way.

“Baked” Potatoes Wrapped in Tinfoil

This is an oxymoron – a potato wrapped in tinfoil is steamed not baked andthe potato skin is flabby – most often seen at midwest “supper clubs.”

Defining Women by Their Husband’s Name (i.e. Mrs. Ralph Brown)

Hopefully this chauvinistic habit is dying an accelerated death, but just this week I received an invitation to a charity event hosted by a women’s board. Of the 60 women, 56 are identified by their husbands’ names, the other four are presumably divorced, widowed or never married.  If I want to contact any of these women, I have no idea what their first names are.  I know these women are working hard for a very worthy cause, but still it makes me wonder.  But that is why this is a pet peeve, it is my issue alone.

Pens That Don’t Work

If a pen doesn’t work, please don’t put it back in the drawer – throw it out immediately.  I think I inherited this pet peeve from my father who would immediately throw a deck with a missing card into the fireplace.  He refused to give it time to see if the missing card turned up and he refused to repurpose a joker.  He would just fling the deck into the flames.  Similarly, there is no point in saving a non-functioning pen in the hope that it will magically unclog itself.  It won’t.  The good news is that new pens always turn up, and in fact, if you stay alert, you shouldn’t need to buy a pen for the rest of your life.  And that is my related quirk – scrounging pens.  On my desk right now are pens from Lexiva (anAIDS drug), Russell Investments, Crowne Plaza, Days Inn and several other hotels, Sanford Winery, Nielson, Hines REIT, Lincoln Financial, the Engel Agency and the College Board. Sometimes when I abruptly stop the car, a pen will roll into the front seat along with the odd golf or tennis ball. Last week, a pen appeared that was proudly emblazoned with “Lakewood Crematorium.”  I must have scooped it upwhen I picked up my father’s ashes three years ago and literally it came backfrom the dead.


Health Ads That Confuse a Risk Factor with aDisease

The biggest offenders in this category are the pharmaceutical ads for osteoporosis, some of which feature a plucky Sally Field talking about her“disease” osteoporosis.  In most cases, osteoporosis (i.e. bone loss) is not a disease, it is a universal consequence of aging.  Significant bone loss is associated with an increased risk of a vertebral fracture or more seriously a hip fracture.  The problem is that there are plenty of people without osteoporosis who will suffer a fracture, and there are plenty of people taking drugs for  osteoporosis who are either not destined to have a fracture or suffer a fracture despite therapy.  It is estimated that only one out of 20 people taking drug therapy will benefit (5%) – it is just that physicians are not that good in figuring who really needs to be treated, and the drugs aren’tt hat effective anyway, but it’s the best we can do.  This is an absolute dream scenario for pharmaceutical companies.

Performers Who Invite the Audience to Sing Along…

by waving their hands, pointing the microphone toward the audience and thenputting their hands to their ears.  Theworst was everyone singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” together at a Peter, Paul and Mary concert.

Holiday Themed Sweaters

When our kids were in grade school, I was working full-time in Chicago, so was unable to attend many school pageants, but did manage to make it to a Halloween event.  I arrived a little late and when I walked into the auditorium, I was totally overwhelmed by the number of mothers wearing sweaters embroidered or otherwise decorated with pumpkins, ghosts and witches.  I braced myself fort he Christmas pageant and similarly found myself in the midst of red and green sweaters with candy canes, Christmas trees, reindeers and Santas.  There was even one sweater that had bells tied to it that jingled as the woman walked. My idea of fashion does not include clothes that can only be worn for a couple of days per year, but beyond that my pet peeve probably related to my realization that I was a misfit among these mothers.

Hotels That Don’t Come With the Use of a Telephone

Given the use of cell phones this pet peeve is petering out, but it doesn’t matter because I can just substitute internet access for the telephone access.  In my business travelling days, I was always astounded that a high priced hotel would have the nerve to charge extra for both local calls and outgoing credit cardc calls.  When I checked in, I would ask the eager-to-please receptionist, “Does the room rate include the use of a phone?”  She would look at me as if I were crazy, and say of course there is a phone in the room, and then I would move in for the kill, “Yes, but is there an extra charge for the use of thephone?”  My voice would turn entirely peevish as I struck, “Let me ask you a personal question, don’t you think that it is odd that there is a surcharge for a phone when I am spending over $150 for a room?”

Startled, she would mutter something along the lines of “this is an industry standard.”  I would then ask for the complaint form and fill it out in detail, pointing out the brilliant marketing strategy of being the ONLY hotel to provide complimentary use of a telephone for local and credit card calls. Clearly I was in full-on pet peeve mode, since I could expense the $.50 surcharge.  But I refused to play into their hands and developed a work-around quirk. When I needed to call home, I would go to the lobby and make a free credit card call on the pay phone, give Nick the telephone number and then rush back to my room to accept his incoming call. Over the years I must have filled out over a dozen complaint forms, but I never heard back from any of them.  Now I can fill out complaint forms for charging extra for internet access, or just stay at the cheaper hotel across the street, which paradoxically offers free internet.

Hotels That Don’t Use Contour Sheets

Decent hotels of the Marriott/Hilton/Renaissance ilk have advertising campaigns extolling their most perfect comfy bed with Egyptian cotton sheets with a ridiculous thread count and a perfusion of pillows to fit every taste.  All of this effort, and then the bed doesn’t have contour sheets.  Within a couple of rollovers, the bottom sheet is in a lumpy snarl.  Perhaps hotels don’t want to inventory two different types of sheets and everyone knows that it is impossible to fold contour sheets, and maybe the elastic in the sheets will lose its spunk after daily washings, but this should be all balanced out by decreased workers’ compensation claims.  In California, the hotel workers’ union is demanding that hotels use contour sheets, claiming that their members suffer back injuries each year lifting heavy mattresses to replace flatsheets.

Winners Who Kiss a Trophy (i.e. tennis, hockey,etc)

My personal vow – if I ever win a trophy, I will not kiss it.  This might be the only thing that I have incommon with Rafael Nadal.  He always bites his trophies.

Q-Tips with Ear Wax on Them That Stick to the Bottom of the Wastebasket

‘Nuff said.

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, post, stop) and the number of asterisks indicates the number of letters.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

In 60 years I have accumulated a collection of pet peeves that are all my***

Magazine pages with no numbers and a surcharge for a hotel telephone,

A holiday-themed sweater that you can only wear *** and then,

No contour sheets, potatoes in tin foil and a non-working pen.

Deceptive health ads and women who are defined by their husband’s name

And finally athletes who kiss the trophy after they’ve *** the game.

What are yours?









own, now, won

Posted in

Leave a Comment