Assorted Pet Peeves

I recently met with a blog reader. She wanted more emotion on this blog. She said, "Get angry. Get pissed." OK guys. Get ready. My owner let me out of the cage. I’m angry. PISSED! I’ve been keeping a list of pet peeves. They’re not on the level of Things I Hate, but it’s a starting point. Here goes.

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Experts suggest repeating the questioner’s first name when answering a question. I ask you a question, and you answer, "Ben, I think that…"

I don’t dispute that it’s a good technique when used sparingly. But it’s annoying as hell to hear this in excess. For a perfect example, check out the Marketplace interview between Tess Vigeland and Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson. He begins his first three statements with "Tess." In all, he says "Tess" nine times in the course of the interview. One time he even said, "Tess, that’s a very good question." Double-whammy – never start an answer with "that’s a very good question"! Argh!

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When otherwise rational people who do not believe in a higher power say: "Things happen for a reason." When I probe on this, they don’t mean that things happen for a reason due to basic cause and effect (I have to pee after drinking lots of water – I have to "pee for a reason"). They often mean it in some vague, karmic sense. You meet your future lover at a library one Tuesday evening and you say, "We met for a reason. Things happen for a reason." Well, yes, you met at the library because you both were researching for your dissertation – or whatever.

Either you believe in randomness generally and basic cause-and-effect of your actions, or you believe in some higher power (with a long, gray beard) animating the world. So what in the world do people mean when they fall in the middle of these two poles with "things happen for a reason"?

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Saying "You know what I mean" does not help you communicate what you’re thinking. Sometimes it can work if you’re very confident that you’ve expressed a point and you don’t want to re-hash it, or it’s an obvious point. But some people say "Ya know what I mean?" as a substitute for actually saying something. Um, no, I don’t know what you mean, but I will once you tell me. Words exist for a reason: use them.

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If I’m 15 steps away from the door, please don’t hold the door open for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to start jogging or fast-walking to get to the door out of guilt because you’re standing there holding the door for me. It’s not a big deal to open a door. So before you hold the door open, judge to see if the person is right behind you. If not, let the door close.

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If you’re exercising in a gym full of other people, and everyone else is listening to an iPod or the equivalent, don’t blast a boombox! That’s rude. It’s harder to listen to an iPod when a boombox or other loud, non-headphone stereo-system is playing. Get a personal music device or else don’t listen to music — respect the music norms of the gym.

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When two people are trying to make a decision and neither expresses a preference about logistics because they want to be fully deferential. Like, "Where do you want to grab lunch?" Both people say "I don’t care, your call." It’s astonishing how many times this circle of "indifference" can spin round and round. We get it: you want to accommodate the other person. But in the name of decisiveness: express a fucking preference and move on.

17 Responses to Assorted Pet Peeves

  1. I’m guilty of the last one, mostly because I genuinely do not have a preference as to what to eat/when to eat/where to eat. I am not a “foodie” and just don’t care. When I’m alone, I eat the same (perfectly nutritionally balanced) things every single day and have them delivered every Thursday from Safeway because I just care that little.

    I really wish there was a better alternative to the Wheel of Lunch or Dine-O-Matic that would randomly select a place to eat. They both suck but the concept is awesome.

    At restaurants I always ask the waiter to bring me “anything.” They always freak. I have never, ever had a waiter say, “No problem!” to this request. Strange. Nevertheless it usually leads to some cool foods that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

    It REALLY pisses me off when people go back and forth in email with me 10x to pick a time/place, though, so I’ve tried to be good about giving three time/place suggestions and letting the other person pick from there. Still, I wish there was a Wheel of Lunch to make that decision for me.

  2. The author of Things I Hate, Ramit Sethi (sounds like the name of an Egyptian pharaoh), is my new hero.

    This guy is a zen master of bile and vitriol– and he knows that humor is the antidote to all the pain we have to suffer from the passive-aggressive people we encounter in daily life.

    @ “At restaurants I always ask the waiter to bring me “anything.” They always freak.”

    Asking a waiter this seems pretty strange to me.

  3. marcantonio says:

    I personally hate when people insist on you expressing a preference.

    When I sit in a restaurant or in a bar or I’m not working I want to relax. And more often than not, I want to relax _my mind_.

    Rest assured that I _will_ express a preference in case I want to.
    But please, do not keep asking me questions.
    If I say that I do not care, well, I DO NOT CARE. And I would really, really, really love if you didn’t force me to think about some stupid preference that I do not have in that particular moment so that you stop nagging me.

    The same applies to waiters. “A coffee please.” – “Would you like it with milk, espresso, large, or …” ARGH.

    I want a coffee WITHOUT QUESTIONS.

  4. Jude says:

    The 10 code was designed to shorten radio conversations and add clarity. Thus, 10-4 means “message understood.” One night in the 1960s, we listened in on a couple of guys who didn’t understand that. One would make a statement, and the other would reply, “Yeah, 10-4, I know what ya mean.”

    If someone held a door for me, I’d veer towards another door.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Change is good and I don’t despise the rants but must emotion equate to anger?

  6. det says:

    I sometimes ask, “Do you know what I mean” in order to gauge whether I am explaining something well enough, or see if I need to rephrase an idea.

  7. amy says:

    i share your feelings on the first point. i had an accident a few years ago and hearing people (who i knew didn’t believe in a higher power) tell me that ‘everything happens for a reason’ drove me crazy. i understood that they were upset and were trying to make me feel better about my injuries but it also felt as if they were trying to either avoid the complexity of an emotional conversation or the pain of letting an awful situation be just that. crappy. it did happen for a reason – the truck driver ran a red light. thank you for letting me vent!

  8. Ben Casnocha says:

    Stephanie — The “anger” thing is kind of a joke.

    Vince — I love Ramit. His main blog is http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com

  9. gregory says:

    Meh, I know you have talked about people suggesting you be more emotive in the past. As I said at the time, I didn’t think if it didn’t come naturally then you probably could stick to what does.

    I would also question the value of being seen as ‘emotional’ fitting in with the image you are projecting. When I think Ben Casnocha, I think: Young, Achievement, Business. I dont see value in focusing on negative emotions just for the sake of showing emotion. It hooks into the negative perceptions people have of young people, which I dont think is productive. Rather, if you really wanted to do the emotion thing, I think focusing on the positive aspects/emotions of being young would be better met. eg. the aspiration, hope for the future, the excitement of the achievement.

    I think it’s possible to do the negative emotional thing, but it’s such a fine line to walk. If you are going to be pissed, you are going to have to get pissed AT someone/some group. What you have included above is probably a bit tame, possibly a little ‘whingey’, and forced.

    Cheers,
    A different point of view

  10. Ben Casnocha says:

    Gregory, thanks for the comment.

    I have had this laundry list of pet peeves accumulating as a draft blog post for a long time, so I don’t think it’s forced.

    I’m not going to overthink these things.

    Everyone deserves to rant now and then!

  11. Jenny Ford says:

    I am completely devoid of belief in any supernatural forces, men with white beards, flying spaghetti monsters, or otherwise.

    For completely scientific reasons, I regularly say “things happen for a reason”.

    I say these words in order to engage my reticular activating system in searching for the best possible outcome from the current circumstance, aka “the reason”, so I can then take whatever actions I need to take to create that outcome.

    If you focus on anything other than the “seed of an equal or greater benefit” in an adversity, you may well be blinded to some of the best opportunities and fail to create the best possible outcome from your current situation, simply because you don’t SEE the best possible outcome at all.

    Saying “things happen for a reason”, “there is an equal or greater benefit here somewhere” and “what is the silver lining here?” are all tools for getting your RAS to spotlight your optimal course of action.

    You don’t have to believe in the literal truth of a supernatural being for this to work, either. It works perfectly well for atheists and agnostics!

    Jenny Ford
    http://www.cash-smart-kids.com
    Blogging at link to raisingentrepreneurs.org

  12. Jenny says:

    I really enjoyed your list. The idea of ‘Westernized’ karma, ladled onto to all manner of events from oversleeping to murder really burns my ass. My personal favorite is to ask someone if they could please explain the karma balance of children born to HIV positive mothers in South Africa. The idea of ‘karma’ in the pseudo bullshitters, is nothing more than ignorance of convenience on one hand and an excuse for skirting personal responsibility on the other. Amen. :)

    Personally, I think you have a real future in emotive writing.

  13. Stephen Dodson says:

    Great list, Ben. I will have to disagree with your aforementioned blog reader recommending you to get “PISSED!” One of the greatest things about your blog is your clarity of thought. Getting “PISSED!” on occasion may impair that clarity. Keep up the great blog, and I hope you’re doing well.

    -Stephen Dodson

  14. Tim Taylor says:

    Do you feel better or different now?

  15. Garrett Myler says:

    (Gregory)I agree with Dr. Laura Schlessinger that a little whining is normal and okay.

    (Marina) Because I’m so easy going and easy to please, I can never make a non-critical decision. At best I’ll make what I call an “anti vote”, like anything but sushi. Instead of “freaking out” a waiter by asking them to bring me anything, I’ll ask them to bring me their personal favorite or most ordered item. I find that on top of getting good food I wouldn’t otherwise ordered, it gets the waiter more invested in my meal.

    The best thing about this post being in some part prompted by a reader wanting you to “get pissed, get angry” is how it reminds me of that scene in the movie “signs” in which the pastor artificially gets angry and swears at the insistence of his brother.

    The only pet peeve I can think of is people not doing what they say they will, or demonstrating a lack of integrity. Showing up late to meetings or not returning a call.

  16. LP says:

    1. “Ben, I think that…” I’d say this is obnoxious pretty much all of the time, even when used sparingly.

    2. “Things happen for a reason.” Happiness research show that people who believe this are happier than people who don’t. And, relationships that are driven by a sense of being ‘meant’ to be together are more likely to last (all other htings being equal). So it looks like this might be a good belief to have, even though it’s not true.

    3. “Ya know what I mean?” This is not an attempt to communicate information, it’s an attempt to check in with the listener and see if they’re still with you, so you can move on to the next point.

    4. Holding the door for you when you’re 15 steps away — I dunno, when someone holds the door for me I usually just recognize it as an attempt at courtesy. I’d rather live in a world where people sometimes open doors too much than one where they let hte door slam on someone 2 steps behind them.

    The thing about pet peeves: they’re almost never the result of people actually being rude (your boombox in the gym is an example of this), so it seems like it’s usually best to assume people are trying to do right, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

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