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.

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