After several months of doing more traveling than I did in the past two years, I’ve made an important discovery. It turns out that I am more annoyed by other people than I was pre-COVID. Perhaps being cooped up at home with only one other person caused me to be less patient of everyone else. Regardless of the reason, I strive to let these behaviors roll off my back rather than get under my skin. In the meantime, as part of my cathartic therapy, let me share a few of my favorite annoying behaviors. Enjoy.
Snowplows — At Chicago’s O’Hare airport last week, I was trying to get to my gate after a flight delay reduced my connection time to mere minutes. As I turned down one hallway, I saw a snowplow of people coming towards me. There were six travelers, side by side, joined by two airport employees pushing empty wheelchairs. The width of the group stretched across the entire walkway and they were oblivious to the fact that anyone else was in the airport. Determined not to let this wall of pedestrians cause me to miss my flight, I shouted, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Let Ron Come Over” and I plowed through the middle of the line. I heard one of them say, “How annoying.” Oh, the irony.
Hearsay — Once, while sitting in the United Club Lounge, I witnessed what appeared to be a real-time divorce proceeding. A man was sitting in a glassed-off area of the lounge shouting at his soon-to-be ex-wife. His colorful language illustrated one of the reasons she may have requested a divorce and the volume of his voice was louder than the idling airplane engines just outside the lounge. After yelling for several minutes, he slammed the phone down and called his attorney. This led to another animated high-decibel conversation. Unbeknownst to this angry man, his obnoxious public behavior was witnessed by a dozen people in the lounge who would now gladly testify on his ex-wife’s behalf. That’s justice.
Wild Wings — I must admit that I’ve developed a bad habit of judging the height and wingspan of people boarding airplanes. The reason is based on some obscure law of physics which indicates that short, well-contained people never sit in the middle seat. Instead, with an uncanny frequency, tall, long-armed folks who love to spread out seem to get assigned there. Now, if I’m in the window seat, I can always lean away from the elbows and knees. But if I’m on the aisle, I’m forced to play a game of Dodge the Beverage Cart as I try to avoid the encroachment of my seat mate’s appendages. There should be a sign, similar to those in amusement parks, that says, “If you’re over this height, you can’t ride in this seat.” And I suspect there is some kind of binding material that could keep these passengers’ arms and legs within the proper boundaries. But, alas, I am hesitant to suggest these things.
Aisle See Ya — A few days ago, my airplane was pulling into the gate and two passengers from the back of the plane started making their way to the front. Since the plan was still moving, an Air Marshal might have interpreted their behavior as a threat. But seeing how they were in their seventies, it most likely wasn’t. However, their rush to the front did go against a well established sequencing pattern for leaving an airplane. You let the rows in front of you go first and then your row is free to go. While there is that awkward hesitation that occurs when the person across from you steps towards the aisle at the same time you do, this is easily solved by letting the other person go first. But, and let’s be clear, there is never a situation where people should barge ahead of their appointed row. It’s just plane etiquette.
Alamo-ny — A while back, I picked up my rental car and the agent asked me if I wanted to purchase insurance. It’s the classic rental car upsell. I told him I had my own insurance and he asked for specifics about the coverage. Since I didn’t have the details with me, he then declared this warning: “If you damage our rental car, you’ll have to pay all of your deductible immediately.” When I asked what would happen if the damage was less than the deductible, he didn’t have an answer. When I asked why they would bill be before knowing how much it cost, he didn’t have an answer. When I asked what the square root of 257 was, he just shrugged and asked me to sign the paperwork. You see, I had a fender bender in a rental car and my insurance company handled the repair process beautifully. So, now, when an agent uses scare tactics to get me to pay more, I like to ask complicated questions that will confuse him until he gets frustrated and hands over the keys. I like to call this rental car counter-annoyance.
Peeves and Queues — I was standing in a busy hotel waiting to check in. There were about five people in line behind me but only two registration clerks—and one was busy handling a hungover guest’s challenge to the mini-bar charge. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gentleman slinking up to the counter rather than getting in line behind us. He looked at the line, looked at the clerk, and then said loudly, “I just have a quick question.” Well, his question was more complex than solving hotel room climate control. By the time I finally checked in, it was almost checkout time. In the future, the next time someone says, “I just have a quick question,” I’ll say, “I have a quick answer. No.”
Toll House Rookies — I once had a presentation about five hours away. Since flying would have taken a full day, I decided to drive. On my way home, after a long day and an excellent presentation, I might add, I drove onto the turnpike headed out of town. I got to the toll booth for my ticket but the person in front of me wasn’t moving forward. I waited, and I waited, and I waited. The person was still there. I looked in my rear-view mirror and there were too many people behind me to allow for a lane switch. Finally after what seemed like an hour, the car in front of me moved on. When I got to the booth, the operator told me that the previous person was lost and needed directions. Might I suggest that with Siri, Alexa, and a patron saint for direction and guidance, one should never need to rely on toll booth operators for help on their journey.
Annoynted — The final area we must discuss is that group of people who are very near and dear to my heart. These are the people who embrace an attitude of annoyance towards those who are annoying. They’re the people who complain about everyone and every thing. It’s as if they have been baptized in a pool of grumpiness and are forever “annoynted” into a state of angst. In fact these are the type of people who actually write entire blogs about irritating people. Oh, wait.