A couple of days ago a friend got in touch to ask if I’d help with a survey she’s conducting as part of her PhD research. She’s doing some kind of brain science, and the survey was about pet peeves. Well, its official title was far more wordy and smarter-sounding than that, but in essence it was simply an exercise in listing things that piss me off.
‘Choose ten habits or behaviours which cause you to feel irritable’ read the survey, and below, a fairly exhaustive list of the usual offenders: noisy eaters, music through earphones, finger tapping, repetitive throat-clearing and so on. I duly ticked off my ten catalysts for fury before moving on to the next section: ‘If there are any behaviours not listed here that cause you to feel irritable, please add them’.
I gave it some thought, and concluded that the provided list was extensive enough to cover all the bases, but in the spirit of thoroughness and for the sake of SCIENCE, I would come back to it after a few days mulling it over. MULLING IT OVER IN A SWAMP OF FRUSTRATION. Because as it turns out, kids, quite a lot of stuff gets my goat. Quite a lot of strangely niche behaviour. Behold.
1) People using rowing machines incorrectly
To make it even more specific, smug people using rowing machines incorrectly. Smug looking idiots with an arrogant air about them that says ‘No poncey step-machine for me, thanks. I’m rowing. Perhaps I’ll huff and puff a little louder just so you can see how much rowing I’m doing.’ Oh right, is that what you call it? Because to me it looks like you’re imitating a broken toy as you tear your back muscles to shreds jerking awkwardly back and forth. LEGS AND ARMS TOGETHER. COME ON. Or at least dial down the smug, FFS.
I’m no athlete – I’ve made that perfectly clear. But even I understand that you don’t use your hands to pedal an exercise bike. Same deal.
2) Loud sneezers
‘Wow, Rach. Loud sneezing irritates you?’ YEAH SO?
I think the reason this bothers me so much is because there’s an implied ignorance to the behaviour. If somebody is a loud sneezer they’ll know it, because at some point during their lifetime someone will have inevitably turned to them and said: ‘Fucks sake. Thanks for perforating my ear drum.’ Peacefully sitting in a quiet room before literally bellowing your entire head off in a piercing, painful explosion of noise is like blowing a vuvuzela in the face of an unsuspecting passerby. A DICK MOVE. I appreciate that people are unable to control the volume of their sneezes but at least put a pillow over your head or something for God’s sake.
3) People that press the ‘open doors’ button on the Tube
You are not God. The doors will open when instructed to by the train driver. Repeatedly jabbing at the button does nothing except reaffirm the relative insignificance of your actions on the Universe. People that are genuinely unfamiliar with the door protocol are not exempt from this, either, for their attempts to exert influence on this automated process only indicates that they have not been paying attention to their surroundings at all – and that’s not the kind of person you want on your team.
4) People that sing in public
Before you accuse me of being a total joythief, let me specify the criteria for such offenders; I’m talking about people that sing at full, warbling volume in changing rooms, on the Tube and while sat in open windows, possibly accompanied by closed eyes and Christina Aguilera hand movements. What do these noise buggers think this will achieve? That a top record exec is just going to happen to be in the ladies changing room of Tooting Broadway Primark, hear their vocal talents and sign them immediately? Of course this is bloody not going to happen, but how do you reason with someone who insists on booming Britney Spears’ ‘My Prerogative’ at a packed carriage of weary commuters? It’s great that you’re confident and yeah, your singing is okay, but oh God just SHUT UP. I don’t float around reciting the times tables because I’m good at maths. KEEP YOUR GIFT TO YOURSELF.
5) People that say ‘Can I grab…’ to food servers
‘Grabbing’ is word which suggests aggressiveness and ill-manners – how often do you hear it used in a nice, positive context? “And then little Jimmy grabbed the kitten…” / “He grabbed the girl’s hair…” Statements like these suggest that some shit is about to go down, purely because of the verb ‘grab’ (try replacing it with ‘stroked’ – see?). Why then unnecessarily introduce it into polite dialogue? Especially when you’re asking someone to do something for you? I mean, really. What happened to ‘Please may I have…’, or even just ‘I’d like…’? Unless you’re genuinely trying to stimulate a game of out-of-reachies when you next order a sandwich, YOU MAY NOT GRAB ANYTHING.