Whoopi Goldberg says she has so many pet
peeves that it is more appropriate to refer to them as a kennel of
irritations instead. I agree. As I walk around with my head
up and eyes open I see a lot of things that astound me and irk me to no
end. Some of these are things that I've never heard people express
as irritants. So I thought I'd expound on them a bit here to see
whether I'm just being overly critical or perhaps you agree with me.
Of course I run the risk of pointing out things that didn't bother you
before, but will now that I've brought it up. If so, then I
apologize for giving you more things to be upset about. But maybe,
just maybe, you may have been guilty of a behavior I describe without
thinking anything ill of it. If this results in your ceasing such
behavior, not only will the world be a better place, but I may have
saved you from being shot by someone with a shorter fuse than I have.
If you share my views about some of these irritants, then just knowing
that others share these opinions will help to make it more tolerable.
Talking and writing about it is my way of doing something about it.
I say that these are things that prevent our country from being that
first class nation everybody wants it to be--with the possible exception
of New Jersey. It's good for a laugh or a cry, at least. So here
goes, in no particular order of irritating importance.
Shopping Carts in the Parking Lot
When you go to the store or shopping mall, aren't you pissed off
about shopping carts being left anywhere and everywhere? It's hard
enough finding an available parking space without people using them up
by simply leaving their emptied cart in them rather than returning them.
Folks are evidently too lazy to go
the extra distance to return the
carts even to marked cart islands conveniently distributed throughout
the parking lot. These folks can frequently be seen wearing the
workout outfits they wear to the fitness center. They can drag
their fat butts there to do pilates, treadmills, or elliptical runners
for hours on end, but it's asking too much for them to push their empty
shopping cart 50 feet to the cart island. Cart abuse negatively
affects us all. Keep in mind that shopping carts and the
management of shopping carts represent a significant cost that is simply passed on
to the customer. It's one thing for these rogue carts to be
sitting there daring you to park in the spots they occupy. But I
have seen them get up a head of steam and purposely seek out immaculate
new cars to dent as if they were completing some baptismal ritual.
Solution: If you can find a parking space
amongst the loose carts, don't just ignore them. Take one or two
of them with you as you head into the store. Not only does this
help clear the lot of loose carts, but it increases the likelihood that
you will have a cart that steers OK and doesn't have Parkinson's disease
of the wheel--you know, that fluttering, wobbly wheel that detracts from
the shopping experience. Since I started gathering loose carts, I
have occasionally discovered items left in the cart by the lazy
so-and-so. Surprisingly, no one has yet left their kid in the
child seat. I have also taken to offering to take the cart from
someone who is in the final stages of unloading their cart. This
not only pre-empts the temptation of cart abandonment, but also
increases the possibility that the person might offer to take someone
else's cart in the future. One good turn might beget another.
My hope is that everyone does this. The world would be bigger and
better than Montavani.
Solution: In many places in Europe,
shopping carts are not found in the parking lots because they are all
serially chained together in the front of the store. To obtain a
cart to use while shopping, you release the chain by inserting a Euro
coin into a little box locking the cart to the one in front of it.
When you are done with the cart, you return it to the chain of carts.
As you reattach the chain connecting it to the cart in front of it, the
little box opens and your Euro is returned to you. Perhaps this
would be the best use of the $1 U.S. coins that we hardly use otherwise.
Then again, someone will probably sell some device on eBay that you can
use to empty the coins from all the lock boxes.
Male Urinals--Aiming to Please/A
In the men's restroom at a department store a sign above the urinal
reads, "At Acme Dept. Stores, we aim to please. We would greatly
appreciate it if you would aim too, please." Herein lies one of
the things that causes me much puzzlement. Men spend a large
percentage of their life engaged in sports and activities that rely on
coordination and accuracy: throwing and hitting a baseball; putting a
basketball through a hoop; striking a golf ball into a tiny hole over an
undulating green; shooting a small target with a gun or arrow; curving a
soccer ball past a goalie and into a net. Yet without anyone
guarding or trying to tackle them, men can't seem to pee competently
into a large urinal from only inches away. Judging from the piddle
puddles that commonly surround public urinals, fellows evidently need to
be "choking up on the bat" for better control. Perhaps the rules
of the game have not been adequately explained. Close only counts
in horseshoes. With a batting average or completion percentage so
low, the fact that hidden camera surveys show that one out of four men
don't wash there hands after using the restroom has got to bother you a
lot. The whole thing is disgusting and seriously threatens the
status of indoor plumbing as a beneficial goal of Third World nations.
Solution: Take advantage of the
competitive nature of most men. Place targets in the urinals and
contrive a scoring method that awards more points for greater accuracy
and for sustaining that accuracy. Points earned can be shown on
mounted prominently above the urinal being used. While mates
hitting the head together can compete against each other, high score for
the month or year can be shown as objectives to beat. A step in
the right direction is used in Spain. Some of the urinals there
have a very realistic image of a fly sitting near the drain in the
urinal. The idea was that men would have an irresistible urge to
aim at the fly to chase it away or possibly drown it, resulting in
greater accuracy and less messy bathroom floors. It's not perfect,
but seems to work. After a couple of years, most guys finally figure out
that the fly isn't real. An ingenious low tech solution
nonetheless. Not bad, huh?
We've all gotten them--calls from telemarketers at dinner time.
I've done everything I can think of to avoid or eliminate them.
I've bought various gadgets ranging from beepers to answering machines to
blocking of calls through CallerID information in attempts to combat the automatic
telemarketing calls. I've listed and relisted our phone number on the
government "no call" lists. All this has served to reduce the
number of calls, but not eliminate them. I try not to be rude when
answering such calls because 1) it's not in my nature and 2) I know
these poor souls are in as much pain trying to earn a buck or two.
However, I have taken to coming up with fabricated stories to ease the
pain of refusal for the both of us. I've been getting some
enjoyment out of the responses my fabrications generate. Click
here for a link to a satisfying recording of the tables
being turned on a telemarketer. When I get a call soliciting
donations, I will tell the caller that I'm out of work and in desperate
need of income myself. I might even inquire if there is any way
that the charity for whom they are calling can possibly help me out.
Most of the time, they hang up before I can finish my sentence.
Only once did someone say how sorry they were for my plight and hoped
that things would soon get better. When a telemarketer calls to
tell me that I have won a trip to some resort or timeshare, I give them
the story that I can't travel because of a severe medical problem.
They're usually off the line before I can describe the nature of my
ailment in greater detail. One of the better squelches to a
telemarketer's call that I heard of was to tell the telemarketer that
you are very interested in what they are selling and that you would like
to discuss it further another day. You ask the caller for their
home phone number so that you can call THEM at dinner time.
Solution: I wish I had one that worked.
Please send me suggestions that have worked for you.
Cellphone Conversations in Public
How about the unconscious people who insist on
carrying on prolonged conversations on their cellphones in grocery or
department stores? They're talking loud, laughing and
gesticulating. They're completely oblivious to the people around
them and don't seem to care that everyone around them can't avoid
listening to them. If they are talking about what they should be
getting at the store that's one thing. But when the conversation
is obviously nothing more than a social visit, I get annoyed when it's
loud enough to be heard a couple of rows over.
Walk up to the person with a smile. Ask who's on the line and if
you could speak to them. At that point, the person with the phone
will probably tell you to buzz off because it's a private call. At
that point simply say, "You're right. It is a private call.
So why are you subjecting everyone around to your private call?
Why don't you hang up or take the call outside where it can be private?"
If the person surprises you and hands you the phone to see what you are
going to do, take the phone and simply say, "I'm sorry, but your friend
is really in a hurry to complete his/her shopping. I hope you
don't mind, but he/she will call you back whenever he/she gets home and
puts all these items away." Press "End", hand the phone back, and
say "Thank you."
Young Adults that are Chronically Late
Why is it that so
many young adults (and this applies to some older adults as well) are
never able to be on time? I have noticed this not only in many
people with whom I have worked, but in some of my own relatives as well.
You set a meeting time for business or dinner and make all the
logistical arrangements based on that time.
young 'uns will drag themselves in late with some excuse and apologize
for being late. Soon the apologies become shallow as the behavior
is repeated ad nauseum. More than 50% of success in this
world is just showing up--on time. Yet some people just can't seem
to manage something as simple as this. The thing that boggles my
mind is that these same young adults are almost always in a hurry.
Most of the time it is because they are running late. Consequently
they drive like a bat out of hell in order not to be any more late to
their next appointment. Because they are running late they are
impatient and abusive with anybody on the road that they have to drive
around. They have watches and clocks on the wall just like anyone
else. Why they can't plan their activities so that they can be
more on time is a nagging mystery to me. I prefer not to think
that it is an egocentric thing in which they don't care about others.
Nor do I want to think that they are doing it to make a grand entrance
to garner more attention. You know they can be on time when it
matters to them. You won't catch them arriving late for concerts
to which they have paid $100/ticket. They never get to a theater
late because it's such a drag to miss the first part of a show or to
locate a seat in the dark after a movie has started. So it's not
some infirmity that prevents them from ever being on time. It's
just that they don't appreciate how important it is to others for
everyone to be on time.
Solution: Forget about being patient and
waiting for them to begin. All business meetings should start on
time. When an onerous task comes up that nobody is jumping up to
assume, save it for assignment to someone who is tardy to the meeting.
The same goes for dining engagements. If someone is late, start
the dinner or order without them and begin the meal. If that means
they will be getting cold food or waiting for their order while others
are eating, so be it. Next time, they should try harder not to be
late again. They should not be inconveniencing others by their
inability to be on time.
Litter on the Highway
Why do people insist on tossing their
garbage out of their car window while tooling down the highway?
What the hell are they thinking? Accidental litter blown from
hauling trucks is bad enough without people unnecessarily adding to it.
there some five-second rule that says that garbage must be thrown out
of a moving car within five-seconds of becoming garbage? What
happens? Does it blow up killing all the occupants of the car?
"Quick. Open the window and get that crap out of here before it
blows. It's better that it kills someone outside instead of us.
Here, while you're at it, toss out these old gym shoes too. Surely
some homeless person without shoes will appreciate our tossing it.
Oh, yeah. Toss this ashtray full of cigarette butts with filters
too. It's no problem. They'll biodegrade in about 50,000
years." When you see this happening, don't you wonder exactly what
happens with trash in their living room as they sit there watching TV,
eating snacks and chugging on some beers. Maybe it's like eating
peanuts at a ballgame. You're supposed to toss the shells on the
floor around your seat. Somebody will come by to vacuum and pick
up all your trash once the game is over. There's only one problem,
there isn't someone cleaning up after you on the highway. Months
or years will go by before government services can assemble a road crew
of "detainees" to work cleanup on any stretch of highway. Litter
and trash usually collect in areas that cannot be picked up by road
cleaning vehicles. Manual collection is the only way to get rid of
most of it. And there is no way we can manually clean up all the
stretches of the highway. Why do I care? Because it is not
only offensive to the eye, it's offensive to my heart. It tells me
that people don't have pride enough to try to keep our living space
clean and orderly. Furthermore, they don't have any respect for
the living space of other people. Trash begets trash. When
you see a lot of litter, it unconsciously legitimizes littering.
And the problem gets worse. One of the most impressive things
about other countries like Japan and Singapore is how clean those
countries are. People can be seen going out each morning to clean
the sidewalks and side of buildings as a matter of civic pride. You have
more respect for people who care enough to do this. If they are
conscientious about cleanliness they are probably conscientious about
other things as well. So you are more willing to do business with
them. That cleanliness is contagious. You are hesitant to
let anything fall to the ground unretrieved.
Solution: Fines for littering have not been effective. You
are asking law enforcement officials to attend to a problem that diverts
their resources from the more urgent tasks that protect us from
immediate harm. We used to have more public service announcements
and campaigns to address littering. People actually littered less
because it was essentially "politically incorrect" to litter.
Littering became the refuge of the few individuals who did it to flaunt
authority. Compared to now, we can live with that. Another
thing I have noticed is that, for some reason, fewer gas stations place
convenient trash receptacles by the pumps. Some of the funds
earmarked for cleaning up highways should be directed toward returning
trash cans prominently labeled to encourage their use rather than
littering the highway. Hawaii has had significant success in
reducing loose trash in the tourist areas by placing public trash cans
(they're called "rubbish cans" there) with the word "mahalo (thank you)"
on the hinged door.
Ridiculous Salaries for Corporate
wrote this a couple of years ago before we all got swept up in the
recent corporate bailouts and the sudden public outrage at executive
compensation.] Are you ever amazed by the huge salaries earned
by people who head up perennially failing companies? In addition
to making bad choices about the directions they take their company, they
cover up losses (even making them look like profits)
until they can sell
their stock options at inflated prices. They frequently suspend or
raid company pension funds to secure additional operating capital for
their companies. For all this, the Board of Directors almost
always raise executive salaries each year without regard to the
company's performance. There are bonuses tied to performance, but
they usually make up only a small portion of the total compensation
package. Executives essentially get their high salaries even when
they do a miserable job. When stock holders' unrest begin to
demand answers, the CEO and other top executives always leave their
positions under "golden parachutes" that lavish even more money on them
just to be rid of them. Researcher studied 241 CEOs in all, each
of whom had ranked for at least one year among the 24 highest-paid
corporate leaders. Of those, 22 percent led companies that died or
got taxpayer bailouts after the 2008 financial crash, 8 percent lost
their jobs involuntarily and 8 percent led companies that ended up
paying sizable fraud-related fines or settlements. 134 remain
active CEOs in their companies. Those that were fired left with an
average payment of $47.7 million. Not too fear, theses folks always land on
their feet like cats with other companies willing to start the process
over again, often at higher compensation than the position they just
Let's look at the compensation being doled out by
companies--companies you support by buying their product or services at
ever increasing prices. According to a 2013 report by the Institute for
Policy Studies, entitled "Bailed out, Booted, Busted", the pay
gap between large CEOs and average American employees has gone from 195
to 1 in 1993 to 354 to 1 in 2012. In other words, CEOs make as much in one day on the job as
the average worker makes all year. The average worker is making
$30 thousand/year. Compare your income to that. If you are
earning three or four times that much, you've got to figure you're doing
pretty darn good by comparison. So just imagine 354 times that!
This is especially amazing when you consider that the CEO really has
nothing at risk. It's not like an owner who has invested his/her
own capital to establish a business. In Europe where the Euro has
steadily increased in value against US dollar, CEO compensation is only 25
times that of the average worker. What's wrong with this picture?
The word is "inequity".
If you think general CEO
compensation is out of line, let's look at the executive salaries in investment firms. The top 20 equity and hedge fund managers earned
an average of $657.5 million last year--or 22,275 times the average
American worker. Now you know who can afford the ridiculous prices
I don't begrudge anyone who generates profits, or
goods and services commensurate with such compensation. But again,
these are people who are risking very little of their own and more often
then not are doing very poor jobs of running their companies. Why
do I care about these few people out of a country of over 300 million?
Well, because there is an infrastructure in place to support this
phenomenon. The salary structure is such that salaries at each
level down from the CEO is a
decreasing proportion. This continues all the way down to that of the
average worker at $30,000/yr. Now consider the total cost of that
infrastructure. And how do you suppose that cost is met?
Right, it is done by increasing the cost of the products or services the company markets.
Since all competing companies employ the same practice of overpaying
their executives, the capitalistic market never comes into play.
suppose we can boycott product and services from specific companies, but
with mergers, conglomerates, monopolies (like utilities and cable
service) it is very difficult to determine how one should do that.
And there are some things you just can't do without--like electricity,
water, and toilet paper. About the only thing that can be done is
to hope that the downturn in the economy necessitates a broad change in
policy for executive compensation and the salary infrastructure beneath
Raising Prices to
Generate more Revenue for a Sagging Business
demand for a company's goods and services decreases, revenue decreases.
The company must determine when revenue is insufficient to provide
a reasonable profit for the effort of providing those goods and service.
There are three major options for the company. They may reduce
their costs, increase the demand for the goods and services, or increase
the price. Increasing price is the simplest action. But it
will only work if it doesn't result in a reduction in the demand.
This is not deep economic theory. Any hot dog vendor on the street
knows this. Yet very few municipal authorities know this.
Every six months or so, I read that the city will have to hike bus and
trolley fares because the current ridership does not generate enough
income for the city to avoid losing money. As the fares increase,
the number of riders for the existing lines drop over time. This
has happened steadily. Evidently, the phenomenon is still
perplexing to the city transit authority. They keep holding on to
their strategy thinking that the cost of gasoline or operating a car
will eventually force more people to switch to public transit.
Every now and then the transit company will have free or low fare days
to briefly entice people to try public transit. The thought was
this might convince more people to try public transportation rather than
drive. The fact that ridership skyrockets during those trial days
has not convinced them that perhaps lowering fares is a better way to
encourage more ridership, hence generate greater revenue. By the
way, there are many communities around the world that have very
effective public transportation systems. They are frequently
predicated on the assumption that public transportation systems
shouldn't expect to operate at a profit and should be subsidized as are
libraries and fire stations.
A similar thing occurred during a
drought and energy shortage a couple of years ago. Vigorous
programs and public service announcements encouraged everyone to
conserve water and reduce electrical consumption. As a consequence
of a successful campaign, the utilities saw a large drop in total
revenue as people used less water and electricity. They panicked
and argued to the utilities commission that reduced revenues were
cutting into the reasonable profits for share holders of the utilities
stocks. They requested and were granted a permanent rate
hike. The utilities commission reasons that it is to the detriment
of the community if the utility companies do not make a sufficient
profit. So for their compliance and sacrifice, the public is
rewarded with higher utility bills. As the perceived drought and
energy shortage diminish (and some say it was manufactured in the first
place) and use returns to normal, the utilities begin reaping even
larger revenues and profits.
In the transit situation, a faulty
business model is threatening the health of a public transportation
system. In the utilities situation, a faulty business model held
by the utilities commission makes the public a hostage of the utilities.
In both cases, you and I lose without any choice.
Creative Ways of Wearing Baseball Caps
Young males have decided that one of the best ways to demonstrate their
individualism is to wear a baseball cap in some unconventional manner.
Depending on the group of people you hang out with, the cool way of
wearing a cap may be backwards, or to tilted to the side, or completely
sideways. The unconventional manner soon becomes the convention,
and they eventually have to do something different again.
Sometimes a pair of sunglasses comes into play as an accoutrement--often
being worn upside down on the back of their head as if to provide
protection from the glare of the sun while walking backwards.
Hispanic males are fond of letting the sunglasses drop down against the
nape of the necks. It's quite a sight to see half dozen young men
walking together, all with their hats cockeyed and their sunglasses
aimed backwards in the same manner. It looks like a jailbreak from
a juvenile detention camp for the mentally challenged.
And while I'm
on the subject of baseball caps, when did the Charlie Brown look become
in vogue for major league players? Up until recently, the first
thing you did with a baseball cap was to make sure the bill of the cap
was adequately bowed or curved. We use to wet the bill of the cap
and wrap rubber bands around it and a baseball to achieve just the right
curvature to provide maximum blocking of the sun. That "tunnel"
look helped you to focus your attention and to block out peripheral
distractions. That was the theory, at least. You see golfers
accentuating this "tunnel" view when they get down and read the green.
But today's baseball players are now choosing to have the bill of the
cap as flat as possible. We use to consider anyone who had a cap
like that an absolute "dork"--like Charlie Brown looks in the cartoon
strip. Last season, I noticed several San Diego Padre players had
adopted this goofy look. Guess what? They were really
terrible players too. I think it has a lot to do with the caps.
Drivers Who Constantly Step on their
Brakes for No Reason
Ever wonder why we have traffic jams
on 70 MPH freeways when there are no accidents or any other visible
obstructions? If everyone drove the minimum of 50 MPH, you'd think
that the traffic should move along a little slower, but it should be
moving along--not stopped or creeping at 5 MPH or less. The
traffic experts say that the problem stems from a bottleneck or blockage
caused by some event. They often apply the principles of fluid
dynamics to study traffic flow. Once the blockage occurs (usually triggered
by a sudden lane change causing someone to brake suddenly to avoid
hitting the car changing lanes), it sustains itself by drivers applying
their brakes to slow down as they approach the blockage area. What
is interesting is how long this bottleneck is sustained and why.
The problem is exacerbated by the tendency of drivers to apply their
brakes as soon as they see brake lights ahead of them. This is a
natural reaction of most drivers who wrongly believe that when driving,
you should either be on the accelerator or the brake. When a lot
of people drive this way, then everything slows down to a crawl and you
have to stop no matter what. Watch people as they exit a freeway.
They begin to apply their brakes as soon as they leave the freeway or
even before that, even when there are no cars in front of them.
Talk to any mechanic and he will tell you that people go through brake
pads at a much higher rate than they should. Brake repair and
replacement is one of the most frequent procedures for an auto garage.
And they vie heavily for that business.
People are either unaware or
have forgotten that if they leave a reasonable distance between them and
the car in front of them, they can usually slow down sufficiently by
simply lifting your foot off the accelerator. And by doing so, you
can avoid triggering an unnecessary braking response of the driver
behind you. When the traffic flows rather than slows down due to
unnecessary brake tapping, everyone benefits. Leaving a sufficient
space between you and the car ahead doesn't cause you to traveling any
slower. You are going the same speed, but at a safer distance.
By avoiding your brakes, you automatically increase your gas mileage
significantly. The other day, I was behind what I call a "serial
brake tapper". There were no cars directly in front of him.
He would accelerate until he was traveling 65+ MPH. At that point,
I guess he thought he was traveling to fast. So he would step on
the brake. And then he would accelerate again, followed by a tap
on his brakes. I was right behind him (at a safe distance) for
about 1.5 miles. During that time we counted that he applied his
brakes 22 times while I never touched mine. Remember, there
was never a car in front of him within a 100 yards. While this was
an obvious extreme, it was nonetheless indicative of the driving habits
of a vast number of drivers I have observed. These are probably
very nice people, but they really need some drivers ed.