pet_peevesA friend and I were walking towards an Atlanta mall recently. The parking lot was full, and we had been forced to leave the car so far from the stores that it had taken several hours to cross the asphalt. There had actually been five in our group to begin with, but the weak and infirm had fallen by the wayside. As we finally neared the main entrance, we stopped to rest briefly beside a shiny vehicle that was sitting at a diagonal while occupying three—count them, three—parking spaces. Assumably, the owner was attempting to protect the paint job, because no one could park that poorly by accident.  Not even someone in Atlanta.  My friend shook his head and looked at me.

“You know,” he said earnestly, “it is at times like this that I am just as happy that my wife wouldn’t let me buy that Jaws of Life off of Ebay.”

“We are all pretty happy about that,” I agreed. “She is wise beyond her years.”

“Because if I had one,” he continued, “I would cut this car here, here, and here.  Then I would pile all of the pieces into the middle parking spot.” I could tell that he was warming up to his subject, and that no good could come of it. I resumed walking towards our destination, dragging him behind. I could actually see the mall’s front door shimmering in the distance, so I knew it would not be long before we reached our goal.

I think it is safe to say that my companion had an issue with the poor vehicular etiquette we had encountered. And in his defense, most of the other people I know don’t care that much for creative parking, either, although a Jaws of Life might have been overkill (a baseball bat and a can of spray paint would have been more than sufficient).

Back in the old days, a malaise such as his would have been known as a pet peeve. Everyone has a few of them. They can be defined as the little situations you encounter every day that get on your nerves. Some are kind of universal, such as the one I described above, while others are more of an individual experience. I have jotted down a few of my own pet peeves as examples of what I am talking about. Take a look at them, and see if you don’t recognize a couple.

culvers_hearing_impaired_drive_thruFast food has become a societal norm, so why is it that we can put a man on the moon, but we can’t make a drive-thru speaker that works properly? I’m serious. The other day, I pulled up to a notorious local drive-thru speaker (it was voted Worst Speaker That Had Not Been Smacked by an SUV at this year’s Fast Food Awards) and ordered a cheeseburger with no catsup, a small order of French fries, and a small Coke. The disembodied voice came back with static-static-burger, static-static-catsup, static-static-fries, static-static-Coke, so I figured I was in good shape. When I got up to the window, I was handed two hamburgers with extra catsup, a large order of fries with extra catsup, and a medium Sprite with extra catsup.

We live in a capitalistic country, one that thrives on commerce. But let me ask you a question. Have you ever intentionally bought anything as a result of the junk mail you receive? If you have, then more power to you, and I am off base on this one. But as for me, every Tuesday I remove the handful of circulars, advertisements, and solicitations from my mail box and drop them straight into my recycling bin. The ones I like the best begin with: Dear Mr. Atkins or Current Resident. I am also kind of partial to the letters that lead off with: If you are a veteran, or if a veteran may have once lived in your country. Some people I know line bird cages with theirs, while others start fires. I think we ought to put a big storage container down at the Post Office. They could recycle the circulars right on the premises and save all of that driving plus a lot of wear-and-tear on the mail carriers.

This one has been bothering me for years, so bear with me. On the old Gilligan’s Island television show, the SS Minnow was a motorized cabin cruiser, so why did Ginger have a dress made from the sail? No, really. This may actually be the most common pet peeve in the entire country. The next time you are with a group of people, pose this question and see what kind of responses you get. Everyone will have an opinion, voices will rise, and tempers will flare. Don’t even get the gathering started on the excessive life of the radio batteries, the impossibility of baking hundreds of coconut cream pies with no oven, or why the Howells traveled with several steamer trunks full of money.

Finally, I would like to address the subject of acronyms. These are the made-up words that are created from the first letters of a series of other words. NASA is an example of an acronym. So is scuba. I have no issue with these two terms, or with many of the rest of the four million commonly-recognized acronyms. It is the cute ones that get me, the ones where the names of events, organizations, or items are changed so that the acronym will be catchy. Thus we get FUN (Friends of the United Nations), HAPPY (Housing Assistance Payments Program Yearly), SMURF (Secret Military Underground Resistance Force), CAKE (Chicago Area Kodály Educators) and SMILE (Spatial Multiplexing of Local Elements). These contrived words are becoming such a problem that I am considering establishing a study group to look into the issue.  I will call it the Committee to Review Acronym Proposals.  If you are a Current Resident or know a veteran, I may call on you to serve.

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.

  1. Eleanor Ringel Cater

    I ‘ll add the handicapped spot occupied by seemingly able people (or perhaps they’re emotionally handicapped as I can be more often than is seemly)

  2. People who don’t use their turn signals. Oh wait, NOBODY in Atlanta uses their turn signal. My mistake.

  3. People who don’t pick up after their dogs.

    Ditto on the turn signal.

    Drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

    People who talk on their cell phones and drive. Don’t even get me started about texting.

    Anything the Atlanta Water Department does.

    Waitpersons who start clearing the table before everyone is finished eating.

  4. Myra Blackmon

    Oh, Lord. Now you’re getting me started. Let’s talk about the difference between plural and possessives. Verbing. People who crank up their leaf blowers at 7 a.m. People who say “Thanks for taking my call.”

    I don’t have time for more. I’ve signed up to write a novel in 30 days this month. Thanks for the fodder!

  5. People who tail gate, and handicap violators top my list. Just the other day I was getting out of my car at the grocery store and a very attractive women and her 8 or 9 year daughter pull into the handicap spot, hang their handicap tag on the mirror and then hop out of the car and sprint for the front door. I went back to my car got out a pen and peice of paper and wrote “HANDICAPPED????’ BTW NICE BOOBS. Then I put my note under her windshield wiper.

  6. An aside, Ray, on the junk mail. I take the inserts from junk mail, mix them up, then randomly insert them into the prepaid envelopes. Don’t put in anything that identifies you, although what are they going to do? Anyway, my little way of getting back at “Da Man”. My husband thinks this is hilarious, by the way!

  7. To begin listing traffic-related peeves would be silly, so I’ll try to skip them. But I do have one item: Sly left-lane brake-tappers!

    A tailgater is, presumably, in control of his or her speed, seeing the land ahead of them and attempting to find a steady pace. They are trying to do what we learned in Driver’s Ed: Maintain Speed. Bottleneck is caused by random interstate braking — Granted, occasionally as a result of rude tailgaters. However, as a recovering teenage left-lane driver, I can understand the tailgater’s motivation.

    But brake-tappers? Why? On what planet does it make sense to reduce your speed because someone behind you is trying to go faster than you? Certainly doesn’t make sense on Vulcan, because it is completely illogical. Brake-tappers accomplish nothing by purposefully putting themselves and a lot of innocent bystanders in danger, except further exasperating a known threat. Take a deep breath, accept that the tailgater is a jerk, and scoot out of the left-hand lane. It’s better for everyone.

    OK, I’m silly; I just have to continue.

    Other Atlanta traffic-peeves: 3-point- and U-turns made in the middle of large roads (say, Ponce de Leon or Cobb Parkway), turning left from the middle lane, turning right from the left lane, driving in the bike lane, stopping a car length ahead or behind a stop-line, blocking fire station driveways, driving in emergency lanes, or my personal favorite, pulling around a line of cars and into a parking lane to speed to the traffic light first!

    Oh, and general entitlement. Perhaps we would all be more considerate drivers if we each weren’t entitled to get to our destinations first.

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