Imaginary capes and pet peeves

 “I don’t have pet peeves; I have whole kennels of irritation.” – Whoopi Goldberg 

My David has recently transformed from a hesitant reader to a devourer of words.  He reads everything, which led to the following conversation: 

                David: So, Mom, how’s your Super Hero blog going? 

                Me: Super Hero blog?  Why do you call it that? 

                David: I read in your notebook that you’re writing about the power of nice and the Pet Peever.  Is the Pet Peever the good guy or  villain? 

I couldn’t bring myself to dispel David’s “my mom is doing something cool” belief.  So, I willingly accepted my new, David-inspired, self-bestowed title of Manners Girl – kryptonite to loud eaters, bane of inconsiderate texters, and arch-enemy of theater seat kickers.  

It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's Manners Girl!

Armed with my new title and imaginary cape, I decided to gather intelligence on pet peeves.  I wanted to discover if we’re most annoyed by actions that demonstrate a lack of awareness and consideration.  As with most serious researchers and super heroes, I turned to Facebook.  

I asked friends on both my personal and my Etiquette Southwest Missouri  Facebook pages to send me their pet peeves.  The peeves came pouring in; turns out people are very annoyed.  Here’s the list:  (Names have been left out to protect the irked.) 

  • Poor customer service
  • Store clerks commenting on personal purchases
  • Driving while talking on cell phones (in a school zone, no less!)
  • Texting and driving
  • People forcing values on others
  • Dogs using other people’s yards as a dog restroom
  • Texting in class
  • Loud, smacking, or slurping eaters
  • Bad manners
  • People not returning emails or phone messages
  • Not RSVP’ing
  • People  who walk by the same individuals everyday without a smile or good morning
  • Dirty fingernails
  • People that don’t have a firm handshake or who offer only their fingers instead of their whole hand
  • People who drive with their turn signal on without turning or changing lanes
  • Women going into a public restroom stall to talk on their cell phone
  • Smoking anywhere close to a child.
  • Nails being clipped in church.
  • Friends calling during non-business hours to request “free” professional advice
  • Driving too fast
  • Driving too slow
  • Not spell-checking work emails.
  • People not turning their cell phones to silent during church, meetings, or presentations
  • Parents placing their diaper-wearing children on the counters and tables at fast-food restaurants
  • Overly critical sisters who pick on people’s syntax. (This one came from my sister.  Hmmm …)

Turns out, pet peeves are a worthy opponent for a Caped Crusader.  They are thoughtless actions.  They are a blatant disregard and lack of consideration for other people.  Through my extensive social researching and polling (i.e. Facebook) I’ve discovered most pet peeves fall into one of four categories: 

  1. Behaviors that put people in danger
  2. Behaviors that waste people’s time
  3. Behaviors that disregard the feelings of others
  4. Behaviors that offend our sensibilities

 Some of etiquette is truly an icing on the cake scenario.  We’re rarely (never?) annoyed by someone using the wrong fork to eat their salad.  So why do pet peeves drive us crazy when they’re also made up of small acts?  Because these pet peeves are sending the messages that the perpetrator doesn’t care.  

  •  I don’t care if your family is less safe because of my neglectful driving
  • I don’t care if I steal your valuable time due to my oblivious behavior.
  •  I don’t care if you’re there – I don’t need to acknowledge you. 
  • As long as I’m enjoying myself, I don’t care if my actions are making you uncomfortable.

Who are the thoughtless people committing these crimes against niceness?  Has it ever been you?  Have you ever disregarded the people around you?  I know I’m guilty.  We are both the hero and the villain in this scenario.  Oh the irony!  

We go through our lives in such a state of busy-ness.  We rush from one activity to the other.  We hold ourselves to such impossible standards that we rationalize away bad behavior.  We multi-task to the point of placing ourselves and others in danger.  We have so much information at our fingertips that we walk around overwhelmed.  We are not always our best selves. 

So what do we do about our culpability?  

  • First, we give ourselves a break.  We’re not perfect; we never will be. 
  • Second, we cut out the behaviors that are dangerous. 
  • Third, we do our best.  We look at people; it’s really hard to be oblivious to a person we’ve looked at. 
  • Fourth, we slow down.  I know, I know – there’s work, kids, housework, spouses, after-school activities.  If we slow down the balls we’re juggling will drop!  But what if we really tried?  What if we eliminated the things in our life that take our time without giving in return joy or our families’ well-being?

 Finally, how do we handle those annoying people committing our pet peeves?  We cut them some slack too.  We can’t control their behavior but we can control our reaction.  So we give them our benefit of the doubt … except the guy smoking around our kids … or the texting drivers … or that lady clipping her nails in church … or the mom cussing in front of her toddler.  Okay, never mind.  Maybe try Yoga?

10 thoughts on “Imaginary capes and pet peeves

  1. Nice article! Except hey people know I’m your sister!! =) The only pet peeve I want to comment on is the dirty nails part. I work out in the field a lot, often stuck in a car, and no matter how clean my hands are nothing can dislodge the dirt till I shower.

    While I have to admit I hate doing errands after work, handing someone something, and thinking dangit I have dirt under my nails.

    I know everyone has there pet peeves but just asking if you see a lady with a little dirt under her nails and mud on her boots maybe think hey she works in the field instead of ewwww….

  2. Mandy,
    I agree with you. I think that the fingernail thing (along with many other pet peeves) depends on time and place. If your waitress or someone at your home for dinner has visible dirt — I think it’s a valid pet peeve. If it’s just a stranger in a store in the evening — they could be coming home from work. Also, I think I know what someone’s getting for Christmas … (nail. brush.) …


  3. Amy, I think your article is very insightful. I realize that most of my pet peeves do fall within your first category. So I feel less guilty about having so many! I’m not easily irritated; I just want everyone to be safe…


  4. Great post, Amy. Really like the sound of “kryptonite to loud eaters, bane of inconsiderate texters, and arch-enemy of theater seat kickers.” Masterful fluency, Manners Girl!

    I let far too many little things annoy me. One of the biggest is people who don’t return their shopping carts to the collection areas. They’ve pushed it miles around the store but can’t muster up the energy to go another 20 feet? Chaps me.



  5. If anyone wants to read some really great writing — truly you’ll laugh, you’ll cry kind of stuff — you should check out Chase’s blog, Some Species Eat Their Young.
    With a name like that you know it’s awesome, right?

    Thank you!
    I hear you on the shopping carts. The thing that gets me is when a cashier opens a new line and the person at the end of my line goes over to her first. It’s always a count to 10 moment for me.
    Thanks for still reading,

  6. I agree, great article!

    I would like to add something to the pet peeve list (since you had some regarding customer service). One of the biggest pet peeves from the other side of the counter is having a customer on a cell phone (or texting) while you are trying to help them. I recently wrote an entire post ranting about the lack of cellphone etiquette. One of the others is when we greet a person with a pleasant
    “hello” or “how are you today?” and we get no acknowledgement of our greeting, but instead the customer starts immediately with an “I need…” or “I want…” Now I realize they are a customer, and and the entire purpose of a customer assistance job to actually assist them, but it doesn’t negate the fact that customers can be rude too. Is it really that hard to say “hello” in return?

    1. I could not agree with you more!! I just wrote my “Solemn Vow” post all about cell phone etiquette. I need to reread it but I’m pretty sure I included your pet peeves! People in customer service positions are still people and still deserving of basic consideration and courtesies.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I hope you’ll continue to stop by — I’m looking forward to checking out your cell phone post!


  7. Your blog is very funny Amy. I really enjoy reading it..I would add to the list of pet peeves:
    -People jumping a queue (NB many countries this is totally acceptable behaviour)
    -Letting the rubbish bin overflow..
    -People who walk very slowly

    Keep up the great writing please 🙂

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