What Annoys Jeff this Week?

If you’re clicking over to jeffreytharp.com and it’s Thursday, there’s a better than average chance that you’re looking for What Annoys Jeff this Week. It’s the only weekly feature I offer here and it remains almost without exception my high water mark for readers each and every week. If you’re here to read the next installment of the top three major or minor annoyances this week, though, I’m afraid I’m about to disappoint you. That’s because I’m going to use the platform this afternoon to go down a much more self-congratulatory path… I think.

If you look closely at the web address up at the top of the page you’ll see that it’s showing WAJTW/301. For those not following along that means it’s the 301st time “What Annoys Jeff this Week” is being used as a title. Given the occasional missed Thursday (although there have been damned few of those) WAJTW has been showing up regularly here for six years. In that time there have been about 900 documented annoyances. I’m still trying to wrap my head around those numbers. Even I have to admit that’s more grievances than I expected… and I’m the one who took the time to write them all out. I refuse to even do the math on how much time got poured into that (but it rhymes with funhundred and fifty hours and that assumes it only took 30 minutes to bang out each post).

So, what do you do when you realize you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time cataloging and bitching about the myriad things that have agitated you over the last six years? Since it’s the start of a long weekend, you mostly shrug your shoulders, order up a pizza, and wonder what jackassery the world is going to throw at you over the next six years. Say what you will about my chosen theme, but if you trade in people who do stupid things and what pisses you off, the well is just about bottomless. In my own utterly jaded way, I’m actually thankful for that.

Bad decisions…

While I was in line at the bank on Saturday, I overheard a conversation. That’s not the kind of thing I usually do. Even if it were the kind of thing I’d usually do, I’d have wanted no part at all in this conversation. It was the sort of loud mouthed yammering that makes me wonder if people ever really stop and consider the words that come flying out of their gobs.

In the span of the five minutes that it took me to get from the back of the line to bing second to front, the women directly in front of me subjected me (and everyone, really) to her stream of consciousness thinking on all manner of topics. The best (or worst), were discussions of:

1) How wrong it was that the bank made her take out that “bad mortgage.” As if someone held a gun to her head while she signed.

2) How pissed she was that the guy she had been dating for six weeks wouldn’t sign the paperwork taking himself off of her checking account. Because adding someone you’ve known 30 days to your financial accounts always ends up being a good decision.

3) How happy she was that her new beau was only going to be in jail for six months so at least they’ll be together soon. By this point, I’ve stopped analyzing out of fear that my brain might overload and catch on fire.

It’s safe to say I now know more about this random woman in line at the bank than most of the people who have known me since childhood know about me. It’s an honor I neither sought out nor wanted.

The only common thread I was able to identify through the flow of her verbal diarrhea, was the simple fact that nearly all this individual’s problems could trace direct back to piss poor decision making. Basic life decisions don’t require a 180 point IQ, but they damned well require the application of a bit of common sense. I increasingly fear the supply of this commodity has been exhausted.

If I can offer any advice, it’s just this: Stop making shit decisions. You’ll be amazed how much life doesn’t suck if you just try to get out of your own way now and then.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

IMG_7893.JPG1. Canned goods. The media is currently filled with pictures from Texas of shoppers with carts piled high with canned goods, cases of water, and the usual list of hurricane supplies. I’m always struck when I see these pictures that so many people who live in an area historically frequented by natural disasters don’t have a week’s supply of food and water already laid on. Keeping a few extra cans of beans around for just such an occasion feels like something you should just do automatically even if you’re not in an area prone to high winds and water. Keeping yourself and your household alive in the immediate aftermath of whatever very bad thing hits your community feels a lot like something that you should take on as a personal responsibility instead of waiting for the Weather Channel to tell you you’re going to need water… and then bitching about the government not getting to you fast enough after the storm passes.

2. Powerball. Some woman in Massachusetts won my $758.7 million jackpot.

3. Suffering fools. We live in a polite society where it’s considered inappropriate to look someone in the eyes and ask them directly if they’ve always been stupid or if they have just been struck in the head by a blunt object. The result is no matter how stupid someone is, we’re not supposed to call them out on it. Look, I’m not expecting everyone to be a rising Einstein, I’m more than aware of the moments when my brain has locked up when trying to do or comprehend things that should be simple… but honest to God when the sum total of human knowledge is available to everyone on the device they spend most of their day staring at, there’s just no excuse for so many people to be so incredibly dumb.

What Doesn’t Annoy Jeff this Week?

What Annoys Jeff this Week is usually the place where I vent my spleen each week. Most of the time it’s easy enough to cull the “top three” things from the list and give them each a little paragraph of exposition. Some weeks, this one included, offer what I can only describe as an embarrassment of riches. In fact this week it would be easier to discuss the few things that have not annoyed me in some way.

1. The critters. Despite the bills for care, feeding, and entertainment, I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever begrudged one of my animals anything. Regardless of the stupidity going on “out there” beyond the four walls of the house, they’re consistent in their affection and pleasure at seeing me every afternoon. Even the cat. Walking through the door to be greeted by a wave of fur and slobber is the high water mark of each and every day.

2. Living rural. Every time I switch on the television I find myself faced with an endless amount of stupid things happening. For the most part that coverage is dedicated to the things happening in major cities here at home and around the globe. Now I’m tuned in to the local news outlets closely enough to know that there’s plenty of stupidity happening in Cecil County, too. Fortunately, my little corner of the place is remarkably serene. Now there may still be plenty of stupidity happening nearby, but we have the common decency to (mostly) keep in behind closed doors.

3. Blood. You don’t get to pick your family. What you end up with seems to be mostly be left up to the luck of the draw. Let me say that knowing that, I feel like I’ve been given a very fortunate hand to play. I’m looking forward to that rare opportunity of spending some quality time with them this weekend.

If there’s anything else you can think of this week, it’s safe to just go ahead and assume that it has annoyed me at some point.

On trying to like people…

Thanks to the Facebook “On This Day” feature I saw an early meme I shared on back in 2012 that read something like “I try to like people, but they’re all so fucking stupid.” I smiled, nodded, and thought “Yep, that’s still pretty much true.

On reflection, though, I realized that statement is getting less and less true. With every day that passes I find myself not Stupid.pngeven attempting to like people. It wasn’t like I started out making a big effort on that front anyway, but frankly my compassion and understanding reserve is all but worn out. Again, not that it was particularly deep to start out, but still.

I’m just sick to death of turning in nearly every direction and seeing people making incredibly stupid life choices. Look, I’m not saying everyone needs to be an Einstein. God knows I’m never going to sit at my desk and churn out a grand unifying theory of anything. I’m tired of playing off bad things that happen as fate or just bad luck when it so very clearly is a result of a piss-poor decision someone made a few steps back.

Every day I’m reminded of the late, great George Carlin who said, “‘Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” That stupider half is out there living among us while we live with the consequences of their actions and decisions. If that doesn’t keep you up nights or put you off people completely, I have no idea what will.

As for me, I’m done smiling and nodding. I’m done trying to like people. If I look in your eyes and can’t find a spark of anything in there keeping the lights on other than habit, I just don’t have the energy to even pretend. There are public libraries in just about every town in America. The internet has given us access to very nearly the sum total of all knowledge accumulated across the vast sweep of human history. We carry that shit around on our telephones. Information is too easy to access for people to walk around just being stupid.

I no longer have the energy required to try liking stupid people. Instead of faking it from here on out, my official policy will be to glare at them and walk away.

Not nearly that Zen…

I know I was busy today. I have the meeting notes, calendar invitations, and seemingly endless chain of emails to prove I’ve done something today. I try not to delve too deeply into differentiating simply being busy and actually getting things done. The two are most decidedly not synonymous. I’ve long since given up on making an official distinction between the two. In my estimation on any given day as long as you look busy, people will assume you are busy. That’s one of the great double edged swords of working for Uncle.
So is there virtue to being busy even if you don’t really have anything to show for it? Well, it passes the time if nothing else. When you live your life eight hours at a time, I suppose that has to count for something. A quick eight hours is usually preferable to a slow eight hours. That’s not universally true, of course, because there are some days that go quickly only because they are so full of unimaginable levels of stupid. Stupid can be a deal breaker – because at some point things can easily get so far sideways that a slow day would just be less anguished.
I can sit here and ask myself what kind of day it’s been, but that probably misses the real point. Just now, busy or slow, it’s the best kind of day – the one that is quickly receding into the rear view of life. I’m not nearly that Zen, of course, but I have important business to attend. After all, dogs and cats aren’t going to learn to live together all by themselves.

Hard versus stupid…

I don’t mind working hard. The powers that be are paying good money to rent my brain for 8 hours a day and I’ve got no compunction about whoring myself out like that. When push comes to shove I’d much rather be doing hard work with my brain than hard work with my back. The brain seems less likely to give out at an inopportune time and leave me lying flat on the floor or chewing muscle relaxers like candy corn.

Although I don’t mind working hard, I hate the living hell out of working stupid. I hate reworking the same ground two or three times and changing every happy to a glad. That’s not hard work. That’s not focusing on content or intent. That’s focusing on the style over the substance and the fact that anyone has time for that in this business should tell you a lot about how their time is being spent. I don’t mind if they want to waste their time turning the latest memo into the great American novel, but I’d appreciate it if they didn’t try dragging me along into their own personal hell. I’ve got worries enough of my own without keeping track of who likes one space after a period and who likes two.

The things we choose to focus on tells a lot about the kind of person we are when we shed the artificial constructs of rank or grade. It tells me everything I need to know about who “gets it” and who is way the hell out in the tall grass. Other people might not notice details like that, but I do. The Lord might tell us not to judge, but I think in this case He would make an exception.