What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. EZ Pass. Every month I check my Maryland EZ Pass statement. Every month I find at least one mistake – usually a toll charged at full rate when I’ve already paid the flat fee for the year option and had it coded on the transponder. Every month I go through the process of logging in, filling out the dispute form, and then watching the account periodically to make sure the right multiple of $8 per incident is refunded back to my account. Individually, it’s not the kind of thing that’s a big deal, but since it’s happening month, after month, after month, like interest, the annoyance compounds.

2. Pants. A million years ago at the beginning of my career I wore a suit or a minimum of coat at tie to the office just about every day. It was DC and that was the standard. Slowly though, I abandoned the suit or coat, but grudgingly stuck with the tie and long sleeves. In a pinch I kept a sports coat in my cube that I could press into service in extremis. Eventually, I abandoned the tie and long sleeves, too… introducing my personal “five star” rule – that no meeting that included any less than five “stars” in the room justified wearing a tie. The ghost of Eisenhower or Marshall rated a tie, two three stars rated a tie, three two stars rated a tie, and so on. Those were the rules of the before time. Now, of course, I’m annoyed as hell on days I have to bother putting on long pants. That’s just to be expected as part of life in a plague year, I guess.

3. Students. The news is currently filled with still photos and videos of college students in their hundreds attending parties now that at least some schools have opened again. You can’t see it, but I’m obviously sitting here with a completely shocked look on my face. I have a vague recollection of being young and invincible once. I wasn’t really a party animal, so my poison was mostly seeing how fast a Chevy Cavalier could go or how high I could get it to jump over railroad tracks or bridge approach ramps. Negative consequences were something to worry about when or if they happened. The point is, I have no idea why college administrators and parents are suddenly surprised that their 18-22 year-old darlings are throwing caution to the wind. It’s exactly the kind of behavior that administrators and parents have complained about since the first universities sprung up in Europe almost a millennium ago. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. New and improved. Last week the powers that be implemented a new procedure that was aimed at speeding up the time it takes to get people through the front gate. As far as I can tell all it’s succeeded at doing is creating a cluster fuck of the traffic pattern and made the wait time even longer. Forty years of experience tells me that “new and improved” rarely is… and mostly exists because someone needed a big box checked off on their annual performance appraisal.

2. I’m not particularly chatty at the best of times. When I have Post It notes stacked up like cordwood and a ten page handwritten list of shit to do, I’m even less inclined to want to chat about, well, anything, really. Sorry if the blank look on my face while you’re talking to be about a radom sportsball team I have no interest in at the best of times seems rude, but I have a limited amount of bandwidth. I’d really like to use it to make sure as many of the bits of paper on my desk are on someone else’s desk before the close of business. Unless what you’re telling me is something that’s going to make my life easier, it’s best for both of us if you bugger directly off until I’ve dug out from under the clusterfuck of the day, week, or month.

3. Maryland E-Z Pass. Let’s forget for a moment that until recently tolls at roads and bridges in Maryland were sold to the public as something that would be dropped “as soon as the cost of construction was paid off.” E-Z Pass is one of the ways that many states, including Maryland, have offered up to make their ongoing extortion backed by the full authority and power of the government less obvious to the average citizen… and I only say less obvious because the other option is handing over a fistful of physical cash money every time you drive through a toll plaza. If the state is going to continue to extort money from its citizens for things that have been long paid for and depreciated, it feels like the least they could do is make sure the back office is keeping the books right and not generating a daily email threatening to cut off your account for having a low balance when a quick look at the customer facing website shows there is very clearly both money in the account and a valid credit card from which to siphon more money as needed.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Paying cash. There’s a time and a place for cash. I carry it myself. However, the toll plaza at rush hour is neither the time nor the place. That’s the time and place where you should suck it up and order an E-ZPass so you can keep moving through the booth while the toll is automatically deducted from your account. I’m sure you have some very good reason like it being a privacy violation or you’re too lazy to use the internet, but no one has the time to wait around behind you while you try to scrape together $8 in loose change.

2. Strategy. Time was in this country when the chief executive said he had a strategy that meant he had a grand vision for the role the country should play in world affairs. Monroe, Lincoln, Truman, Reagan, and even Bush (43) were able to clearly articulate how they wanted to use American power. Apparently now the grand vision is to tiptoe around the hard issues, not try too hard, and for God’s sake avoid offending the international community in any way. It might be an approach, but it’s not what I’d call strategy.

3. Ray Rice and Mrs. Ray Rice. He’s a dirtbag and she’s dumb enough to not just stay with him, but publicly defend him too. News reported. Could we now please move on to paying attention to something that matters?

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Elections. So apparently the good people of Crimea can throw off their Ukrainian overlords, declare themselves sovereign, and promptly ask to be consumed by Russia all within ten business days. It makes one wonder why it takes us 20 months to gear up for a fairly straightforward presidential election in this country. Then again, I suppose it’s simpler when the whole thing is orchestrated in advance and the outcomes are always a foregone conclusion. Of course this whole discussion is pre-supposing that our own elections aren’t orchestrated in advance and the outcomes aren’t foregone conclusions. Food for thought.

2. Cash. Paper money still has it’s place. I think those who herald the death of the dollar bill are a bit premature in that regard. With that said, one of the places where no one has any business waving around paper money is at a toll booth during the peak rush of the afternoon commute. Pony up the couple of extra beans a year, get over your paranoia about tracking your car, and get with the ezpass program. No one needs to deal with your dumb ass dropping your $20 out the window and then being too close to the booth to open your door to retrieve it while they’re trying to get home. The only thing it says about you is that you are an unredeemable asshat.

3. Redaction. A moment ago this space was filled with a third point that was a scorcher. I was poured to overflowing with the kind of snark you’ve come to expect from jeffreytharp.com. Then, sadly, I highlighted every word and punched the delete key. Redacted. Because someone was probably going to get their little feelings hurt and end up being more of a enormous joy-suck then they are already. Some day I will have the chance to say everything that’s on my mind… and when that day comes, woe betide the poor feckless fool who tries to stand between me and saying my piece.