I am a grumpy old man. I fully embrace that reality and don’t apologize for being who and what I am. I have worked hard to get here and have no intention of changing any time soon.
That being said, I have to acknowledge the fact that I did not become the curmudgeon that I am without some help from everyone else on the planet. The fact of the matter is that I am grumpy largely because everyone else behaves in such a stupid and illogical manner. Not that I expect everyone to be a Vulcan in their approach to life, but applying a bit of reason and thoughtfulness to one’s daily activities, especially where it applies to interacting with others, would certainly go a long way toward making me a slightly less than an unpleasant person.
My expectation is that people who interact with me in person on a regular basis are well aware of when their actions are annoying. I’m not one to hide either my feelings nor my opinion. If you’re standing next to me and doing something stupid, I’m probably going to address the matter right then and there. Ask my children about this; I don’t mind embarrassing them a bit if it means they stop acting inappropriately.
People who only interact with me online, or don’t interact with me at all, are less likely to realize the degree to which I find them annoying. If it were just me that they were annoying, I wouldn’t expect anyone to actually care. If one is not directly interacting with me, and especially if they don’t even know I exist, then there’s no reason for them to have any compunction about the degree to which I find them annoying.
However, when someone is doing something that I find annoying, chances are pretty high that I’m not the only person with that opinion. Take, for example, the president of the United States, please. Almost everything he does is annoying, to say the least. There are some days when his level of annoyance becomes so great that I have little choice but to ignore him completely and, to the limited extent possible, pretend he doesn’t exist. If I were the only person on the planet who finds the president annoying, that would be on me. However, I’m far from being alone in my opinions on this sexist, bigoted, profane, lying, homophobic, con artist. The number of Americans that find him annoying is in the hundreds of millions and if we expanded that opinion globally I’ve no doubt the number would be well over a billion.
While the president might be an extreme example, given that few people are actually so continually annoying with everything they do, he does serve to highlight the problem that comes from holding ill-formed opinions and thoughtless activities that affect other people. We all tend to be a bit selfish by nature and that is, to some degree, understandable. Problems arise, though, when the effect of our actions on other people causes them discomfort. To the degree that a person fails to realize the consequences of their actions, they become exceedingly annoying.
Take former vice-president Joe Biden, for example. On a general basis, I kinda like Joe; he’s that compassionate grandfatherly figure who has his faults but nothing so big one can’t excuse him. Joe is a touchy-feely kind of guy. I get it. He is a part of that generation that was taught to connect with other people by touching them—a hand on a shoulder to infer support, holding a hand to show compassion, patting a knee to communicate that one has heard what the other is saying. There were once books and conferences that taught this method of physically relating with other people. Whether or not Biden read those books or took those courses I don’t know, but he was influenced by them as a lot of other successful people were.
Then comes the era of #MeToo, a movement long overdue where people, especially women, are speaking up about the many things others do, especially men, that are hurtful, offensive, and annoying. High on that list: unwanted touching. Much to the surprise of some, there are a lot of people, not just women, who do not appreciate people touching them in any manner without permission. The level of uncomfortableness has been present for decades but only now, emboldened by the changing social climate, are people feeling free to speak out.
So, Joe gets called out for his frequent and well-documented habit of touching people, kissing the top of heads, putting an arm around someone he doesn’t actually know, putting a hand on a shoulder and giving a squeeze. Did the vice president intend to do any harm? No, absolutely not. But like many people, especially men, he has been tone deaf to the level of annoyance his actions cause other people, especially women. Our society has finally decided that such actions, especially against women, are no longer tolerable and we’re taking the sometimes painful steps of correcting that behavior.
Not every annoyance is as critical as how and when one person touches another, of course. Most annoyances are smaller, less significant actions that we do without giving anything a second thought. Those are the activities I want to address for a moment. While they don’t have an impact that requires a separate #MeToo movement, they’re almost certainly things that bother a lot of people and no one has felt emboldened enough to say anything. I’m not especially bold, just grumpy enough to go charging on into these topics without necessarily caring if I step on a toe or two. These are actions that need to stop.
Asking guests to remove their shoes
Wearing shoes is one of those strange acts that seems to bring us joy in some moments, pain in others, and pure frustration for many. All of my children have issues wearing shoes. While the Marine doesn’t have a choice, the others are quick to shuck their footwear the moment they hit the back door. There are times I’m fairly certain my daughter has hers halfway off before she breaches the threshold.
I am the exact opposite, however, and I’ve known several others like me. We wear shoes almost all day and taking them off can, at times, be a source of extreme discomfort. So, when we visit someone who insists that all their guests doff their shoes at the front door, I’m often tempted to turn around and leave. At the very least, the request spoils my mood for the remainder of the visit.
Beyond my own physical level of discomfort, the soles of my feet being extremely sensitive to everything they touch, I’ve never understood people’s reasoning for asking guests to remove their footwear in the first place. Granted, it’s natural with children who would likely live naked until they reach a point of personal awareness where they’d prefer to hide their bodies. For adults, though, there are other issues to consider.
Let’s talk about the spread of fungal infections. I’m not just talking about Athlete’s Foot here. There are several different types of fungal disease that can spread through bare feet. Once a fungus is in a receptive environment, like a carpet, it’s not eliminated the next time one vacuums. Getting rid of some fungi is more difficult than trying to get rid of pesky mold. Making this more of a challenge is that one is not likely to know that the carpet is the source of the problem, allowing infections to recur.
Going barefoot is also a health risk for anyone who has any type of circulation issue in their lower extremities. Diabetics often have to deal with this matter. When one’s feet lose circulation they don’t feel small pains, such as the prick of a needle or wayward tack that was hiding in that deep pile carpet. Many diabetics can sustain significant foot injury and never realize that anything has happened until they see blood on the floor.
There’s also the problem with foot odor and no, it’s not always associated with poor hygiene. Certain prescription drugs may cause foot odor as a result of taking the medicine. Keeping one’s shoes on helps control the smell and prevents one from being offensive.
Arguments about not wanting to put undue wear on the carpet are silly. Modern carpets are far from delicate no matter how deep and lush the pile. In fact, new carpet fibers are so heavily treated that the chemicals in the carpet can cause an allergic reaction on bare skin, another good reason to keep one’s shoes on their feet.
If one is seriously worried about guests tracking in mud or other dirt onto their pristine floors, then consider providing mats and wipes one can use on their footwear rather than insisting that they remove their shoes. If someone in your family has an autoimmune disease that requires a high level of cleanliness, consider providing disposable foot covers which are not only more friendly but also is safer for your family member.
Personal comfort is the only good reason for removing one’s shoes at any home other than one’s own and comfort is not something one can mandate to other people. If one genuinely values their guests, they’ll allow them to keep their shoes on and enjoy their visit without being annoyed by having to look at everyone’s funky toes.
Referring to your fad as a lifestyle
Bile rises into my throat and I want to vomit every time I hear someone use the phrase, “It’s not a __________, it’s a lifestyle!” No, Karen, your obsession with 30-year-old Beanie Babies is a symptom of your psychosis and you really should seek professional help. Fads are not a lifestyle. Just because something is popular enough to consume every waking moment is not enough to make it a lifestyle. Furthermore, it’s annoying as hell for one to treat it as such.
A large number of fads can be time-consuming. Rabid fans of k-pop, for example, often go full-on into cosplay and merchandise hoarding and fiscal irresponsibility in the name of their fandom. That does not make k-pop itself a lifestyle; it simply means that desperate people are so out of touch with their identity that they feel compelled to latch onto something larger. Strict religious adherents suffer from the same malady.
Some fads can also be healthy in moderation. Obese people, of which the United States has an excessive supply, can often find at least short-term benefits in certain fad diets. However, those benefits are often short-lived and may also lead to additional unexpected health issues. Mythologies around nutrition are unsound and frequently dangerous. We need balances for our bodies to function at their optimum capacity and fads, by their very nature, pull one away from moderation in any form.
When someone refers to a fad or a movement as a lifestyle it demonstrates a lack of understanding as to all that a lifestyle encompasses. One can be dedicated to something that is not a lifestyle. One can benefit from things that are not lifestyles. Lifestyles, however, are multifaceted and often complicated matters that typically involve large groups of people.
Before one goes running to an online dictionary in an attempt to prove me wrong, not that anyone would ever do that, let’s look at one of the most complete definitions I’ve found, oddly enough in the Business Dictionary.
Lifestyle: a way of living of individuals, families (households, and societies, which they manifest in coping with their physical, psychological, social, and economic environments on a day-to-day basis. Lifestyle is expressed in both work and leisure behavior patterns and (on an individual basis) in activities, attitudes, interests, opinions, values, and allocation of income. It also reflects people’s self-image or self-concept; the way they seem themselves and believe they are seen by the others. Lifestyle is a composite of motivations, needs, and wants and is influenced by factors such as culture, family, reference groups, and social class.
Lifestyles are the combination of many elements, not the obsession over just one. Attitudes can be part of a lifestyle but are not a lifestyle unto themselves. Activities are often associated with specific lifestyles but are not lifestyles on their own.
When we think of what constitutes a lifestyle, we need to think in larger terms than one specific element such as a diet or a fashion choice. Being urban, or rural, or country can be lifestyles because they not only invoke a specific attitude, but activities, socio-economic settings, employment opportunities, and moral outlook. Luxury is a lifestyle that many people try to mimic but only a few obtain because of the economic requirements for that lifestyle. Tribal lifestyles incorporate the whole reality of existence within a limited group of people who share a common ancestry and culture.
Compare those examples to frequent misuses of the term and one can see how a diet is not a lifestyle, a hobby is not a lifestyle, and sexual proclivities do not constitute a lifestyle. Lifestyles are broad, complex, and, perhaps most importantly, involve an economic factor that limits or helps define participation in that lifestyle. Calling one’s multi-level marketing scam a lifestyle in an effort to elevate its importance is essentially lying and definitely part of the con job inherent to such schemes. Don’t try to make more of your interests than they deserve. Enjoy what you do, but don’t overinflate its value.
Failing to vaccinate your family
To some degree, I shouldn’t need to include vaccinations in this list. I argued with myself about whether it was necessary. After all, I’ve expressed my opinion on the matter previously, most extensively in the article 10 Horrible Deaths Awaiting Offspring of Anti-Vaxxers. I include it again because there are perhaps some reading this time who didn’t see the previous mentions and because, quite frustratingly, we’re seeing an increase in the occurrence of diseases that had all but been eliminated.
Let me be extremely clear: anyone who does not vaccinate their children is a goddamned fool and don’t expect me or any other reasonable person to backtrack from that opinion. What has changed is that I’m far from being the only one annoyed with this situation and as cases of measles and mumps have begun cropping up across the nation, city health departments and governments are letting anti-vaxxers know that they’ve had enough and are no longer welcome. In fact, while the Constitutionality of such acts is still questionable, more cities are attempting to make it illegal for non-vaccinated persons to be out in public spaces where they run the risk of infecting everyone else.
Scream and shot about personal freedom all you want, public health has to come first and quite honestly we’re done with your children infecting the rest of us. No, we don’t want our kids suffering from your idiocy. No, the vaccinations absolutely, positively, without question DO NOT cause autism.
We are at that point where I support the public shaming of people who do not vaccinate their children. This is no longer a choice anyone should have. We let it go for too long and now we’re seeing a resurgence of measles and other childhood diseases that should be going the way of the Dodo. On any other level, hurting other people is a crime. When you don’t vaccinate your children you’re hurting other people. Period. That’s a crime by any standard of morality ever conceived.
Understand, I do not come to this position easily. My preference and that of most people is to allow plenty of leeway for others to hold and express beliefs that are different from the mainstream. If you want to believe that having crystals in your house brings you good luck, fine, run with that. If you want to believe that essential oils do something beyond making everything and everyone greasy, cool, be greasy.
What I need to get through the thick head of every anti-vaccination person in the world is that YOU’RE HURTING OTHER PEOPLE AND IT’S NOT OKAY. At the point that your belief system, no matter what it is, begins doing harm to other people, it needs to go away. Permanently.
Denying established and proven matters of science
Following closely on the heels of people who refuse to vaccinate their family are people who deny established and proven matters of science. Again, this has always been one of those areas where people like me look at science deniers, roll their eyes, and go on. For the most part, science deniers are harmless as long as they don’t breed too often.
Then, we elected an idiot for a president who can barely say the word science correctly and has absolutely no understanding of anything going on in the field. First, he attempts to deny climate change. Then, he questions the efficacy of the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, just in the past week, this monkey made the unbelievable statement that the noise from windmills causes cancer. Every science authority on the planet looked up and collectively asked, “Are you fucking crazy?”
The answer is yes, he is.
Once again, the problem with science deniers, and especially the problem with having them in places of authority, is that they’re beginning to make decisions that ultimately hurt the entire planet. From increasing the threshold for carbon dioxide emissions to reducing funding for alternative energy sources, science deniers are bringing a level of devastation on this planet that we’ve likely not seen in the past 100,000 years, or at least since the last ice age, which ended approximately 11,700 years ago (Pleistocene epoch). This is not a good thing. This goes so far beyond annoying as to be ridiculous.
Fundamental to this problem is that a lot of people don’t seem to understand how science works. So, let this chart explain it to you.
The scientific method is involved and meticulous and on many topics becomes extremely complex. What’s important, though, is that on the most critical matters the findings of a study are not considered legitimate until they’ve been peer-reviewed and ideally the experiments and/or procedures repeated producing the same results. Scientists are smart enough to know strange things can happen during a single study or experiment. Anomalies might appear that skew the results. So, having someone else look over the data and repeat the experiment is critical to proving the hypothesis.
At the end of the scientific method, however, once there is agreement on a large scale as the result of multiple repititions of the same process, those results are considered fact. To disprove those results, one would need an equal number of equally intense study following the same scientific principals producing a different result. One cannot simply formulate a hypothesis and claim it is fact. The hypothesis has to be tested and re-tested or else it is worthless.
When we deny science that says we are damaging our planet, we are not only endangering ourselves but every person who might live at some point in the future. Science matters on levels that are often difficult to explain but yet remain absolutely critical to the very survival of our species. When scientists tell us we need bees and butterflies to survive, they’re not just saying that because they like bees and butterflies. FOOD STOPS GROWING without bees and butterflies and since we need food to survive it becomes rather critical that we pay attention to that warning.
Furthermore, for anyone who is not a scientist to question the findings of scientists is like asking a five-year-old to inspect a Boeing 737 Max 8. Amateurs are not qualified to question the results of a thoroughly vetted scientific finding even though that scientific finding may not align with a person’s world view. The opinion os random naysayer does absolutely nothing to prevent disaster from happening the next time a 737 takes off with a plane full of people.
We are well past the point where people need to understand that while science may not always be exact and that our understanding of certain “givens” may change from time to time, we still have to trust those findings unless we are holding empirical and undisputable findings that prove otherwise. Climate change is real. Windmills do not cause cancer, but coal ash does. And yes, if the bees and butterflies disappear, we are going to starve. To believe anything else is foolish.
Claiming public funds are “my money”
One of those misleading things a politician has ever done was give the average citizen that government funds are still their money. The whole concept that “you’re paying for that wall,” is flawed and lacks logic. Therefore, to complain that one doesn’t want “my money” going toward a certain event or program or cause is dramatically ignorant and grossly demonstrates one’s ability to consider basic economic principals.
The example that I think explains the situation best is this:
Let’s say one walks into a store and drops a quarter into one of those bubble gum machines and receives a gumball. One puts in the required currency in the appropriate form and receives that for which they paid. End of transaction, right? One doesn’t get to object to the color of the gumball they receive. One doesn’t get to change the flavor of the gumballs in that machine. The fact that one has purchased their own gumball doesn’t give them the right to deny gumballs to others or to require increased payment for other people to get their own gumball. Put in a quarter, get a gumball, leave. If one wants different results one has to put in another quarter.
Do you understand the parallels? The amount of individual tax in relation to the size of the entire federal budget is about a quarter, less if one is including payment on the largest deficit ever. We put our quarter in, we get government back. Our taxes don’t change the flavor of the government—to do that one has to vote, making oneself a minority shareholder in the company that makes the gumballs. Our taxes don’t allow us to dictate who gets what—that’s the responsibility of Congress. Our taxes don’t give us the right to deny access to government to anyone. The fourth amendment of the Constitution guarantees equal access to the government and everything the government does.
When we pay our taxes, whether through payroll deduction or by writing a check to the IRS every April 15, that money is no longer ours just like the quarter we put in the gumball machine is no longer our quarter. That quarter now belongs to the person who owns the gumball machine, right? It stopped being your quarter the moment you turned the handle. The same applies to our tax dollars. Once we send it to the IRS, it no longer belongs to us, not even in the existential sense that we are the government. We are not part of the government that makes financial decisions. The only means through which we get a say on how those taxes are spent are by electing people to Congress and to the presidency who hold the same values as do we.
Extending this metaphor further, saying that “my money” is paying for anything, for convenience let’s say road repair, is like saying that your quarter paid for all the corn syrup used to make gumballs. No, your quarter didn’t pay for shit because it stopped being your quarter when you turned the handle on the gumball machine! The company’s money paid for that corn syrup and the federal government is paying for those road repairs. That’s not your money. You don’t get to decide what brand of corn syrup the gumball company uses any more than you get to decide which potholes get filled on any given Tuesday.
Yes, that means there are times we might not like how the government chooses to spend its money. There are also times we get flavors of gumballs we don’t like. Personally, I hate licorice and it would frustrate me as a child to put my money in the machine and see that horrible black gumball come rolling out. This wasn’t what I wanted! However, the fact that I don’t like licorice gumballs does not give me the right to insist that the gumball company stop making licorice gumballs. The company has a responsibility to make flavors of gumball for everyone, not just me. Since a significant number of people like licorice, the company has a need to make licorice gumballs. Same with the government. They’re job and purpose is not to cater to the whims of your desires but to do what is best for everyone in the country and it doesn’t really matter whether you like it or want it or use it or not.
Now, if we suspect that the gumball company is lacing the gumballs with arsenic then we have the right and responsibility to do something through whatever legal remedies might be appropriate. The same applies to the government. When Congress chooses to spend in ways contrary to the best interest of the nation, we have legal recourse: vote. Elect someone else who will make different choices. Even then, however, we need to realize that our elected representatives are more like proxy voters in a stockholder’s meeting. While our proxy might vote for one program and against another, the remainder of the “board” or stockholder’s proxies can overrule and outvote our proxy. That’s the way a representational democracy works.
The concept that we have any right to take any level of ownership over specific parts of the federal budget is ridiculous and was invented by conservative politicians in an attempt to create discord and dissatisfaction so as to influence the outcome of the elections. Unfortunately, there are enough people who bought that ridiculous notion to allow that plan to work.
Stop. The government, at any level, is not using “your money” on potholes or anything else. Get that stupid notion out of your head and we’ll all lead more peaceful lives.
I could go on, of course. There are plenty of things that annoy me, such as people using unnecessary abbreviations or neighborhood associations. What I’ve learned over the years is that dumping a full load of complaints in one sitting is counterproductive. So, let’s work on this small group first and when we’ve fixed those we’ll move on to something else.