For someone who is awfully sanguine about big things, totaling my car, losing vast sums of Monopolyâ„¢ money in the tech stock crash, watching the business I’ve made my living at for 22 years crumble before my eyes, I’m remarkably unskilled at dealing with the little things.
‘Little’ as in my downstairs neighbor, sole proprieter of a driving school, consistently hogging prime parkage in front of our building with his fleet of raggedy-ass Corollas, especially on street-cleaning day, when he has a coveted parking spot in the garage already.
‘Little’ as in loud talkers on cell phones in public places, people who jump into a newly-opened register line out of turn, and anyone who is STILL sending out emails about magical marzipan babies, free money from Microsoft and $250 Needless-Markup cookie recipes without checking Snopes first. (Sweet baby jesus, sometimes I wish they would slap a 5¢ tax on every email.)
Or, literally, little: as in ‘1/4″‘, the amount (I discovered this morning) that my printer, for whom I developed an elaborate series of electronic proofs and written instructions as a safeguard against this very nonsense, was off in trimming my latest design job, a ruinous disfigurement that neither the person who picked up the postcard nor any one of the dozens of people who have seen them since have even noticed.
There are some similarities amongst the things that seem to enrage me. Solipsism is a biggie (this means you, you yellow-ribbon-festooned-SUV-driving turd-mistress taking up two spots at the mall, the curb and, o, the irony, the gas pump); it actually angers me far more than outright selfishness. Having my meticulous regard for your time and effort met with carelessness sort of makes me wish (or not) I was licensed to pack heat, too.
But it’s erratic, this flaming anger. So erratic that in my rare rested, grounded moments, I actually find it hi-larious in others (ha, ha! look how pissed you are that that old lady who can barely see over the steering wheel unintentionally cut you off!). Yes, I realize this points to my own pettiness. If you would like more pointers, I can put you in touch with my writing partner, any of my three sisters, or The BF, although we might have to defer that until the honeymoon is over and he is no longer besotted by the idea of free sex whenever he wants it.
On the other hand, why should you pester them, when I have in my possession a fine, WRITTEN example of my ungodly low threshold for behavior that doesn’t fit my idea of exactly what should be happening at any given moment:
Last night, too tired to do any real work, I spent some time cleaning up the hard drive on my PowerBook. In a collection bucket from my first stab at GTD* two years ago, I found this passive/aggressive, stream-of-consciousness gem, apparently written on this same P-book on a crowded, cross-country flight:
ok, if a woman were sitting in that fucking seat, there is no fucking way she’d keep typing some stupid fucking pointless email to someone she totally didn’t even need to be emailing. but mr i gotta have all the fucking room in the joint, mr Ima big pig and I don’t care i get everythning I’m supposed to get and some of yours too is taking ALL THE MOTHER FUCKING ARMREST and room besides. this is such an i’m sure TYPICAL aggro jesus fucking christ what is it with MEN and their motherfucking sense of entitlement.
The insane ramblings of a girl you’d really like to take home to mom, right? But wait, it gets better:
oh, this is so going into a screenplay.
and it would be too hilarious, the me character getting angrier and angrier, the guy totally oblivious, writing his 10 fucking page email with 1000 word paragraphs that no one is gonna read–no FUCKING ONE, you LOSER! you big fat six-vodka-swilling loser!!! WTF???
In my defense, I must point to a certain self-awareness of my insane behavior. Additionally, I should interject at this point that approximately 95% of my family on Mom’s side are either alcoholics, recovering alcoholics or married to alcoholics or recovering alcoholics, so juiceheads don’t rate a whole lot of compassion from me. But back to our fascinating story, soon to be seen at a multiplex near you:
and in the movie/book/whatever, at the end he should even try to pick up on her. or no, she’s irritated b/c he didn’t. and she catalogues everything about him that she finds disgusting–the dry look haircut, the mock turtleneck, the fact that he TURNS OFF his laptop everytime he orders another one of his double vodkas. no, no–it has to be a book, a bridget jones type of chick lit book, this angry inner monologue that rages on. god what a turd. god how selfish. but you know, god, what an asshole SHE is for letting it get to her so much
Here’s the worst of it: this is fully twelve months before I even thought about starting a blog, when the ONLY record of my thoughts was either squirreled away in a journal somewhere or nested deep within the folder trees of my various computers, and yet I know the reason I put that self-aware crap in there was to not look so bad to my public.
Oh, the shame.
Anyway, I’ve been grappling with what to do about this pettiness, this intolerance, this shameful, shameful aberration in my otherwise sterling character and I’ve decided that the only thing to do is out myself. To paraphrase the excellent Louis D. Brandeis quote I stumbled across in Freakonomics (review forthcoming), “Sunlight is a powerful motherfucking disinfectant.”
So here I am, in all my ugly intolerance, petty nature admitted to all and emblazoned across the web (well, someone could pick it up) for all to see, like so much tatty underwear in the emergency room.
Fling your barbs, shovel on your scorn: I welcome the angry intervention of a thousand, nay, a hundred-hundred-thousand, souls if it means an end to the tyranny of pettiness.
By myself, I will not give an inch; with your help, maybe I can give that 1/4″ that really matters.
*GTD = Getting Things Done, a book and organizational system by demigod David Allen, which you can read all about on his website, Merlin Mann’s website, or any one of a bajillion other similarly geek-worshipping websites.