Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Etiquette of Pet Peeves

Let's face it. We all have pet peeves- something that someone else does that irritates the heck out of you. As I have stated on many occasions, one of my biggest is baseball hats worn inside. I was never a fan of baseball hats to begin with, but worn inside they send me round the bend. A man should always remove his hat when indoors. To not do so is a sign of disrespect. The problem is that some people do not understand how to show respect in many cases. Tipping one's hat as one passes someone on the street, especially a woman, does not occur to most men today. It is such an easy way to make a small connection with someone and to make them feel recognized. A smile accompanying a tip of the hat can make someone's day!

One reader has suggested that her greatest pet peeve is someone licking a knife at the table. I must admit, that one hadn't occurred to me, but I can see why it would revolt a fellow diner. Aside from being potentially dangerous, no one wants to watch this act. If they did, a sword swallower at the circus would do the trick. Licking a knife could put someone off because of the imagined danger. At no time is it appropriate to make someone else feel uncomfortable, whether at the dining table or not.

Another reader has suggested that spitting, tossing cigarette butts, or discarding chewing gum on the sidewalk or street annoys him the most. This is another area where a total disregard for respecting public spaces seems de rigueur these days. In some places there are actual signs admonishing such behavior; and in some places this can carry a fine. It is not much of a step away from littering or leaving one's garbage by the side of the road. As stewards of the communities in which we live or visit, we should think about leaving places as clean or cleaner for the next person as it was for us.

One of my pet driving peeves is the arrogant person who is either in a bad mood or simply in a rush who gleefully cuts in and out of on going traffic just to get a vehicle or two ahead particularly at slow moving, crowded rush hours and completely ignores the concept of alternate merge. They somehow feel entitled to keep sticking themselves in front of other vehicles, as though it was going to get them to their destination any faster. This is a form of bullying. It is dangerous, rude, and shows a lack of respect for fellow drivers. It's right up there with horn honking - that monosyllabic form of communication which was originally designed to alert one to danger, not as a non-verbal chastisement. Or the driver who sticks into a street so far that it makes it almost impossible for on coming traffic to continue up the road. Courtesy while driving makes for safer conditions on highways and streets and keeps people in a more alert frame of mind.

A friend this morning mentioned how men should wear jackets if they are going to wear neckties and shirts, especially in church. We discussed the idea that often the interiors of many buildings and halls heat up when filled with people. Although that is true enough, this is not an excuse to take off jackets unless under the most extreme circumstances. I find that many men today are simply not accustomed to wearing a jacket and this extra layer of clothing is viewed as optional. This is an inaccurate assumption. And should you be part of a funeral, such as a pallbearer, your jacket stays on no matter what!

What is it about pet peeves that push our various buttons? Could it be that these are habits that we were taught as children to be taboo? Could it be that we assume that the people who do these things are doing them to be deliberately disrespectful? And are we truly grossed out by behavior that is disgusting, selfish and done without any awareness of others? It is a combination of these factors. And it's interesting how what is one person's pet peeve is another's normal behavior.

Having pet peeves is a way of seeing faults in others. Perhaps we can feel better about ourselves and hopefully avoid doing things that are truly annoying to someone else. Being human beings, we all have frailties and where we often times fall short is in not accepting this as a truth. Being aware of how we influence those around us can be a big step towards this acceptance. Leading by example, which we do both consciously and unconsciously, allows us to teach our children, students and others what we accept as appropriate behavior. Taken as a whole, this amalgamation of behaviors is a true reflection of the society in which we live. It's never too late to do our part to make our communities as healthy and as vibrant as possible by showing respect, civility, and compassion whenever possible. And, it's always possible.