Top 10 lists were made popular by David Letterman on “The Late Show.” One of the recommendations of the Nevada Journal’s last review was to feature top ten lists. So, to show company loyalty, here is my list of top 10 irksome matters. Actually, there are only nine. This column was becoming too long.
ME FIRST – Back in grade school, a teacher deemed it important to teach some communication etiquette. One point apparently made a strong impression because it continues to guide me to this day: When speaking of yourself and one or more additional persons, always mention yourself last. This practice is one of the lost niceties of language. Today, when youth, young adults and even middle-age adults speak of anything involving themselves and someone else, it is always “Me and my dad, Me and my friends, Me, John and Bill.” I even hear popular local television newscasters place themselves first when speaking of themselves and others. Although putting yourself first does not violate any grammar rules, ‘me first’ lacks decorum and elegance.
MAIL SOLICITING – Linda and I support several worthwhile causes through financial donations to nonprofit organizations. What irks me is the “gifts” they include to entice or shame me to donate: Shopping bags, mini blankets, note pads, address stickers, greeting cards, calendars and frameable certificates with gold seals honoring me as a loyal supporter. I neither need nor want these gifts. They waste valuable funds that could be better used for implementing programs. I informed several organizations that I will stop donating if I continue receiving these materials.
DRIVE-THRU BANKING – I need to make a quick stop at the bank drive-thru to cash a check. Only two cars in front of me and the first pulls away just after I arrive. Good! The car ahead of me pulls up to the teller’s window, the drawer comes out, the driver says something to the teller. The drawer closes then opens again, and the driver pulls a pen and a deposit slip from the drawer. Agony! The bank drive-thru is a convenience for quick transactions, not a setting for extensive banking and leisurely conversation, to say nothing of contributions to global-warming gases from idling car engines.
TRAILS AND DOGS – I am a cat person, but I do like dogs too. What I do not like is what dogs leave behind on Nevada’s trails. Most dog owners are conscientious about picking up after their dogs, and the trails have stations where dog walkers can pick up and drop off plastic bags. Still, some dog owners show complete disregard for others who wish to enjoy a clean and pleasant trail ambience.
PARKING SPACES – Has this ever happened to you? You arrive at your destination where parking spaces are scarce. You scout around and finally spot a space up ahead. When you reach the space you are fit to be tied. You realize there is no way you can squeeze in because the driver of an adjacent parked vehicle has carelessly (or deliberately?) encroached on your rightful territory.
STORE ANSWERING MACHINES – I call a local affiliate of a national store chain with a quick question. After a ring or two, the answering system kicks in. Before I have an opportunity to ask my question, I may have to listen to some or all of: Language choice, the store hours, the store location, opportunities for employment, the latest store specials, how to access the store online and finally, options to get me to the right department. All this takes longer than getting my question answered.
SURREAL – Not long ago, surreal was a word referring to a school of art, and it was hardly ever used in any other context. Today surreal is commonly and wantonly used to describe anything a bit unusual, and thereby has lost its expressive power. It is a convenient crutch that relieves the speaker of searching for words that convey a precise and meaningful description.
RIPPED JEANS – Have you seen what the younger generation is paying for worn, torn, holey jeans? I tell Linda I am styling with my old worn Levis, and my jeans came by their distress honestly. Actually, it’s fine for the kids, I just find it amusing. But I think it is appalling that adult celebrities spend lavishly to appear in tattered dress. This is an affront to a large percentage of the world’s population that has no choice about wearing old worn clothes, but through personal pride they still make themselves as presentable as possible.
HANDBAG LADIES (This will get me into trouble.) – I am standing in line at a store waiting to pay for my purchases. The clerk is scanning the items of the lady in front of me, who is dreamily watching as each item is entered. Having finished, the clerk announces the total. The woman suddenly comes out of her reverie and realizes she needs to pay. Only now does she open her purse and rummage for her billfold. Minutes pass, she comes up with the money, and the clerk prepares to count out the change. Just as I am ready to breathe a sigh of relief, she declares, “Wait, I think I have the correct change.” As she digs for her pennies, I tell myself this irksome moment, too, shall pass.
Pete Korsching is an Iowa State University emeritus professor, a Nevada resident and a freelance columnist for the Nevada Journal.