During a good week, my life can be pretty stressful. I'm sure yours can be, too. The holiday season / end of the year generally do not help the situation.
In order to relieve some stress, I've decided to spend a little more time working out during December, rather than adopting my usual, binge-laden "I'll just wait until the New Year" motif. When my iPod battery died during a recent cardio workout, I started to think about things that add to my stress level.
There are, of course, the biggies -- work, family, bills, the economy, the wars, health care, etc. There isn't a lot I can do to make those go away. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that there are a lot of little things that happen during the day that grind my gears. When added to the big stressors, they lead to a lot of what I think is completely unnecessary teeth-gnashing.
During that workout, I vowed not to let them agitate me. The first step, I figured, would be writing about them here. I figured that you could read my list and use the Talkback feature to list things that drive you nuts. Then, we'll all channel Frank Costanza by screaming "Serenity now!" and have a more peaceful holiday season.
Here are the 10 things that can drive me up a wall, but that I'm going to accept in the interest of personal harmony and happy holidays:
- Cold, snowy weather. One of the few perks about being very busy is that I sometimes forget to notice when the weather gets bone-chilling cold. I've lived in Wisconsin all my life, but the older I get the less tolerance I seem to have for winter. I am not going to waste time dreading winter's arrival or cursing its wrath. I'm just going to dress in layers and deal with it until summer arrives.
- Stores that put up Christmas displays before Halloween. This used to rankle me. Not any more. It's their store. They can display what they want. It may not interest me at the time, but if people didn't want it, they wouldn't put it out. Sort of like a Taylor Swift record.
- The broken clock at City Hall. The first few times I passed the building, I laughed at the clock, which is stuck at noon (or midnight). Then, I started to get mad about the fact that the building just had a multimillion-dollar facelift and the thing is broken. I felt like it's an embarrassment to the city and makes us look like rubes in the eyes of visitors. My plan now is to go back to chuckling about it.
- Media coverage of the idiots who crashed the White House dinner. I got a little peeved when this publicity stunt by wannabe reality show doofuses like the Salahis and the "balloon boy" family got saturation coverage. Then, the Tiger Woods story broke and I realized that all I have to do in order to alleviate the problem is turn the channel.
- People who write out checks at the cash register. Part of having a stressful life means that you are always running late -- or hurrying to avoid being late. Waiting in a checkout line doesn't help the situation. Neither does waiting behind someone who is writing out a check. I mean, who writes out checks these days when it's so much easier to pay by debit card, credit card or -- heaven forbid -- cash? My blood pressure used to soar when I saw people at the head of the line whip out a checkbook and a pen, but now I'm going to realize that writing a check doesn't take that much longer than swiping your card three times and entering a PIN. Serenity now, my friends. (Note: If I see someone balancing a checkbook in line, I reserve the right to go ballistic.)
- My dog barking in the yard. A friend once joked that he's not sure if reincarnation exists, but that if it does he wants to come back as my dog. Our beloved pooch is like a member of the family. We treat her well and she rewards us with much joy and tail-wagging. She doesn't have many bad habits, but one of them is barking at pedestrians, bike riders and other dogs. This isn't a menacing bark. It's more like an invitation to come and play. But, it's annoying as hell. I went to the pet store and bought a citronella-spraying collar. That seemed to work for a while, but now the pooch seems oblivious to the blasts of stuff that smells like Lemon Pledge. The slightest bark used to get me upset. Though I'm still sensitive to my neighbor's peace and quiet, I've come to realize that dogs bark. It's what they do.
- Other people's pronunciation problems. A lot of my friends and co-workers in the journalism business the past 20-plus years have a seizure when they see a typo in an e-mail, press release or other printed forum. Provided they weren't found in one of my stories or publications, those things don't bother me much. What makes me cringe, though, is when I hear people mispronouncing words. Aaron Rodgers plays quarterback, not corderback. The stuff you pour on cereal is milk, not melk. Stuff like that (and countless others) used to make me cringe. Now, as long as they aren't coming out of my child's mouth, I'm going to just let them slide.
- Getting my bag checked before working at sporting events. I realize that we can't ever let our guard down in the post-9/11 world, but does anyone really think that a dumpy sportswriter in wrinkled Dockers is going to create an international incident? I mean, we might complain if the frozen yogurt machine goes on the fritz, but I don't think any of my colleagues is going to create a national security risk at a stadium. The process is not long enough to be a major pain in the rear, but it's a bit galling that most of the law enforcement / security personnel I've encountered do a half-assed job of checking our belongings, anyway. The delay isn't worth it, and the risk is greater in the stands, but I'm not going to let that bother me now, because of my mellow kick.
- The most violated traffic law in town. As you approach the Jackson Street on-ramp for I-94 West, there are two lanes that permit freeway access and the far right lane is clearly marked "Right Turn Only." I used that ramp almost daily for the past few years and virtually every time a few people ignored the edict and almost cut me off. It used to really make me mad. Now, I expect it. I'm trying to laugh about it. And, maybe some of the idiots who break that law will read this and take notice.
- Other people talking on their cell phones while driving. How often do you see someone driving too slowly, or changing lanes without giving notice or doing something else annoying and borderline dangerous (such as ignoring a right-turn only sign) and then get close and discover that they are yakking on a cell phone? It happens to me a lot. It used to make me mad. But, I realize that I'm guilty of that offense myself. I'm going to now give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they are talking about something earth-shakingly important or life-threatening and not the latest episode of "Tool Academy."
Now, I've just started my new serene approach. If you see me on the street and I look agitated, be wary. I might have dumped the whole "serenity now" approach. But, I'm going to give it shot.
Good column, Drew. Pretty funny. Personally, I'd rather scream "Hoochie mama!!!" I like the Michael Douglas/"Falling Down" pic from the "What's wrong with the street? It was fine yesterday!!" sequence. I always want to ask the construction workers that whenever I have to navigate any one of our innumerable road construction sites around town. It seems they're everywhere!!
Aah, lithium. Breathe it in, Drew, breathe deep. :-)
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