4 Everyday Things That Make Us Way Angrier Than They Should
Some things we can all agree are just annoying as hell. Mosquitoes. People who text while driving. People who text while they're driving to their secret mosquito farm. A person can hate these things without questioning whether it makes them a disgusting monster. But there are also a lot of things that we know aren't technically bad at all, but which annoy us anyway. We know that if we were the good people our parents and Captain America wanted us to be, these things wouldn't bother us. But we're not, so we hate ...
Look, I think non-car transport is the best. If it were up to me, all of America's cities would look like Amsterdam, with people riding bikes everywhere as far as the eye can see.
And also canals. Wouldn't Reno look a lot better with some nice canals?
Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in (unless you are reading this in Amsterdam, in which case, go and appreciate the hell out of your nearest canal). Most Americans live in a world where "bike-friendly" means "narrow bike lanes separated from the road by a thin line of paint, and maybe set up next to a row of parked cars whose doors can open at any moment and hit you in the goddamn face." America in general is dangerous and sucky for cyclists, and I get that.
But there's a subset of cyclists who have somehow missed this lesson. These people think that the bicycle's advantages over wasteful, polluting car traffic grants them not just moral superiority but also a kind of physical immortality, maybe bestowed by Captain Planet. Once when I was driving in Oregon, a young cyclist cut directly across my path and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid having to pick blonde dreadlocks out of my grill. I hit the horn, and the guy stopped and gave me a "Why do you hate PLANET EARTH?" look before riding off. That's far from the only time I've run into the "let's deliberately goad the unhip motorists" attitude.
Why We Hate It
This isn't just about some cyclists being dangerous and irresponsible: After all, the world is also full of dangerous, irresponsible people driving cars. It's that cyclist-douchiness is so much more likely to end with the cyclist's horrible, gory death. In a cyclist vs. motorist douche-off, one of the competitors is clad in 4,000 pounds of metal armor, and the other has nothing but a layer of clothing between the car, the road, and their squishy, meaty self. If a dumb teenage driver pulls in front of me and I can't brake in time, the result is most likely going to be an awkward exchange of insurance information. If a dumb cyclist does it, he ends up bespattered on the front of my hood. It doesn't matter if the accident is 100 percent the cyclist's fault: I still have to live with killing the guy.
Vengeful cyclist ghosts are the worst, as well. All that ectoplasm-stained spandex.
But why do so many drivers get annoyed at all cyclists, to the point of sometimes abusing random bike riders who are just trying to ride to work? Well, OK, some drivers really are just assholes. But also consider this: After a motorist's first couple of experiences with the suicidal Captain Planet-type cyclist, that motorist doesn't know whether the next cyclist is going to do the same thing. So John McCardriver starts thinking the worst of all cyclists and getting nervous when he sees them on the road. Every cyclist forces John to contemplate the ramifications of accidentally taking another human's life, and soon he starts resenting them for causing this weird guilt-tingle. Before long, he is looking at even safe, responsible bike riders and wondering why they just can't get a fucking car. Congratulations, John, you're now an awful person.
You're sitting down to a nice meal at your local Pancake and Mushroom House when a baby at the next table starts wailing. You close your eyes and silently hope that the baby will stop crying once its mother gives it a sip of her mushroom shake. But it keeps crying, and the parents don't walk out with it, because they just spent $70 on a nice pancake-and-mushroom meal for their family and they're going to eat it, dammit. Or maybe it's because the mother hasn't slept in 11 days and has developed trauma-induced deafness. Whatever the reason, there is a wailing baby next to you, and no matter how much you love children or how much you appreciate the arrival of new human life, it is annoying as hell.
"I'm so upset I can't even taste the mushrooms."
Worse, there's not much you can do in this situation. You can't go over to the other table and offer to help. No matter how politely you phrase your offer, you're still telling the parents: "Your kid sounds like two cats fighting a banshee in hell, and I want it to end." It's even worse when you're with another person, because then you have to sit there and make polite conversation while pretending there isn't a human smoke alarm going off next to you. And neither of you wants to say anything about it, because you don't want to look like the asshole who hates babies, and so the two of you just sit there playing a long awkward game of Asshole Chicken until the whole meal is ruined, even the mushroom tiramisu.
Why We Hate It
It makes evolutionary sense that a baby's cry gets our attention. Humanity wouldn't have lasted long if we kept forgetting our babies behind tree stumps because their cries were so quiet and unobtrusive. Personally, I would have set things up so that babies sounded more like crying kittens, but I'm not in charge here.
I'd also do something about the uncontrolled bowels thing, but hey.
And our brains don't just make the wailing of human children noticeable. If you scan a person's brain while playing a recorded sound of a baby crying, it lights up like a bonfire made out of propane tanks. Crying adults and whining dogs don't affect our brains in the same way, and infant-sirens still have the same effect even if you're a non-parent. In other words, human babies have been deliberately programmed to emit the most distressing, impossible-to-ignore sound imaginable to man. When you're sitting next to a crying baby in a restaurant, or on a bus, or at the 2014 Minneapolis Baby Crying Expo, you're basically sitting next to an air-raid siren that's been remixed with the screams of a dying loved one, and you can't do anything about it.
People Driving at the Speed Limit
Maybe you live in one of those rare places where drivers always keep strictly within the speed limit. If that's the case, I'm assuming that everyone in your town also brushes their teeth three times a day, regulates their fiber intake, and never illegally downloads TV shows. But in most of America, drivers consistently go three or four miles above the posted limit. And once you've lived in one of these places for a while, nothing is worse than getting caught behind a driver who doesn't allow themselves that extra mph or two. I'm not talking about exceptional situations, like dangerous weather conditions or the 20 mph zone outside the School for Blind Children With Poor Impulse Control. I mean the people who see a sign reading "55" on a two-lane highway and decide that they simply cannot risk going 56, despite the fact that everyone else on the road is risking their lives to pass them.
Better make it 35. And turn on the blinker just in case. There's a left turn coming up in Bakersfield.
Why We Hate It
I've written before about why just being in a car tends to turn people into angry assholes. But why the hell does this over-the-limit creep happen in the first place? It's because many states have an official or unofficial "above the speed limit" tolerance, below which cops usually won't bother pulling you over, let alone ticketing you. The tolerance is there to account for measurement errors or speedometer miscalibration, but of course the upper limit of this tolerance often turns into the default speed limit for everyone on the road. If you've spent the last few years interpreting a 70 mph limit to mean 74, the driver in front of you chugging along at 70 seems to be driving unreasonably slowly just to annoy you.
"At least I have an unobstructed view of their humorous stick-figure windshield sticker."
Slow People in Supermarket Lines
Say you're in the supermarket, ready to check out your chosen purchases: a cat leash, a home waxing kit, and a pair of reinforced Kevlar gloves. You pick what looks like the shortest line. After all, the man in front has had all his purchases scanned already, and it looks like he's about to finish up!
Soon, you little bastard.
Then that man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of coupons. Half of them expired in 2009, so he argues about it with the store clerk. The clerk calls her manager. All the people who started waiting at the same time as you in different lines have already left the store and gone home to their families. The other lanes are empty. The store is closing. But you've already unpacked your waxing strips onto the conveyor belt, so you must stand there as the person in front argues about paying for his bananas in Canadian pennies.
Here's the thing. Half of the time when we're seething in rage over the slow person in front of us in a supermarket line, we're not even in any particular hurry. And in any other situation, we'd have sympathy for a person who is so hard up that they need to use coupons to buy food. If you met Coupon Guy outside of a supermarket and he told you that a guy was glaring at him just because he wanted to save money so that he could feed his family better, you'd think, "God, that guy sounds like an asshole." This new perspective would last exactly until the next time you were in line behind a couponer, when you'd start cursing under your breath and making obscene hand gestures.
Why We Hate It
There's a reason slow supermarket lines are a special kind of hell. It's because of the human obsession with fairness, otherwise known as "the need to see others getting screwed over just as much as we are." Humans don't like waiting in line, but we hate it when someone who started waiting after us gets to go first. And that's exactly what happens when our supermarket line is held up by Mr. Guy Who Pays for Everything With Checks and Didn't Bring His Driver License.
"Yes, I know I have all the vegetables. You're going to have to go ahead and start the orgy without me anyway."
This unavoidable fairness-rage is why some businesses, especially banks, have now switched to a queuing system called a single serpentine line, in which everyone waits in one long queue that opens up to multiple tellers or cashiers at the end. Sure, Coupons McGee at the front of the line might still technically be slowing you down, but at least it isn't so damn personal.