Humour: How to endure annoying habits
We all get on each other’s nerves, but the key is to regulate the hatred
Let me win over your confidence by admitting to a few annoying habits of my own: I constantly interrupt speakers in a conversation. I brush my hair with no consideration for where it falls. I seek the help of others for all online tasks. Now that I’ve proved my unimpeachable integrity, I feel not a bit guilty discussing the annoying habits of the world at large. I squarely implicate teachers whose blackboard scrawls sounds like cats in distress, fellow travellers who bolt out of their seats the moment the plane touches down and acquaintances who insert the word ‘dear’ in places where it doesn’t belong. *Cracks knuckles and slurps chai*
While waiting for the lift, you smile politely, yet not familiarly, at the person standing beside you. The smile quickly turns to a snarl when the confounding human presses both the up-and down-pointing arrows on the wall, hoping something will work. Often have I tried to explain the irrationality behind the action; often have I been met with an uncomprehending smile. On these occasions, we descend the building together, each lost in their own world, nursing a vague animosity towards a complete stranger.
It gets trickier when it’s a friend who’s guilty of an irritating habit. I have, as a rule, stopped visiting restaurants with friends who suffer from especially high culinary and hospitality standards. I have passed the age where I can pretend to be interested in the right circumference for a glass, for example. Never will I be caught commuting with someone who complains about a cab driver’s body odour. Nor will I endure the company of someone who keeps their face buried in their phone for the short length of an annual catch-up. Best to meet these specimens on social media, where all glasses follow the golden ratio, nobody stinks and the phone-obsessed population’s attention is undivided.
Raging against algorithms
When it comes to digital no-nos, my list is actually quite long. I know it makes me sound a bit unhinged, but Gmail is my latest nemesis. The ‘Smart Reply’ function makes me more aware than ever that we live in a digital dystopia. I spend a lot of time trying not to use these responses, just to keep my ‘digital alien’ tag intact. So if the ghost in the email is tempting me to use the “Ok, thanks!” response, I’ll say “Yes, sure” instead. It makes no sense, yet it feels like I’m exercising some autonomy in an increasingly autocratic world.
Similarly, the ‘People you may know’ suggestion on Facebook. The better adapted among you must be snorting at my over-sensitive and under-intelligent reactions. But I consider it a duty to rage against the rule of algorithms. Even as we speak, they’re exhorting me to buy a particular brand of kajal. I’d rather spend the remnants of my youth with ill-defined eyes and a deficient social circle rather than submit to this tyranny. But it’s so annoying to hear people constantly complain about our device-obsessed age, so I’ll swiftly move on.
The deeper the relationship, the greater the chances of being ticked off by personal habits. In my experience, the cliché of couples sparring over toothpaste tubes and toilet seats has never really come into play. But I’ve encountered the most loving pairs squabble for years over water rings and AC settings. The same goes for parents and their children. The most adoring mothers turn into Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter when they see their child’s dishevelled cupboard. Soft-spoken office colleagues take up arms over lunchboxes that smell offensive. And I’ve turned calm family doctors to fury with my endless self-diagnosis.
My research and experience have led me to infer that civil society is nothing but mutually dependent humans keeping their rage against each other in check. This regulated hatred takes the form of incessant socialising, in which we employ coping mechanisms. Some of us eat with our mouths full while others leave sentences trailing. Some bang car doors shut while others are compulsive meme sharers. In the end, whoever endures these irritations most cheerfully wins. Get it, dear?
From HT Brunch, October 27, 2019
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