Among my favorite lines in all of film history is Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart) sober farewell to Ilsa (Ingrid Berman) in Casablanca as they stand on the tarmac in Nazi-occupied Morocco:
“Ilsa – I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
So much about what is important is covered by this line: the virtues of humility, maintaining perspective and selflessly pursuing noble work.
It is important for all of us, in good times and bad, to discern the difference between serious problems and those minor inconveniences and aggravations that plague us. Serious problems sear the heart, mind, body, and soul, and deeply impact our lives. Inconveniences pass away in time and have little meaningful long-term impact.
Nevertheless, I know that I am not alone in confessing those minor inconveniences that drive me, at times, to distraction. Like most people, I have my fair share of pet peeves.
For the record, here are 19 of my pet peeves. Perhaps you share one or more with me. Perhaps you do the offending behavior, and, if by my noting them you see fit to adjust what you do, I thank you profusely for myself and on behalf of us all who feel as I do. If not, then have a nice day!
In the Car
• Drivers in heavy traffic who don’t keep up with the car in front of them and sail through at the final second of a yellow light leaving me behind to wait for the next green;
• Those waiting to turn left on a busy street who inch forward only a few feet into the crosswalk as they wait for oncoming traffic to pass, and as the yellow light turns red casually make the turn leaving everyone behind to wait for the next light. They could easily have moved forward far enough for one or two additional cars to get into the intersection so as to take advantage of the light, but like Walter Mitty, their heads seem to be up in the clouds and are unaware that anyone is behind them;
• People who never let you move into their lane of traffic (i.e. usually young men between 18 and 40);
• People who inexplicably give me the finger for something I probably did but did unintentionally;
• Drivers who move 10 mph below the speed limit on single-lane roads with a double yellow median and don’t pull over to let all those cars that have lined up behind them pass;
• Waiters who are constantly filling water glasses even when little water has been consumed, picking up empty dishes while diners are still eating at the table, offering pepper (there’s already a pepper shaker on every table), and incessantly disturbing and interrupting what are obviously intimate, serious and intense conversations. In Europe, waiters leave you alone after taking orders and delivering food. Why can’t American waiters (usually nice people, btw) do the same thing? In case you are wondering, I am a fair and generous tipper and will even tip well those who do all the above because I know they are just trying to make a living;
• Very loud people at the next table who make it difficult to carry on a quiet conversation at my table;
• People talking in a very loud voice on their cellphones in airport lounges, on airplanes, in hospital and doctors’ waiting rooms, and restaurants (yes – I know. I just said this);
• Those who don’t turn off their ringers and beeps in classes, religious services, theaters, even after having been asked to do so;
Use of Language
• Teens and young adults who add to every third sentence “…like…”;
• Those who end half their statements with “Right?” as if we don’t understand what they just said;
• Nasty people;
• People who insist on telling their “truth” even if what they say unnecessarily hurts the feelings of or embarrasses another person;
• People who are always complaining about others (I know – I’m doing that right now!!!);
• People who constantly self-reference and turn every conversation around to be about themselves;
• People who talk at you and not with you;
• People who are certain they are right and are resistant to hearing and absorbing evidence to the contrary;
• People who can’t apologize;
If you care to share your pet peeves, I’m all ears! Just keep it clean, and don’t be nasty!
William Simon said:
These are sooooo real and shared by me and so many others…Thanks for actually writing them down. Bill
Abby Segall said:
That’s the Rabbi Rosove I know and love and miss. You are so human and humble
Nancy Wein said:
Rabbi, I just recently started following your blog because of a connection I recently made with a woman living in my home-town of Richmond Va who was a member of a progressive congregation in Jerusalem, Kol Haneshama. I am a Jewish woman who is very concerned about peace and justice for Palestinians. And I know that I am to the left of you in terms of my views – I am more of a Jewish Voice for Peace activist than a J-street person. However, I am appreciative of the fact that J-street exists and is working towards solutions to the problems there. And I want to be open to hearing their views. So I thought I would enjoy following your conversations – and until now, I have. However, I want to put a little perspective on some of your pet peeves, because the following thoughts have occurred to me recently. Just think for one moment about how you feel when you are stuck in traffic for whatever reason – a person who hasn’t moved forward to let you pass or someone who drives so slowly that you don’t get through the traffic light and have to wait an additional three minutes for the traffic light. Now multiply that frustration a thousand times or more by Palestinians living in Hebron, who cannot go out of their front door because it is blocked as a “Jewish only” street or the hundred of blockades that you are forced to go through every day in order to get to work, to doctor, or to family -changing what was once a 5 minute trip to a several hours trip or maybe no trip at all if you are turned back. And remember that this is a daily condition, not just occasional. Imagine the anger and rage that builds up under the occupation. This is saying nothing at all about the conditions in Gaza which are even more horrific. Home, hospitals, schools bombed. Almost no drinkable water. No jobs, no food, many deaths all around you and a constant fear that some Palestinian will commit a crime that can be construed as an excuse to “mow the lawn” in Gaza yet again. Your pet peeves are so minor compared to the horrors of life as a Palestinian living under occupation. I think of this every time I get annoyed about some little delay in my otherwise wonderful existence in Richmond, Va. And it helps me to achieve perspective. I would rather hear you blog about what we as Americans can do to help the Israelis achieve peace in their country and the Palestinians achieve some quality of life and justice.
Robert Newport said:
Hi Nancy: I agree that our privileged lives should make us immune to the small annoyances of everyday life, however, they don’t. Mussar teaches us to devote our lives to service and correct the underlying rejection/criticisms of these incredible realities with which HaShem graces us. Mussar has been around for a very long time which suggests that we have needed the teachings for a very long time. Whatever your politics (I too am a progressive peace activist) we can all benefit from improving our everyday lives, even if we cannot immediately serve those who are horribly suffering. Dr. Robert Newport
Bonnie Pastor said:
I appreciated your pet peeve list. yours are so much about relations with others. In addition to many of the same pet peeves that you have, here are a couple of mine.
Loud music in restaurants.
About those left turn drivers who don’t wait in the intersection but hang back:
Once when I got a moving violation and went to driver’s school, I learned that in some states the law requires the left turn driver not to enter the intersection until the light turns yellow or traffic has cleared. I don’t know if this is true, but it helps me be a little more patient in those situations.
Love your blog,
Hi John. Your list did mention quite a few pet peeves on my list, however I have one to add. When I go to a store and spend my money I expect, but frequently do not receive, common courtesy from stores clerks including: Hello; or May I help you?; and the biggest omission: not saying thank you to me after I make a purchase. Many times I buy something and the clerk avoids eye contract and remains silent throughout the transaction except to state the cost or instructing me to swipe my card. How unaware can they be that without customers making purchases, they would have no job? ?
How did you manage to invade the “pet peeves” department of my brain? I suspect that you have a wide assortment of friends who have responded as I have.
Shabbat shalom! Don
I share many of your peeves, Rabbi. I try to remember to cut the restaurant servers/bussers etc. a little slack, because they’re only doing what their bosses require them to do in the name of looking “responsive to the customer.” They’d get fired or written up if they didn’t do all the interrupting, no matter how clear it may be to them that you’d appreciate being left alone.