I’m that irritating guy
Becoming my own worst nightmare
As a younger person, I complained about irritating people who did irritating things.
For example, open-mouth chewing, screaming with laughter at quiet restaurants, or letting their kids chew with open mouths and scream with laughter at quiet restaurants in the belief that kids should be kids even if they grow up to be irritating people.
Now, well past youth, I’ve become what I hated — an irritating person doing things that irritate younger people. To confess, sometimes on purpose, just for a hoot:
1. I walk into a store and stand in the doorway, looking around in confusion and slack-jawed wonderment, blocking other shoppers from coming in and going about their business, and being irritated when they bump me going past. “Excuse me! Where are your manners?” I kvetch to nobody who cares.
2. For decades I couldn’t order at Starbucks properly. Seriously. I’m still not completely sure what “latte” is exactly. Now I simply refuse to use the right lingo. I say, “Large coffee, please.” Barista says, “grande?” I say, “No, large, please.” “Vente?” “No, large. And could you throw a little cream in that, sweetheart?” I love how it distorts the barista’s face tats due to his scowling.
3. At the CVS, when picking up my seven prescriptions, a week’s supply of Dulcolax® Gentle and Predictable Overnight Relief, and a six pack of Little Debbie® Banana Pudding Rolls® for the night, I refuse to use the self-checkout, scan my items and put them into the bags like the disembodied voice instructs me to do in a confusing way.
I prefer to stand in the long line snaking around the store to be served by the one remaining human clerk who still resentfully works at CVS. Then, to save 23 cents, I dig through my Glad Sandwich Zipper Bag of coupons to find one that didn’t expire a year ago. After that, I pat my comfortably loose-fitting cargo shorts pockets for my checkbook from a bank that failed a decade ago, and then carefully tear out and write a check slowly, with an old-timey fountain pen that needs me to suck the nib to get it flowing, and sign with a long, languorous, luxuriating signature.
Then I pat my many cargo-shorts pockets again for my wallet to produce some I.D., and ask the irritated clerk whether my crumpled and faded Social Security card “‘twould suffice, my good man.” (I say “‘twould suffice, my good man” just to make his miserable life worse.)
Yes, of course I have a debit card with a chip. And a smart phone with payment apps. And cash. Where’s the fun in that?
4. Driving! Driving offers a myriad fun ways for older people to irritate younger people and also everyone else.
For example, I’m that guy who smugly, with supreme self-satisfaction bordering on afternoon delight, loves to drive in the passing lane going exactly 55. Just to incite and enjoy the violent honking, tail-gating, finger gestures and screamed obscenities I can’t hear because I have NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” on full blast because it gives me a laugh and tests my knowledge.
I’m also the guy who slows down to a crawl and backs up traffic for miles when it starts to spit a bit of rain and I need to be more cautious because the roads might get too slick for my all-wheel-drive car to handle. But when the traffic light is about to turn from yellow to red, I speed through the light leaving you to sit there fuming.
I’m also the guy who takes 20 minutes to get in or out of a parking space, doesn’t know how to use my turn signal to indicate the direction I’ve finally chosen to take, and generally is oblivious to the world around me. Perhaps because I’m absorbed by “The World” on Public Radio International, broadcast by NPR, with stories about LGBTQ+ celebrations in India, black women in Brazilian elections, and coffee farmers in Puerto Rico.
No, I don’t drive a Subaru. Why do you ask?
5. I love to drone on incessantly about my unique and trenchant political opinions, which at my age and experience — and you agree — are groundbreaking and life-changing.
Plus I absolutely adore the sound of my own voice and my views. Since it’s more important, especially to my personal emotional health, for me to express myself than indulge the needs of others not to indulge me by listening, I don’t care if people ignore me for their own sanity.
Let people stab their eardrums at dinner parties with the shrimp fork to make the sound of my voice cease already for the love of god. Or hurl themselves through triple-pane plate glass and down seven stories to their horrible deaths. Just because they can’t accept, let alone appreciate, my unique and trenchant political opinions.
Does the guy I’m describing, who is me, irritate you?
I certainly hope so. After a lifetime of being irritated by irritating people, it’s my turn now.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer