Stupid and Annoying in a Flattened Life

Ordinarily I’m very busy, especially during the tour season. I don’t have time to think about the small stuff, much less write about it. In this pandemic, however, I have fewer things to do and a lot more time at home to notice the stupid decisions, little annoying things and cultural changes that strike an off note.

I’ve decided to collect a few of them here. Feel free to contribute your own pet peeves and any changes you have noticed.

Dumbed Down Nightly News

Huntley-Brinkley Report, TV News, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley

Chet Huntley and David Brinkley

Okay, I’m old enough to remember when the nightly TV news had some real substance to it. The three networks (all there were) kept foreign correspondents on staff who reported on what was happening in other countries to put the U.S. news in a global perspective.

Shows like the Huntley-Brinkley Report and Walter Cronkite kept us informed on serious issues. The 30-minute broadcast had gravitas and substance and it always ended with a feel-good, human-interest story. Just one.

The foreign coverage disappeared when advertising revenue dropped, which forced the networks plus, now, cable news to cut costs. Today, the only foreign news that gets reported is of a natural disaster (flood, earthquake, fire, etc.), a plane crash, or a war. Otherwise, to find out what’s happening in other countries I have to listen to the BBC News which, I confess, puts me to sleep.

Instead the U.S. nightly news offers about 15 minutes of political and national news followed by another 15 minutes of human-interest stories. While cute and clever, THESE ARE NOT NEWS. I would much rather have more news of substance and fewer puppies and kittens but the networks seem intent on dumbing down their news service even further. So, unless we choose to listen to hours of cable news, the public ends up more stupid.

Changing Pronunciation

Culinary, How to Pronounce CulinaryBecause English is a dynamic language, both word meanings and pronunciation change over time. Sometimes, however, these revisions seem to happen overnight and it’s jarring.

I can’t help thinking that someone prominent mispronounced a word and everyone else decided they were wrong, so they pick up the new pronunciation. Or they give us a completely phonetic pronunciation. Or their English teachers were clueless. Two words in point:

  • This word was previously pronounced “kyoo-li-nerry” because of its French etymology. Now, even people who should know better say “kull-a-nerry”and I have seen it given as the correct pronunciation. It always sounds off to me, and I can’t help thinking they lack a good education, even if they went to culinary school..
  • The root of this word is “divide,” so the proper pronunciation is “div-eye-sive.” Lately, however, people have begun saying “div-iss-ive,” presumably because that’s the way it looks. Stupid.

Just One Shower, Stupid

And speaking of stupid, there’s the triumph of good intentions over common sense. When our health club reopened, both the locker rooms and the showers remained closed. It was summer, with warm weather, so going home to take a shower posed no great obstacle.

Later, they re-opened both showers and lockers but many people still threw on a shirt and went home. I took advantage of the empty showers and locker room to clean off before getting dressed. This week, the Wayland Department of Health restricted the number of lockers available (no biggie) but also said we could only have one shower to use before getting into the pool. No after-exercise showers at all. Two things:

  1. Now that it’s autumn, the weather up here has cooled off significantly, which makes going home wet uncomfortable, if not unhealthy. I have given up on the morning water aerobics classes in favor of doing my own pool workout in the warmer, sunnier afternoons.
  2. Knowing what we know about aerosols hanging in the air, it makes no sense to force everyone to use one small enclosed space rather than allowing us to spread out into several showers. They have good intentions but this is just—stupid.

The Autumn Thermostat

Those of you who live in warm climates have probably never heard of this but something happens up here in New England when the weather gets cold. Some people endure putting up with the cold weather as a challenge. Not in the sense of wearing shorts and flip flops on cold days, although that happens, too.

Family in cold house, keeping thermostat low, waiting to turn up the heatNo, these folks refuse to turn the thermostat up in their homes until a certain date. October 1 is popular. They bundle up in a cold house, take showers in a cold house, eat rapidly cooling food in a cold house, etc., just to hold off until that date.

I think this tradition began when more people had oil heat and waited to fill the oil tank until the last minute. But they continued to do so even when they moved to a house with gas heat. Okay, so they want to keep the gas or oil bill down. Understood. You make decisions on what you can afford. Yet have friends and neighbors who can easily afford the heating bill but still shiver through a cold September house.

It reminds me of James Michener’s book Hawaii, in which the author describes how missionaries from New England came to the islands with their winter clothes. On October 1, they donned their woolen garments, regardless of the weather, which didn’t change much. This worked the opposite way, but still.

There should be a name for this practice. I think holding out until an arbitrary date is stupid, but that’s just my opinion. These folks have a different opinion and that’s fine. In the meantime, I turn the thermostat up when I’m cold and have a cozy September.

A Pebble in My Shoe

You see what I mean? I know, I know, they’re little things when you look at the broad spectrum of calamity affecting this country. How can I complain when my house hasn’t burned to the ground or been flooded by one or more hurricanes? When everyone in the family is healthy and our state has a low positivity rate?

pebble in shoe, annoying, irritatingStill, the pandemic has flattened out lives, not just dumbed down. When your life is flat, the little things irritate, like a pebble in your shoe. I feel better now that I have gotten them off my chest.

If you would like to unburden yourself of some of your pet peeves, just send in a comment.