There are certain kinds of battles that certain kinds of people are always going to lose. Every single time.
Let’s say there are two families who go to the beach. The Smith family wants to enjoy the smell of the salt air and the sounds of the surf, swim, build sand castles, and read books in the sun. The Jones family wants to listen to music and dance in the sand and enjoy a good cigar. The Jones family is going to get its way. The Smith family is going to have to listen to the Joneses’ music and smell their cigars and will get no peace and quiet. Every time.
Late people always win, too. Let’s say two people are trying to go to the movies. Jane likes to get there early, buy her tickets and her popcorn, and have her choice of seats while the lights are still on. John likes to cruise in halfway through the opening credits. John will win this battle. Every time.
Same goes for messy people. If you have to share a workspace with someone, and you are neat and they are messy, your workspace will be messy. Every time.
As someone who likes quiet and fresh air, neat, organized spaces, and being places on time, I feel like I always lose and, frankly, I’m getting tired of it. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I always have to be the loser and the answer is because when I do what I want – be quiet and stink-free and neat and show up on time – it doesn’t affect anyone else. When the noisy and smoky and late people do what they want, I have to hear, smell, and wait for them. If we all just go about our respective businesses, I am going to lose. Ok, don’t call it lose: they will get their way and I will get their way. Does that sound less whiny?
The older I get the less I’m sure I care about how whiny I sound. At what point in my life do I get to declare that I have paid my dues and other people should defer to my will? I’m saying it is this point in my life. So listen up, people, and yes, I am talking to a large number of my family members, extended, virtual, and otherwise. I’m gonna list a few things that you do that annoy the bejeebers out of me, and which I have been putting up with for nearly five decades. It’s my turn, and you will stop doing these things simply because you love me and you want me to be happy:
- Don’t chew gum in my presence. I wrote a whole blog post about how I hate this, and yet I still spent the better part of a ten hour car ride listening to the sounds of regurgitated cud.
- I hate the smell of cigarette smoke. It is a migraine trigger for me. It makes the entire time I have to smell it unpleasant. (Another blog post.) If you must smoke because your nicotine addiction is that strong, kindly go somewhere else and no, I don’t care if it is cold out or raining out. I will not coddle your addiction.
- I think it was Buddha, or maybe someone else unquestionably wise, who said, “Don’t speak unless it improves the silence.” Consider your audience before you speak: does this person appear interested in how a fuel line is connected from one place to another in a Yamaha jet ski? Is this person truly concerned about the family history of someone she’s only met once and will probably never meet again? If not, be quiet.
- Relatedly, quiet is ok. Silence is ok. Silence is, actually, more than ok. I get that I’m an introvert, and I need time wandering around my head in order to process all the information I’ve received since the last head-wander, but I honestly don’t know how anyone can say anything thoughtful about anything if you haven’t shut up long enough in the past however long in order to actually have thoughts about what you are going to say. Silence does not beg to be filled. It begs to be appreciated.
- If I am reading a book, and you have something important to say, wait until I’m done reading or acknowledge your presence on my own. The only exceptions would be the phrases “the house is on fire,” “a bear just broke down the front door and is demanding honey,” and “my sister fell down and I’m not sure her leg should be pointing that way.” Everything else can wait until the chapter is finished.
- If we have agreed on a time to go somewhere, and it is that time, excepting in the case of an intestinal emergency, it is time to go. If you don’t have your hair fixed or your favorite jacket found, tough noogies. We are going when I say it is time to go. (I wrote a blog post about this one, too, also to no avail.)
These requests seem reasonable to me, and they all turn around a simple theme: leave me alone unless you have something interesting to say, do what you are supposed to do, and don’t force me to listen to your crappy music or your smell your unfiltered Camels.
Now that I think about it (having had a rare moment of silence in which to do so), most of my problems could be solved by my use of a human hamster ball. Surely they sell those somewhere?
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.