Thursday, August 8, 2013

Grrr...: My 10 Latest Biggest Pet Peeves

Oh, the trials of being a world traveler!... I jest.... A little.

Though being a wandering spirit is hardly a tribulation, the peripatetic lifestyle is not without its challenges. For an independent loner with both a cranky and a reclusive streak like me, being thrust into public situations and being at the mercy of someone else's accommodations can sometimes make you long for the green green grass (not to mention, the solitude, the smoke-free air, and the fully functioning bathrooms) of home.

Here are 10 reasons why I've recently been fine-tuning my long-ago-perfected art of complaining (a skill which, as a German friend recently suggested, makes me a sort of honorary German).

1. Bad sidewalk etiquette Damn those ambulatory folks who forget the golden rule of pedestrianism: To the left, to the left. Or is it, to the right? Wow. I'm not even so sure anymore. I've spent so many years now zigzagging between countries where everyone veers right (Argentina, the United States, Germany) and ones where they veer left (Australia, Thailand) that I sometimes forget which side I should be walking on and become precisely the kind of pedestrian that I loathe most -- after...

2. People who walk too close behind me At least when I'm trying to go up on the down escalator (as I used to do all the time in Melbourne, veering right instead of left), I respect everyone else's personal space. I keep my distance in bars, clubs and on sidewalks. If only others felt compelled to do the same. Ever since I started practically living in my Havaianas, it seems everyone has begun trailing me like my shadow, stepping on the back of the Brazilian flip flops and rendering entering public spaces dangerous to the longevity of my current chosen footwear.

3. Feet that are not only seen but heard, too Shhh! Walk softly. Carry a big stick. And for God's sake, when sitting down, keep both of your feet on the ground. Nobody wants to see or smell them. That should go double on buses, subways and trains, especially the ones with seats that face each other. This is not your home. You're in public. You're not supposed to be feeling good. Consideration over comfort, please.

So ladies, cross your legs somewhere else. (Why do people even do that -- or sit "Indian style"? How unnatural! It didn't feel right on the floor in first to fifth grade while watching those old Three Stooges reels on loud, clunky early 20th-century film projectors, and it doesn't look right now, which might be why you never actually see "Native Americans" doing it.) On crowded public transportation, you're only taking up more space than necessary. If I'm looking straight ahead, and your feet are in my line of vision, they're too high.

4. People who look me in the feet, not in the eye Speaking of feet, mine continue to get uglier by the week. Since my first return engagement on the Buenos Aires running track more than three months ago, I've been stuck with an unsightly black big toenail that's practically begging to be pulled off. That's just one reason why I wouldn't dare put either of my hooves in anyone's line of vision. Yet that never seems to stop passersby -- on both running tracks and on sidewalks -- from checking them out (if the self-conscious neurotic in me isn't just imagining things), looking down when passing me by. Up here, folks, up here! There's nothing good to see below the ankles.

5. One Direction hair It's not so much that it's an awkward tonsorial statement -- although it is -- but isn't it just a glorified version of Justin Bieber's old 'do? Yesterday I was sitting on the S-Bahn in Hamburg across from a young man whose coif, in literally mirroring the boy band's name, flopped over half of his face. I once had lunch with an ex whom I hadn't seen in seven months, and I had to spend the entire 90 minutes staring into his big brown sunglasses, which served the same apparent purpose of that One Direction hair. If I'm looking at your face, and I can't see your eyes, it's creepy, not fashion.

6. Cigarettes It's a disgusting enough habit when you're alone in the privacy of your own home. But when it means polluting other people's air space -- outdoors and in bars, which all seem to allow it in Berlin, henceforward known to me as the smoking capital of the world because everyone lights up here -- or leaving your meal companion alone while you run outside to indulge your addiction, it's veered into the territory of egregiously disrespectful.

7. Loud talking on cell phones and in apartment/hotel hallways Why is it that everyone's voice seems to double (at least) in volume as soon as they answer their mobile phone on public transportation or when they're walking up/down stairs or to/from the elevator in any apartment building or hotel?

8. Sinks, bathtubs and showers that drain too slowly Clogging should be someone else's problem. After all, I have no hair on my head and very little on my body. Yet, filthy, slow-moving water is quickly becoming the bane of my existence on the road, having cramped my style and ruined my showers in my rental in Buenos Aires, my five-star hotel in Dubai, and now, my rental in Hamburg.

9. Things (and people) that don't work, in general I've always admired efficiency in people, and the older I get, the more I demand it in everything else. I probably should have felt more guilty than I did my second day in Hamburg after I tossed my non-working key card on the front desk, and it landed on the floor. Maybe I should have felt a twinge of remorse when the receptionist had to bend over to pick it up. Had she bothered to crack a smile at any point after my arrival, I probably would have. In fact, chances are I would have taken the malfunctioning key card more in stride. But make me waste two trips upstairs, never once treating me like anything more than a mere inconvenience, and you've sort of got it coming.

10. People who think being American means being completely clueless I recently was talking to a German who actually began a new thought by saying, "Do you know ABBA? They were a group from the '70s who were popular in Europe...." Either he assumed that Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid never crossed over to the U.S., or he thought that I was too young to remember anything from the '70s, and I've been living under a rock since the day I was born.

Oh, wait! Those weren't old Madonna songs in Mamma Mia! then?
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