My colleagues and I got to talking about things that irk us.

We recalled a couple of former colleagues who had the habit of clipping their nails at their desks.

We wondered, how do perfectly educated, seemingly mannered people do such things?

Then we recalled a co-worker who tended to eat nuts and raw carrots all the time, which, admittedly, drove us all nuts.

The more we talked about pet peeves, the more we identified.

Gum-chewing and particularly gum-snapping is intolerable, we all agreed.

Flossing teeth in public, sneezing without covering one’s mouth and eating potato chips with one’s mouth open also were at the top of our list of pet peeves.

People who talk all the time without stopping to listen, those who are self-centered and dinner hosts who help themselves to food before serving guests also are among our greatest dislikes.

Besides those irritable, annoying traits people display at inopportune times, there are those things that are harder to escape and border on being just plain inconsiderate.

Shooting fireworks off, for instance, more than is necessary.

On the Fourth of July, we all expect fireworks and can even enjoy them as a visible display and celebration of our loyalty to country and independence.

But firing them off on beautiful, serene summer nights when we have our windows open to listen to the loons call on the lake or hear the wind whispering through the trees or the sound of raindrops on the roof is not at all palatable.

Also not fun is watching our pets running for cover, frightened and stressed out by the noise, cowering in a corner.

And the loons — what must they be feeling?

Whenever I hear fireworks, whether from being woken up by the noise or sitting and waiting for them to end, I think of all the military veterans, particularly those suffering from post traumatic stress, and how they must be affected by the rapid-fire sound of pop, pop, pop.

One of my neighbors, a doctor, has spent time overseas patching up soldiers wounded in action. How must he feel?

I have not asked him, but I suspect it’s something he wishes he’d rather not have to hear while in the safe, secure venue of home.

Speaking of noise, there’s nothing quite so irritating as being in traffic and hearing the boom, boom, boom of loud speakers from a nearby vehicle or the rumble and roar of loud motorcycle pipes (sorry bikers). In all fairness, many motorcyclists have toned down the volume.

Then there are those irritants that we really can’t do anything about and with which we put up, because they have certain benefits.

Driving by a paper mill that is emitting a foul odor isn’t the most pleasant experience, nor is the sudden, noxious scent of a skunk that has sprayed near an open window or the nasal assault we face when driving past farmland spread with fresh manure.

Dirty public bathrooms, sticky restaurant tables, food service workers who wipe their noses … shall we go on?

Because we are human, these assaults on our senses of smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste — as well as our sense of dignity — are annoying, but fortunately they are occasional rather than frequent.

I heard a story on the radio this morning about a couple, both blind and deaf, who raised three children, so I guess all is relative and I really have little to complain about.

But … do people really have to drive so damned slowly when I’m in a hurry to get to work? Or tailgate when I’m taking a leisurely drive?


Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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