Things that mystify me

Not big, cosmic questions. Little stupid piddly-ass stuff. Like:

People who wedge open the flaps to trash cans by sticking their drink cups partway in. Why not simply push the flap just a bit further in and drop your rubbish into the can? Why leave it wedged open?  This makes the OCD-ish part of my brain hurt.

When someone asks, “Why is it always in the last place you look?”
“Because,” I finally replied to my clueless coworker, “once you find it, you quit looking!”
“Oh! I never thought of that.”
(I regret that I am not making this up.)

This was a rant from last week, by one of the secondary teachers: Students who come in from the parking lot and leave the doors standing wide open — even when it’s raining and cold and draughty.  I seconded the rant — our classroom is the coldest room in the building already, notwithstanding that it’s also across from the outside doors.  Come on folks, surely I wasn’t the only person in the world who grew up with a family elder who went around repeating, “Shut the door — we’re not heating/air conditioning the whole out of doors!”  :: sigh :: Maybe it’s time for me to take up that torch. (Think it’ll warm me any?)

People who wait until the cashier announces the purchase total before pulling out their checkbook and starting to write out the check. They’ve just been standing there in line staring at the promotional banners or magazine covers for several minutes.  Why?

Ditto students who stand around the cafeteria queue yapping, and then wait until it’s their turn before the matron to think about what they want to eat for lunch.  Nevermind that the week’s menus are on the classroom bulletin boards and written on the board at the very beginning of the line.  I can understand waiting to choose between two items until you can see them to judge the apparent quality — but that still includes applying some forethought to the whole decision process.  And yes, the milk costs the same thing it did last week, and the week before, and the week before that.

Folks who spend several minutes circling around the huge parking lots at the mall to get a “close parking space” so they can spend two or three hours walking around the mall. Why?

Tonight a student asked to speak to me privately before a written exam.  It turned out that he wasn’t prepared, and was asking to take it in a day or two, even at a 10% grade reduction. It’s amazing how much detail people will volunteer if you keep your mouth shut and keep nodding; he added that he’d remembered the test was today, that he’d had the study guide, that he’d looked at the study guide, but only studied part of the material.  Mental props to him for not coming up with some stupid my-grandma-died excuse, but I still declined the request to delay his sitting the exam, encouraging him to not panic and do his best.  (As the saying goes, “failure to prepare on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.”)  I get this sort of non-emergency request several times a semester … why does anyone think a prof is going to say Yes?

One young woman to another, “Oh look, black is ‘in’ this year!”  Folks, here’s a fashion secret: black is always ‘in’.  It was ‘in’ even before Steampunk and Goth and even before Beatniks.  Ditto black and white together.  Why do fashion mavens act like this is breaking news?

Then there are the things that annoy me, far out of proportion to the intrinsic value of the incidents. I keep reminding myself that such things aren’t worth the mental energy it takes to be annoyed.  But still!

Students who stick their textbooks back onto the shelf in a manner both upside-down and backwards (binding toward the back). This also makes the OCD-ish part of my brain hurt.

People who leave the new roll of toilet paper (loo roll) balanced precariously atop the empty cardboard tube of the previous roll, instead of slipping it onto the spindle.  Surely the custodians and I are not the only three people in the entire building who know how to perform this small task?  Do you know how often someone has bumped into the fat, new roll, and it’s now slumped sodden in some dubious puddle on the floor of the toilet stall, leaving everyone without resources?

Students who spend two minutes grinding away at pencils in the sharpener, but who also complain because all of the pencils are runty little things.  (We finally instituted a rule that only the staff members can sharpen the classroom pencils.)

Dear World:  Get a CLUE.

In happier news, the latest Skeptic’s Circle is up at The Uncredible Hallq.  You can fill up your brain with sensible stuff over there.  I highly recommend it as a good antidote to the foolishness we all have in our lives.


  1. 4 December 2008 at 0:00

    Justthisguy wrote
    I use my foot on the toilet flusher, and elbow on the bathroom door

    Hell i’m wondering what you use to turn taps on lol

  2. Greg said,

    2 November 2008 at 14:01

    Sometimes people make my brain hurt… I also have a little OCD, your blog is on the money!

  3. shiva said,

    1 November 2008 at 13:59

    One of mine: people (seemingly the vast majority of people) who just WAIT on the other side of a double door when people are coming through one side of the door only. It’s a DOUBLE door – why don’t you just open the other side of the door and go through? The reason double doors *exist* is so that people can go through them in both directions at once…

    Also, and possibly related: people who just STOP in the street (or a shopping mall, etc) when it’s crowded and there are people moving in all directions. If you need to pause to work out what direction you need to go in, move aside so you’re not in everyone’s way first. Don’t just stop with absolutely no indication that you’re going to stop, or the person behind you will crash into you, and *everyone* will have to stop because you stopped. If i am going somewhere, i NEED to keep moving, or i panic, so this kind of thing really, really stresses me out.

    I wish i just didn’t have to go to crowded places, but unfortunately i have to walk through a very large and busy shopping centre to get from where bus #1 stops to where bus #2 goes from on the way to work, and to go to the same shopping centre if i want to buy anything other than basic groceries.

    My theory for why this sort of thing happens is that most people seem to operate according to some deep-seated-primate-instinct kind of rules of conduct around other people that developed where there were never more than a few dozen people around, and so just aren’t appropriate for environments with hundreds of people in, rather than using actual *logic*…

  4. qw88nb88 said,

    31 October 2008 at 23:51

    I’ve noticed that if you push on the top of the flap instead of the bottom it won’t pinch your fingers, and it’s usually not the sticky part.

  5. Roia said,

    31 October 2008 at 10:24

    I have been on a grump lately wishing people would just simply pay attention already! It just seems to me that the simple act of noticing there are other people in the world besides oneself would go quite a long way in making this a more tolerable world in which to live.

    Amen to just about every single thing you wrote, sister!

  6. Ettina said,

    30 October 2008 at 15:19

    But the flap often *is* sticky, and I don’t want to touch it. I do my best to get it all the way in without touching the flap, but sometimes I don’t succeed.
    And with one garbage flap I saw, it would actually nip at your fingers as you tried to get your hand out. I got a really sore finger from it once andnow am extremely careful to avoid that happening again, so I usually leave things only half-in that one.

  7. 30 October 2008 at 12:55

    Ugh. Yes, I agree, by college age they just should know better. Especially those who have jobs by this point.

    Your list of reasons why they don’t fix toilet paper rolls sounds like a plausible cluster of reasons/excuses that people would use. It always surprises me how some people just declare certain tasks to be “beneath” their dignity. So what, exactly, is that supposed to say about the people who actually *do* do those tasks?

  8. qw88nb88 said,

    30 October 2008 at 2:42

    Andrea Shettle,
    These were college students asking for delays on their exams. Not only that, evening college students with day jobs, whom I would hope have developed some better sense of personal responsibility. ::sigh::

    And, the toilet paper holders in the high school aren’t locked — anyone (with sufficient bimanual dexterity) can open the bracket and put the new roll on the spindle. My guesses are that: (A) most people don’t know how, since the bracket is different than the kind at home (B) it doesn’t occur to them to do it (C) they don’t believe they would be allowed to (D) they believe that is someone else’s job and it’s beneath them.

    If people dropped things into the trash can, the flap wouldn’t get so dang sticky! (I use my foot on the toilet flusher, and elbow on the bathroom door, too.)


  9. Justthisguy said,

    29 October 2008 at 14:42

    On the cup shoved halfway into the trash can: Sometimes I do that, not wanting to touch the icky nasty flap. I’m also one of those people who won’t touch anything in a public toilet room with my hands. I always use my foot on the flush handle, and paper towel on the door handle. If there are no paper towels, I reach up and open the door by pulling the operating arm on the door closer.

    Funny, I don’t mind dog germs or cat germs….

  10. 29 October 2008 at 12:53

    “When someone asks, “Why is it always in the last place you look?”
    “Because,” I finally replied to my clueless coworker, “once you find it, you quit looking!”
    “Oh! I never thought of that.””

    Egad. I always thought that when people ask that question, they simply *meant* to say, “the last place they would have *thought of* to look” — ie they had looked in all the obvious places and were running completely out of ideas where to look next. Or something like that.

    Re, the weak excuses some students use: are these high school students? I’m afraid I have to confess I did actually try to use excuses about that pathetic in high school a few times. I think at the time I was still learning where the appropriate boundaries even *were* in terms of work ethics and so forth. So, yes, I actually did think that it was acceptable to at least ask. And it didn’t help that at least one teacher I remember (my history teacher) actually *accepted* excuses that weak.

    Fortunately for me, my sign language interpreter pulled me aside one time and told me outright that she felt my excuse for wanting a postponement on the deadline for my paper was just weak. And then she confided to me that, after the teacher had granted my request, he had made an aside to her that he felt he needed to make allowances for me because I was deaf. I.e., he had accepted such a weak excuse mostly because he felt sorry for me being deaf. Receiving that feedback and information from the interpreter helped me understand that, one, there are certain boundaries that it isn’t appropropriate to cross: sometimes you just have to take responsibility for your own planning and time management. And, two, that, unfortunately, sometimes hearing teachers (and other people) will try to cut slack for me that I don’t necessarily deserve just because I’m deaf. So that meant I could not necessarily always count on the person in authority to help establish where the boundaries of appropriate behavior need to be in a way equitable to everyone else. I had to take more responsibility for figuring it out on my own and enforcing it myself.

    I think sometimes adults forget that, no, teenagers honestly *don’t* always know where the boundaries are. And also, even if they sort of do, they’re so used to having adults around to keep *telling* them where the boundaries are that they don’t always take responsibility for taking a step back to think for themselves, “is this fair or appropriate behavior? Or is this one of those times that I have to just suck it up?”

    I think they (or at least me, 20-plus years ago) get into the habit of leaning on the adults to define the boundaries for them. Partly this is a way of seeing how much they can get away with (hey, don’t we ALL occasionally wish we could get out of the consequences of our own poor planning, if there were a way to get a free pass?) and partly so they don’t have to do the thinking themselves.

    Maybe you already knew all this. And, yes, I can see why it would still be annoying even if you get why it happens!

    Re, toilet roll: in some public buildings, the toilet roll thingy is actually locked, so it really *is* only the janitors who can change the toilet rolls. Or is this not the case in your school?

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