100 things that keep the world from being a better place (besides the obvious ones like war, famine, poverty...)

Everybody has got gripes.  This is my gripes page. Gripes are updated regularly and new gripes come at the top.

Gripes are things that antsy people like me get uptight about.  A gripe to me might mean nothing to you and vice versa - they are usually something stupid like humming too loud or a certain type of cologne - but I want to use this page to talk about a few gripes I have about things that I think are preventable.  Some of the things I feel worthy of griping about openly are bad drivers, train etiquette, automatic doors, big cars on small streets, arm-swingers, black on blue color combinations, '80s music, bags on chairs, changing subjects, murky opinions, verbose writers, standing in doorways, parking on corners, salted butter, cell phones, excess packaging and bags in bags, concert floor-sitters, smoking during meals, vanity, crowds, and the whole carnivore/vegetarian thing.

Bad drivers.  This is the most obvious one, of course, but what can be greater than the horror of bad driving.  I think the only thing worse than dealing with an idiot driver on the road is sitting next to one!  Imagine sitting next ton someone in the car for the first time - one of your dear friends, or your fiancee, or your spouse - and finding out that they are a completely different person once behind the wheel (make a note - this is the truest test of a person's real character).  They speed up as they approach red lights, then slam on the brakes.  They step heavily on the gas and bust away from the traffic lights, they make illegal turns, they cut people off, they take their eyes off the road and play with the stereo controls, man!!!

Trains.  Some people always want to get on before other people have had a chance to get off.  And some people want to walk into each other.  Why?  Why?  Why?

What can I say about automatic doors - the only time I really need them is when my arms are so overladen with boxes, bags, or suitcases that I can't push a button or turn a knob.  Sometimes their radar range is set too small and I have to practically walk into the door to trigger it (a particular annoyance if I'm in a hurry), or the range is too large and anyone moving around the store will set it off.  For example, convenience stores near my house put their photocopiers near the door and anyone using the copier triggers the automatic door and opens it again and again.  It gets on my nerves, I want to chuck something through the glass and that's not a healthy situation.  Am I the only one who notices this?

I've got to get this out early.  Just today as I cycled (yes, I am a cyclist) down a narrow street and just managed to squeeze by a boat-like car, I began to truly wonder and examine the phenomenon I had experienced - why are there so many big cars in a country with so many narrow streets?  It seemed to me at the time that there are three factors involved - the city, which doesn't provide wide avenues, the car manufacturers that market big cars to people who can't accomodate them, and the people who buy said cars.  None of this makes sense.  Someone who needs an hour to drive down the street to get a pack of smokes from the vending machine gets no sympathy from me.  I think that everybody living in crowded urban areas should ride scooters and motorcycles until further notice.  But this is just a small part of the problem.  What about the people who value their cars more than human life?  "You touch my car, you die."  People are most like their true, animalistic selves when they are behind the wheel and weild anonymous destructive power and acceleration power.  That is why I won't mess with someone with their foot on the gas - they could be anybody!  Any idiot can be a father, any idiot can be a driver.  I think that anyone who picks up the car keys should do their utmost to drive conscientiously.  "With great power comes great responsibility," that is what Peter Parker always used to say, and it is true to us mortals in the sense that normal people can cause great death and destruction behind the wheel of a car.  We shouldn't watch "the Blues Brothers," the greatest car wrecking motion pictures ever filmed, we should watch two and a half hours of drunken teens being decapitated in car wrecks.  Every time there is a successful lawsuit against Big Tobacco (i.e. the Bogeyman), I have to laugh out loud and wonder where the lawsuits against Big Auto are.  Tobacco may kill naive smokers when they are old and grey (for the most part), but cars kill people who have never had a puff of anything carcinogenic, namely humans of all ages.  And don't even talk to me about alcohol - cars have killed more sober people in this century than alcohol has since the birth of civilization (ergo the birth of alcoholism).  Say yes to alcohol, say no to cars.  Burrrrp.

Arm swingers.  Why do people need to swing their arms when they walk?  Is it to show other people how cheerful they are, or is it to maintain balance/momentum?  I've noticed that there are even some large people who snap their arms as they swing them - this even looks painful!  How many times have I been hit in the nuts by an arm-swinger whose enlarged bubble of personal space I have veered too close to in a crowd situation?  I think I should wear a spiky cup like that guy from W.A.S.P. did - then some of those people might think twice about swinging their arms in jolly merriment when I'm around!  A friend of mine told me about this happening to him in Japan once he, an extremely tall American guy was inadvertently fondled by a middle-aged arm-swinger.  When she turned around and saw whose genitals she had collided with, she was practically paralyzed with horror and disgust!

Black on blue.  I have recently noticed some people wearing a black top with navy blue pants.  All black is bad enough, but combining black and blue is just an eyesore.  People, please...

Eighties music.  A while ago people groaned about the music of the '70s, which was bad enough, but I think we hit rock bottom in the '80s.  That was the decade of new wave and glam bands and heavy metal.  This music should not be put on soundtracks, and nostalgia compilations should not be sold.  I will turn off the TV if I see ads for these compilations come on.  Will A Flock of Seagulls and Haircut 100 be part of the retro chic of the next 10 years?  Let's hope not.

Bags on chairs.  Why do bags need to bags need comfortable places to relax on during long train and bus rides?

People who change subjects when I am talking to them are a gripe of mine.  I may be telling my wife an anecdote and suddenly she will say "wow, that cloud over there looks like my first boyfriend," or something.  She'll never say, "sorry, what was it you were saying again...?"  I just let it go, but it does kind of bother me sometimes...

I like talking about movies and books and music and other vicarious experiences, and I am always happy to hear other people's opinions on shared experiences, but what really gets on my nerves is if somebody hates something I liked, but can't explain why!!!  The same thing goes for things I hated that other people enjoyed.  I realize that there is no accounting for taste, and that not everything can be explained, but when I am in this situation I wait in mute frustration, my hands tied.

I read a lot, but one of the things that bothers me most about some of the writing I come across is when writers use obscure vocabulary for things that have simple meanings.  Like when a writer uses words like "limn" (to describe) or "ecdysiast" (stripper).  I have noticed this a lot recently in bullshit publications like Time and Newsweek.  Just this past year I have noticed that "doyen" is often used to talk about some kind of "expert" or something.  It is merely a way for verbose writers and pedantic editors keep their esoteric art recondite and abstruse - I disagree with this absurd philosophy.  Roald Dahl said once that writers often use (just) one (very) obscure word in a story in an attempt to appear wise; maybe he got it right.

My two biggest gripes are universal: they are people who stand in doorways/sit on stairs, and people who park at corners.  I think people who stand in doorways do not understand certain basic things, and should be denied basic human privileges.  If I am not mistaken, doorways are for walking through, so anyone standing in a doorway is doing something that is WRONG!  If I ever have a party, I would like to put honey or UHU stick glue along the doorways so that people couldn't lean on them to talk to each other.  Parking at corners is also totally ignorant - it is selfish and puts other people in danger.  I cheer the cops when they come with ticket books.  "More, more.  Not just one ticket, give that sucker two or three, then have him towed!!!"

I've got another gripe - salted butter.  What is salted butter good for?  As far as I can tell, it is not difficult to add salt to the butter, but it is very difficult to remove it.  Does salted butter complement honey and jam on the morning toast?  No, it doesn't.  It clashes.  I half-suspect that I am missing the point - please let me know if I am - but if I am not missing the point then it is I who have been RIGHT ALL ALONG!

I've got a mini-gripe about cell-phones.  I am trying to analyze why, in my mind, I have no problems with the two people standing next to me on the train having a quiet conversation, but the hairs on my neck stand up the instant I hear a cell-phone buzz on public transportation.  I think it has something to do with the way people's voices change when they are talking on the phone.  I realize that this gripe has some inherent hypocrisy, since I also do not own one.  If I were single today I probably wouldn't want to be without one, but they do seem rather bourgeois.  I think that cell phones indicate a kind of self-love or solipsism, or a way for people to feel like they are semi-famous and loved.  I have the impression that people pay more attention to their cell phones than they do the people in their lives.

Bags inside bags.  I can't stand taking something out of a bag, only to find it in another bag.  Then I remove the packaging and find the things inside wrapped again.  I think bags and wrapping are over-rated.  Who wants all this stuff anyway?  If the garbage truck came once a month instead of once or twice a week, we might do things differently.

Another thing about bags inside bags that I laugh at is that when someone goes to an expensive boutique and buys a bag from Gucci or Louis Vuitton, the fashion model/shop attendant will invariably put the sturdy cowhide Gucci/Louis Vuitton bag into an embossed paper Gucci/Louis Vuitton bag, which the nouveau-riche customer will carry home and throw away (or use it to pack the kid's lunch in for the next day), then fill it up with his/her stuff, then finally use it.  I wonder if any of these nouveau-riche customers feel foolish walking home with a designer bag in a paper bag.  I wonder if any of them prefer the paper bag to the cowhide one.  Some people may have money, but that doesn't automatically mean that they are classy or intelligent.

Concert goers that sit on the floor are another gripe of mine.  Some people who attend the same concerts that I attend in small clubs like to sit on the floor while they wait for the show to begin.  I don't have a problem with this at the beginning of the night before the club is full, but I feel like once the music starts people should stand up.  Maybe people like to sit down and be "comfortable", but once the crowd fills up, late-arrivals have trouble finding a place to stand.  I recently went to see a Ramones cover-band.  Once the band hit the stage they began to belt out blazing punk music.  None of the people who were seated were standing up.  I thought this was a little strange, and I wasn't about to endure a punk show with no room to dance around, so I jumped into the middle of the group and urged everyone to stand up.  Most of the people did, and we were all having a great time by mid-set, except for the four ill-humored people sitting at the front, who stubbornly refused to get up.  They made things worse by insisting on chain-smoking throughout the show.  I couldn't understand their insistence - I could understand preferring to remain seated for a mellow Bob Dylan unplugged show, but high-energy punk can't keep me sitting on my ass.

Speaking of smoking, I do have another gripe.  Living in Japan, I tend to take the politeness of the people around me for granted, so much that I am always shocked when a close friend lights up a cigarette while I am eating.  None of my Japanese friends who smoke seem to think that smoking at mealtimes is inappropriate, but it prevents me from tasting my food, and I am surprised to find that this is not universal.  Frank Zappa may have considered cigarettes food, but I don't.  Sorry, Yuki.

People who aren't afraid of spending too much time looking in mirror are also a gripe of mine.  In Japan, it is pretty safe to say that all of the fashionably dresses young women that can be seen around town carry folding mirror-compacts in their bags.  Often on public transportation, whether they are alone or with friends, they cannot resist the temptation to whip out the mirrors and inspect their features, or obsess over their make-up, cosmetic surgery scars, etc.  I find this vain, continuing proof that beauty is only skin-deep, etc.  A sub-gripe of this is the fact that the same type of person will pay undue attention to their hair, manipulating it into greater and greater heights of unnatural excess.  Colored, permed, curled and gelled and indescribably perfect in every way, it is also unnatural.  It is no longer attractive.  People who vainly define themselves solely by their flimsy hair, their unnatural tans, their piercings, their cars, their boyfriends/girlfriends, their sexuality, or whatever it is, probably can't step back and perceive just how shallow they are.  Either that, or they haven't thought about it long enough for it to mean something, using it as an attachment to cover their basic plainness.  There are many times I stand on the platform and laugh.  I am often encouraged when I see people who demonstrate their integrity by wearing things that suit them well that are in no way flashy.  For example I have seen short dolled-up short women with big hair and super boots standing next to a sensibly-dressed woman in flats who is actually taller than her dolled up sister - all that extra stuff still can't make her tall.  Maybe I watch people too much, but in my mind I am silently congratulating the tall woman and wondering how she'd feel if I walked over to her and told her how great she looks.

Crowds are another thing.  They are unavoidable, they are chaotic, but sometimes you just have to walk through one. Once in a crowd I try to walk in a straight line next to other people who seem to be heading with the flow in a straight line.  This is the least unpredictable.  But other people will walk all over the place and they'd crash into me if I let them.  They walk left and right and wobble this way and that, lots of people who aren't drunk are totally unpredictable.  They stop in their tracks, they turn around, they change direction erratically.  How many people walking in a crowd think that they are the only person there?  Of course, I do all of the things I just mentioned myself, but I try to be aware of myself in a crowd also aware of the people around me.  I worry the most about groups of people, they have group mentality so they will act naturally and get in other people's ways without a care.  For example - what am I going to do when I am walking down the sidewalk on an overcast day and I encounter three old ladies walking side-by-side towards me with their umbrellas open.  They don't seem to notice me, they just keep walking.  Should I make a wide berth and detour around them, or should I punch one of them in the face and step over her?

Meat.  That is another gripe I have.  I mean, some people like to eat it, some people hate to eat it.  I don't have huge ethical problems with eating meat.  As far as I have heard, people have been hunting animals and have stayed alive for thousands of years by eating meat.  On the other hand, I myself was a vegetarian for several years.  I think over-production and over-consumption of meat is unnecessary - when I walk into the supermarket and I see the cheap hormone-laden and dye-injected steak with the sticker "perfect for breakfast" I just get depressed.  Meat once a week or even once a month, the way it was for common people a hundred years ago, is probably mideal.  Back then people lived with their animals, raised them organically, and slaughtered them themselves.  This has a much more relevant perspective than the anonymity of the friendly, painless supermarket butcher shop.  What bugs me are people who don't feel right without meat once a day and cold cuts on their sandwiches, but blanche at the thought of killing their food themselves or eating "other" meat (rat, dog, harp seal, whale).  I just need to take one look to get the impression that cows are among the friendliest, most peace-loving animals out there, I feel so calm just watching them at pasture when I have the chance.  Most people have never seen a live cow, but think it is quite all right to gobble them up...  People need to analyze their hypocrisies (but that doesn't mean that they ever will).

To be continued (of course).

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email: Peter Höflich
last updated May 30, 2000
All original writings copyright Peter Hoflich, 2000