“I hate people who use the automatic door opener when they don’t need to,” my co-worker Sara said recently.

I always use the automatic door opener!  I used to struggle to open the heavy doors to the library where I work. Then they were replaced with automatic doors. Now I just punch a button and — voila! — they spring open! I can stroll right in. How cool is that?

Little did I realize that something I thought of as harmless and pleasant could be annoying to someone else.

“What’s wrong with punching the button?” I asked Sara.

“You’re not supposed to use the automatic door opener unless you’re sick or handicapped!”

“Says who? Show me the sign saying that the punch button is limited to that use.  Who exactly am I hurting by using it?”

She’d been so certain that an able-bodied person using the automatic doors was an outrage that she had to think for a moment. “It wastes electricity?” she finally suggested.

“How much electricity can it possibly take to open a door?’“ I scoffed.

I pride myself on having a tiny carbon footprint. I always walk to work. I don’t eat meat. I recycle. I’m guessing the planet will survive if I continue to punch that button. And I intend to. Even though I now know that each time I do, it drives Sara nuts.

And not just fingernails on a blackboard. (Photos: Business Insider)

But our conversation started me wondering about what other seemingly innocuous things I do that annoy other people. The moment I began paying attention, I learned of several. I overheard a library patron ranting to a friend about women who come to work with wet hair. (She herself was impeccably coiffed.) “How can a woman expect to be taken seriously in a workplace if she turns up for work with wet hair?“ she complained. “It just isn’t professional!”

I work with wet hair all the time.  I often swim before work and I never bother with a hair dryer. My short straight hair dries within an hour.  It never once occurred to me that anyone might find my damp head offensive.

Another apparently egregious thing I do is create half bananas. If I don’t feel like eating an entire banana, I’ll cut off half, leaving the uneaten half attached to the original bunch.  My sister happens to do this too, so I’ve always felt comfortable helping myself to half a banana at her house.  But she recently confided that our habit of leaving half bananas around drives her hubby … bananas.  Why? Who knows? But neither of us plans to stop.

My co-worker Eileen recently told me that it really bothers her when people say “No problem” instead of “You’re welcome.” For her, the phrase is fingernails-on-a-chalkboard annoying. So I resolved to stop saying “No Problem” when I’m working with her.

When I told her about this, she thanked me.

I had to bite my tongue to stop from responding, “No problem!”

I’m sure there are scads of other little things I routinely say or do that make my friends and co-workers want to strangle me. It would probably take a small miracle for any of us to get through a day without inadvertently annoying the hell out of somebody. And  I’m just as touchy and oversensitive as anyone else. For one thing, I loathe the word “veggie.”

“Veggie” is a silly word, appropriate for use only by toddlers. A grown man or woman should be able to say the entire word — “vegetable.“ But everyone uses “veggie!“ Even the folks on NPR, who ought to know better. And every time somebody, even a loved one, utters the word “veggie” I want to slap them.

By now it should be obvious that we all go through life innocently provoking friends, family and co-workers — and we don’t even know we’re doing it! How can we remedy this? Ask everyone to give us a list of our most annoying habits, then strive to accommodate them?

Good luck with that. Ask each and every one of them to please lighten up and cut each other some slack? You can try. But you’ll find that at least one of them finds nothing on God’ s green earth more irritating than being told to lighten up.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Anne Beidler September 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Great article Roz. I must confess I hate the “no problem” thing. It seems so cynical. The half banana is a great idea, but would never work in our kitchen due to the ants!!

  • Jody Gillen-Worden September 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

    HA! Now you’ve got me thinking about the stuff I do. How annoying is that???? Jody

  • Roz Warren September 12, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Joan I LOVE Sondheim’s Company and that’s one of my favorite songs!

  • Joan Helfman September 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Reminds me of one of my favorite Sondheim songs about the upside of marriage.

    It’s the little things you share together,
    Swear together,
    Wear together
    That make perfect relationships.
    The concerts you enjoy together,
    Neighbors you annoy together,
    Children you destroy together
    That keep marriage intact.

  • klaper September 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Interesting. So, in all our interactions, annoyance is a possibility. But from which direction does it come? Is everything we do a potential source of annoyance, or is everything we experience someone else doing potentially annoying to us? This is clearly a case of Annoyer vs Annoyee, and a philosophical argument could be made from either side.

    Ultimately — no problem, eat yr half bananas w/your wet hair and use the door for the widows and cripples all you like — just do lighten up…

  • wendy morgan September 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    cute & funny article and i agree w/ the half-eaten banana habit (which my mom does when she visits w/ us)

  • Amy M-W September 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I will be more careful with you and Eileen from now on!

  • Amy September 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    ahhhh yes, we are all annoying to somebody! I personally hate the “no problem” after “thank you” even though I occasionally catch myself doing it and then scowl at myself. The correct and polite response is “your welcome”. No problem suggests that whatever I did for you could have been more problematic.
    Anyhoo–fun thoughts!

  • Roz Warren September 10, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Kate I always love your comments. I look forward to reading them. But you have given me an idea for another essay — things we do and say that we believe annoy others that those others actually find delightful.

  • Roz Warren September 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Diane for many years it seemed as if my mere existence was profoundly annoying for my kid. Now that he’s grown up and happily married, he appears to like me again. Although I’m sure that there’s plenty of stuff I say and do (and write!) that bugs him.

  • Eleanore Wells September 10, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Oh, how I love this! I can’t imagine that I do anything that annoys anyone…but let’s just pretend I did. I wonder what it’d be?

    Btw, that banana thing you do would drive me nuts.

    eleanore -The Spinsterlicious Life

  • Diane Vacca September 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    As always, I enjoy reading your pieces, Roz. I agree with you about the wet hair and the veggies– what? is “vegetable” too difficult or grown-up a word for them?
    My husband, who’s a good cook, can’t stand when the people he’s cooked for don’t come to the table as soon as the food’s ready. It used to bother us when waitpersons address us as “you guys.” It happens so often that I don’t even think about it any more.
    I wonder what I do or say. My kids would probably have a lot to say about that.

  • Kate September 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Ok – hair dryer use? Following the presidential term limit, no more than 8 times in one life: for limp, straight hair that’s a waste of electricity, just like the automatic door opener. Also discovered when children tiny that hair dryer noise is torture for toddlers. I wanted disposable cameras to be outlawed, along with human settlement in Las Vegas. But I illogically like and use wrapping paper and drive car to school bus stop. And I have always noticed with twinge of dismay when I say “no problem” but still do it.
    I love these essays, I think these essays are great but no doubt my biggest annoying habit is writing comments in response to same. “Oh no”, I hear you thinking, “not her again”…

  • Maria September 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I think I’m Sara in the story; I, too, think it wastes electricity and can’t understand why an able-bodied person would prefer the buttons over the opportunity to exercise arm muscles. My biggest pet peeve is the cell phone use by people who think they’re in their living rooms, or who believe everyone is interested in their loud, very boring conversations. Maybe if they said something clever…