While unpacking a box of memorabilia recently, I came across 28-year-old issues of the Cambrian Shield – Cambrian College’s student newspaper, written by its journalism students. The journalism program and the Shield no longer exist, but in its heyday it was a good read.
When I worked on the Shield, I had the distinct privilege of authoring a regular column entitled Pat’s Peeves. It was lighthearted commentary on everyday issues that got on my nerves.
I marvelled back then that I never ran out of topics to write about. And I marvel today that many of those peeves have stayed with me through the years.
But there have been some changes.
One of my strongest peeves was the winter driving habits of boys in big trucks weaving in and out of traffic with no signal lights, no concern that there was barely enough room to squeeze in front of me and the audacity to give me the finger when I blew my horn in protest.
These driving habits still exist, but I find it’s the driving habits of young women in small cars that drive me crazier. I can barely stand it when I pull up to a traffic light and the driver next to me is applying makeup and talking on a smartphone at the same time.
I’ve become almost obsessed with looking to see who has a phone in their hands while driving. The new “red light district” is really where people think it’s OK to text while waiting for a green light. We all know who they are. The light changes and they don’t move until someone blows a horn or they happen to look up in between messages.
Back in the day, Pat’s Peeves focused on the tardiness and boldness of some students who meandered into class halfway through a lesson and asked for your notes to catch up. Then they criticized you because they could not decipher your writing.
These days, I am amazed when employees attend staff meetings with their smartphones in hand. They don’t think anyone notices them looking down into their laps to answer a text.
I used to peeve about bad manners, drunk drivers, rude service workers, slow government processes, demanding professors, under-demanding professors, callous boyfriends, promiscuous friends, watery mac and cheese, weak tea, weaker drinks, the price of gas, the cost of education, the lack of respect for young people, the lack of respect for old people and the list goes on and on.
Today most of my peeves are focused on human behaviour with technology and social media.
I observe many people spending more time on Facebook than they do on professional or personal development.
Without asking, we know way too much about personal lives and some people’s insatiable thirst for praise and recognition. I believe social media has enabled narcissism to flourish with some folks posting an astounding number of selfies – perfectly staged or spontaneous – every single day.
However, technology and social media have changed our lives for the better in many ways. My smartphone has become a portable office, a way to communicate with family, an encyclopedia, a camera, a stopwatch, my just about everything. And being a news junkie, I’ve never had such amazing access to the best news sites in the world.
But I believe it should come with a buyer-beware code that alerts you to the dangers of smartphone use and social media addictions. This is a real issue of our times and it is certainly one of my main pet peeves today.