Pet peeves: The increasing list of things that annoys me as I become a grumpier old man.

The other day I got myself in the unenviable position of having to wait for a BC Ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Nanaimo for four hours. I missed the 5 o’clock ferry by minutes, and then the 7 o’clock ferry ended up being late due to a “marine rescue” . Luckily I had brought my latest library book with me (“The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman if you must know). That was a stroke of luck and I got through 1/3 of it in one sitting. But I also tried to do a bit of social media and e-mail, which turned out to be less fruitful. That is because wifi at BC Ferries is spotty at best, and usually very poor.

Queen_of_Oak_Bay_475w

Queen of Oak Bay

You would think that in this day and age they could at least have decent wifi at the terminals! But no, I was unable to do anything for the entire period (I am cheap so my data package is easily exhausted if I use that). This in turn reminded me that I was planning to write a blog about my pet peeves. So here it is.

Dog poo. This is one of my top pet peeves for sure. Irresponsible owners who let their dogs poo anywhere, and then leave it for other people to step in. But I can see the odd unintentional accident happen where the owner simply fails to notice the offense committed by their pooch. But there is another variant I simply can’t abide by. Some dog owners dutifully pick up their pooches droppings in a bag, which is fine, of course. However, a subset of these responsible dog owners then throw the bag into the bushes, where as often as not it gets caught on branches. So plastic bags with dog poo is hanging like Christmas ornaments in the bushes for years! Really folks!? Really? Wouldn’t it be better to simply take a stick and move the deposit off the trail?

Tobacco purchase at grocery stores. So you are in a hurry but have to pick something up at the grocery store. You get in the shortest line you can find at the cashiers, to get through quickly. Then the person in front of you wants to buy a pack of cigarettes. The cashier now has to go to a locked cupboard somewhere to retrieve the pack, leaving you to wait so the person in front of you can continue to engage in a slow motion suicide attempt.

Politicians giving rehearsed (non-)answers. While I think this has improved both federally and provincially since the changes in governments (from conservatives to liberals federally, from so-called liberals [=closet conservatives] to NDP provincially) I find it rather offensive when a politician refuses to answer a simple question from a reporter or constituent. The worst example I have seen of this was when the Harper conservatives shut down the Coast Guard station in Vancouver. It was simply embarrassing to listen to what could be tape-recorded non-answers from the government representative (I remember that James Moore was the minister responsible, but can’t remember who the offending person was). But this type of behavior isn’t necessarily confined to any political colour, but seems to be a pattern. And it happens elsewhere as well. I remember when I was trying to get actual numbers justifying how my institution viewed the costs associated with appointing external vs. internal faculty members to CRC positions (including replacement or loss of teaching capacity when appointing internal candidates). I was simply told to come and talk about it. The numbers in black and white I wanted were refused.

Unnecessary bureaucracy (academia). My PhD supervisor, John H. Borden, once said that I was likely to spend my life banging my head against various walls fighting bureaucracy. I think he was right, as he often was. It wasn’t regulations as such that annoyed me, but rather how they were implemented. Frequently this was done with excessive bureaucratic acrobatics.

Signatures. I served as Acting Chair of one of the Academic administrative units at UNBC for two years. During this time I must have signed many hundreds of documents, all of which required additional signatures from the Dean and sometimes higher up in the chain. In many cases these were logical, but more often I questioned why my signature was required, particularly for expense claims and purchases by faculty members from their own research grants.

Administration mushrooming. Early on in my academic career, UNBC was re-organized from five faculties to two colleges. The justification was to trim excessive administration. Apart from destroying the highly functional, active and productive unit I was in (Faculty of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies), it created two largely disjointed units which even after 15 or more years never became anything close to cohesive. Over those years we also experienced a slow ballooning of administration, strangely enough accompanied by periodic downloading of functions from the Registrar’s office, Finance and Purchasing to the departmental level. My cynical view is of course that administrators create system to justify their own existence. One has to wonder if anyone would have realized if one or more administrators suddenly vanished.

First name middle initial obsession in North America. My parents named me in a somewhat unfortunate way for someone ending up spending the majority of their life in North America. My first name is Bo, but my father didn’t like that name because “when he grew up, the village idiot was named Bo Lindgren”. This of course begs the question why they named me Bo in the first place! Thus I grew up as Staffan Lindgren. Over the 40 years I have spent in Canada, I have lived with the initials BS (although not far off the mark to be honest), and I have had to fight the forms that require your first name and middle initial. (NSERC applications asks for your name and your initials, which would be an easy solution). For years I refused to accept this, because it always caused confusion when I was called by my first name, e.g., at the doctor’s office, since that was not me! Nowadays I have given up. It still annoys me, but I don’t have the energy to fight it anymore. For airline bookings, which require that your name is the same as on your passport, I put both names down as my first name. This results in Bostaffan on tickets. But that seems to be OK. In this day and age, when millions of immigrants have all manner of combinations for their given names, you would think that we could move on from this non-flexible position. I don’t see that happening in what’s left of my time on this planet, however.

Litter bugs. Driving the Nanaimo Parkway, a 20 odd kilometer piece of highway that bypasses the busy downtown area of my retirement home town, you frequently see people on quads picking up garbage from the ditches and the median. Generally they end up with a garbage bag full every 100 m or so. This is just baffling to me. Nanaimo has a very efficient and easy to use recycling program, so why are people throwing garbage out of their cars? Given the national pastime of complaining about taxes, why would you contribute to tax money spending to pick up garbage? Perhaps it is a coastal thing? One of the disappointing things we encountered when moving here is that almost all forest roads are gated, because people are using the forest as a garbage dump. The gate only means that garbage is concentrated around the gates. Apparently you can call the city and staff will clean up dump sites, again causing unnecessary tax money expenditures. Yes, it costs a few dollars to go to the city dump, but surely a clean natural environment is something to aspire to! I must say that it is hard to have hope for a greener economy when people behave like this. But without hope, what do we have?

And did I mention crap wifi on BC Ferries?

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About cinnabarreflections

B. Staffan Lindgren is Professor Emeritus at UNBC. Living in Nanaimo, BC. Jack of all trades trying to stay relevant.
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