Whether big or small, something that bothers one person might go completely unnoticed by other people.

Then again, there are certain things that seem to bother everyone. Ticks, smelly socks and mean relatives come to mind.

But we all have that unwritten list of things we either don’t like dealing with or get annoyed by (OK, so maybe someone wrote their list down, but that’s pretty rare).

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

The common term to describe an item on such a list is pet peeve. They’re things you find hard to understand, hard to justify or in some cases hard to take. They might not be things that stand to affect the space-time continuum, but you have no problem offering three reasons why they’re just plain irritating.

Some of my pet peeves stem from the intersecting of my overly active, overly analytical imagination and my inherent, natural grasp of language and grammar. Try as I might, I can’t help but notice the way words and punctuation are so widely misused and the way simple sentences and statements are often butchered as a result.

I think my favorite example of that is the widespread incorrect, inappropriate and seemingly random use of apostrophes.

The concept of the apostrophe is really not that complicated. An apostrophe is used in a word that denotes possession or is a contraction of two other words.

An apostrophe is not used when a word is spelled in its plural form (never, ever, no way, no how plural).

If the hat belongs to Bob, it’s (it is) Bob’s hat. If Bob has more than one hat, he has some hats. Adding an ‘s’ to the end of a word doesn’t necessarily mean also adding an apostrophe.

Again, not complicated. Nevertheless, apostrophes are slapped in places they don’t belong with amazing regularity.

I marvel when I see something like an advertisement that contains the words “shoes” and “price’s” when both times the reference is simply to more than one of the item.

And when I see a plywood sign on the side of a road painted with blue lettering that says something like “Johnny’s transmission’s,” my eyes sort of automatically roll. Johnny’s transmission’s what? There’s something missing; something that belongs to Johnny’s transmission has to follow for that statement to be complete.

At a prior job, I became known as the apostrophe police. Inter-store messages would show up at the bottom of the computer screen and inevitably contain plural references like day’s and number’s. I loved replying with little “no apostrophe in…” reminders.

The quick-minded ones would come back with “thank’s Davison.”

Then there’s the commonality of incomplete information when complete information would be easy to provide.

I’ve read entire news articles about events and been left wondering when the thing happened. I’ve tuned into high school baseball games on the radio and heard the announcer repeat the score numerous times but been left wondering who’s ahead. And when “space is available,” I’m sometimes left unaware of how much space costs.

It’s like, are we not deserving of the rest of the information? Is this some kind of conspiracy?

So close and yet so far. You can see the ring at the merry-go-round but it’s just out of reach.

One non-English pet peeve of mine has to do with the inexplicable actions of many people employed in jobs that involve dealing with – oh, no – other people.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why some folks feel it’s OK to act so detached, bothered or downright rude when you approach them as they work a job in which they are 100-percent guaranteed to be approached.

You’ve seen it: a convenience store clerk with their back to you as you step to the register, two clerks discussing the last customer’s ignorance for several minutes as you stand waiting to purchase a gallon of milk, or a clerk involved in a personal argument on the phone as the coffee you want to pay for gets cold.

You’ve heard it: a receptionist who speaks to you in a sarcastic, condescending tone as you try to get in touch with the boss, a mechanic who talks like you should already know what’s wrong with your car as you try to describe the pinging sound it’s making, or a time-share salesperson who talks to you like you’re an impoverished peasant if you don’t shell out five figures on a vacation package “like everyone else.”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it make more sense to just be nice to people you come in contact with at your job? I mean, you’re going to be there from x-o’clock to x-o’clock doing whatever you’re paid to do – why not be nice and enjoy?

It boggles my mind; someone works with the public, but takes an attitude like “great, another person.”

Of course, none of these things apply to anything or anyone local. I’m simply describing my experience as a whole – all of the convenience store clerks and everyone else who comes face-to-face with people on their job in this community display nothing but exemplary behavior 100 percent of the time.

Did I mention that another of my pet peeves is blatant exaggeration?

Doug Davison is a writer, copy editor and advertising representative for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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