Columns

Those particularly peculiar pet peeves

Robert Mitchell - Guest Columnist

Sunday, September 16, 2012    

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PET peeves are described as actions or behaviour that individuals find annoying to them.

It is important to note that the pet peeves of one person may not bother someone else in the least. I have some pet peeves that I would like to share with my fellow Jamaicans. Hopefully, some feedback will be forthcoming so that I will know whether or not I am really getting off my head as some people have been intimating.

One of the things that I just cannot stand to hear is some people say is that it's not about winning; it's about participating, or playing the game, or having fun, or some other garbage that they tack onto the end of that.

Is that why Usain Bolt is where he is now? Is that why some children get scholarships and others don't? Get real, people! Granted, there will be exceptions where that will fly, but in the main it does not work like that. Why not just take the word 'reward' out of the English vocabulary?

Also high on my list of pet peeves is people saying, with conviction, that we ought to impose visa restrictions on those countries that place visa restrictions on Jamaicans. I find it amazing that some of those making these utterances are considered the more learned among us. In the precarious financial position where Jamaica presently finds itself, we dare not refuse a single dollar of foreign exchange.

Other countries have valid reasons for restricting our movement across their borders based on past experience. The lyrics of our dancehall artistes, the transportation of drugs, our involvement with crime, and our consistently bad behaviour, are only a few items on a long list. I humbly suggest that we wait until we too have valid reasons for excluding visitors before we begin to harbour such thoughts.

And why do organisers of raffles believe that it is all right to extend the closing dates? By doing so they are allowing more persons in, thus reducing the odds of my winning. Perhaps some goodly lawyer could inform us if this isn't actually a breach of contract on the organisers' part. After all, I had bought my ticket on the condition that the drawing would be on X date only to have this changed to Y without my consent. Would this be something worthy of the attention of the Caribbean Court of Justice?

Statements by public figures that they are not to be viewed as role models, really annoys me. I wasn't aware that there were ways of preventing yourself from being emulated by others who want to be, look, or act like you. Without a doubt Vybz Kartel is head and shoulders above many in his field, but where does one draw the line where lyrics or material are concerned? I understand that he now has a song out called Daddy Devil, and a protégé of his has one called Uncle Devil. Isn't it reasonable to expect this direction the music is trending in to have an impact on young boys who idolise these two? Does anyone out there think the impact of this "devil" music will be positive?

Then there are the people out there who keep saying that if persons don't have solutions, or can't fix the problem, then they shouldn't criticise. Are you serious? So the fact that I can't drive renders me incapable of pointing out a taxi driver is not so hot on his driving, is speeding, and seems on the verge of causing an accident? Or because I can only boil water I can't tell the people in the restaurant that the rice tastes extra salty and is a bit on the soft side? I see.

I have a good friend who religiously tells me that I should focus on the positives and don't deal in negativity. I tell him yes, for a peaceful life, but I wish I could get him to walk in my shoes for just a day. When I see my car temperature gauge brushing the upper limit and I am staring at the cost of an engine, or head if I'm lucky, plus labour costs, plus downtime, does he expect me to walk around and say my car tires are brand new, or my car is clean? I have to talk about the negative, that impending headache about to wallop me. When your rent or mortgage is two weeks overdue and you have absolutely no clue where you are going to find those funds, do you think about how well your new shoes match your suit?

Incidentally, every time I buy lotto I repeat positively to myself that I will win and I am now filthy rich, but it appears that the lotto people haven't yet got the memo. One lesson I learned in accounting class a long time ago has stuck with me to this very day. I was taught that it was better to understate profits than overstate them. I find that when I apply the same principle to my expectations I get disappointed a whole lot less.

Making my list is the persistent proffering of excuses for every ill and wrong move as opposed to apologising and/or taking action to correct the anomaly. The fact is that everything under the sun can be explained away or an excuse made up for. President Robert Mugabe, on whom Jamaica has bestowed an honorary award, is alleged to have made some comments regarding Jamaica and its men folk in particular recently and everyone is coming down on him like a ton a bricks. If we were to step back, be honest, and objectively examine what he is supposed to have said, would we find that much of what is there is the truth?

Telling me that "it's being done elsewhere", as if to say that means it is automatically all right then if we do it here, is another thing that really gets my goat. My view on corporal punishment, for example, diverges from a lot of what I see taking place around the world today. I would love for someone to tell me whether or not we are seeing worse or better-behaved children now, and by extension adults, as compared to the times of our grandparents when corporal punishment was in full swing. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the powers that be up north began including cow pats in their daily diets because it was proven to add 10 years to one's lifespan. Would Jamaicans follow suit wholesale?

And of course I could not leave out the brilliant people, many with letters behind their names, who are vociferously clamouring for patois to be taught in our schools. One would have thought that the call would be for the already scarce resources they want diverted there to be allocated to sorting out the mathematics and English language challenges that the children presently face. Do these people know patois, and if so, was it formally taught to them in school? And outside of Jamaica, how useful is it? If I had heard them calling for Chinese to be taught in schools I would have felt much better.

Don't think for a second, though, that individuals are the only ones that have the ability of getting under my skin. Organisations are just as guilty. Some of these big official organisations trot out pretty email addresses, which seem to be figurines, as they are impressive and attractive to look at but don't seem to do anything save gather dust. A prime example is the Jamaica Stock Exchange. I bought some shares in a few companies over a year ago and am yet to receive even one dividend cheque despite seeing distribution dates in the papers. My email to the exchange querying same has to date not been responded to. I can only conclude that somehow the email got lost in the mail.

The government too has to get in on the act. Besides personal experience I have heard countless stories of listed phone numbers that do not work: some ring without an answer, some are answered but you are put on hold until the call is cut off, others are always busy, and the staff members who make you feel as if they are doing you a favour by speaking to you. Did I leave out the number you got for the political representative that does not work?

Of course there are the organisations that give out what is, to put it nicely, flawed information without bothering to amend it. Some banks are crowing about customers now being able to do their banking online, but they neglect to inform the public that only certain transactions can be facilitated. And my favourite - the Registrar General's Department - promising to deliver in X time and when it does not, usually, there is no compensation for the apparent breach of contract. I wonder if the lawyer who took up the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) licence legality case would be willing to look at this one for us too?

Last, but by no means least, are those who know that what currently obtains is not right but do nothing about it. By their inaction they are implicitly endorsing or supporting wrongdoing. The Government knows for instance, that the JPS is passing on some of the cost of stolen electricity to the legitimate customers who already are paying dearly for the electricity they use. One would have thought the company would have been directed to seek ways to halt the theft rather than penalise innocent, legitimate customers. It will be interesting to see how things unfold as more and more of the country's large electricity consumers one by one turn to alternative energy sources and exit the JPS grid.

In retrospect, having taken the time to sit and commit this list of my many pet peeves to paper probably wasn't such a good idea on my part, as it has only served to make me really mad. And no, I don't mean Bellevue mad... cross, angry, miserable mad, as one Mr Bounty Killer, aka Rodney Basil Price would say.

Robert Mitchell is based in Christiana, Manchester.

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