An article that appeared in The New York Times last week about the things people do to deal with life's many little annoyances spurred a flood of responses from readers offering their own tactics.
NEW YORK — As it turns out, frustration — not necessity — may be the true mother of invention.
An article that appeared in The New York Times last week about the things people do to deal with life’s many little annoyances spurred a flood of responses from readers offering their own tactics.
While providing a look at the banal things that bother people, these reactions also shed light on the lengths people go to extract retribution for mundane infractions. Most of all, they revealed the creativity in passive aggression.
Dena Roslan, 30, was sick of a co-worker who kept helping himself to her lunch cookies. So Roslan, a clothing designer who works in Manhattan, bought a bag of dog biscuits that looked like biscotti. “My only remorse was not being able to see his face after he ate the bait,” she said.
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Stewart Dean, 57, said he despised the scripted questions that people ask at the end of service phone calls.
“It’s especially galling when they ask, ‘Is there anything else we can do to make you completely satisfied?’ and they haven’t even solved the problem you called about,” said Dean, a computer administrator for Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. So he said he routinely makes requests that the person on the phone cannot possibly accomplish. “I usually respond: ‘Sure. Would you please get Bush out of the White House?’ ”
To be annoyed is to be human, and while many people cope with small frustrations by ignoring them, odd things do get to people.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” said Janine Papp, 30, a grant writer who works for a nonprofit in Manhattan. She is annoyed that the smallest popcorn size at her nearby theater is called “child-size.”
“I’m an adult, so why should I have to ask for a child’s item?” Papp said. “If I order a ‘small,’ I’ll be getting a medium-size bag, so I just ask for the ‘smallest possible bag’ of popcorn.”
Every time he eats at a fast-food restaurant, Mitchell Jacobs is reminded of how much he dislikes the expectation that he will bus his table. “Doesn’t McDonald’s make enough money? Come on, Ronald, hire some people to clean the tables,” said Jacobs, 70, a retired businessman from Manhattan, adding that he now leaves his trash at the table.
For many, the simple goal is to give adversaries a taste of their own medicine.
Tony Manzo takes his stand at the local video store. “I always say, ‘Hello, how are you today, sir?’ in the most monotone voice I can muster,” said Manzo, a 29-year-old writer from San Francisco. “The point is to pre-empt the bored and slovenly teenager behind the counter before he mumbles the words to me. It’s a way to show him just how annoying his soggy monotone refrain is for us to hear on the other side of the counter.”
When subscription cards fall out of Chris Marzuk’s magazines, he fills them in with the addresses of the senders. “That way Time magazine can pay the return postage and also get plenty of subscriptions to Time magazine,” wrote Marzuk, 54, a school administrator from Greenlawn, N.Y.
Telemarketers may provoke the angriest reactions. Some people put them on hold and never return to the phone. Others say they put their toddlers on the phone, encouraging them to babble mindlessly until the caller succumbs. But the most common tactic is avoidance.
Although Carol Lydon, 38, of Philadelphia, has a day job as a paralegal, she tells telemarketers who call at night that she is running out to work. “I’m also never over 18 when they ask to speak with someone over the age of 18, and I’m always the housekeeper if they ask if I’m authorized to make decisions regarding phone service, cable-television service,” she added.
Others take their small acts of rebellion a step further.
Dawn Quiett, 35, said she had changed her voting habits in reaction to unsolicited calls from campaigners. Quiett, a publicist from Dallas, said that during the past presidential race she received so many calls from pollsters and party representatives that she began telling them she would not vote for any candidate who used telemarketers.
Of course, some people go overboard.
Having worked for several small direct-mail marketers, Donna Rothkopf of Astoria, N.Y., said envelopes often came back with everything from used condoms to giant cockroaches in them. “The truly hostile respondent used more sinister weapons of retribution, like the top of an aluminum can, a razor blade or a handful of broken glass,” she said.