Passive-Aggressive Hugs And Kisses

In our German Village neighborhood, most residents tend to be very protective of our streets and sidewalks.  We also recognize, however, that come trash day it’s not uncommon for scavengers to drive up and down the streets, looking for the possibility that one person’s trash could become another person’s treasure.  A large discarded item often is plucked before the garbage guys swing by.

But what if large items are so ugly or smelly that even scavengers won’t touch them — and they’re not within the guidelines defining appropriate refuse to be collected on the standard pick-up days?  What’s a resident who cares about appearances to do then?

After this unappealing, overstuffed floral print chair and mirror appeared on the sidewalk and then stayed there, like a pimple on the smooth brick skin of Third Street, one resident decided to go down the passive-aggressive note route.  First one hand-lettered note — the one asking to “please make them not be here anymore” — appeared.  Then, when the floral monstrosity remained for a day or two more, the second one popped up . . . just in case the offender needed to know the proper method for disposing of the overstuffed horror.  And does the handwriting indicate it’s one note-leaver, or two?  The use of lower case in the newer note makes me wonder.

When I take my walk this morning, I’ll be eager to see whether the unsightly chair and mirror are still there — and, if so, whether a new, perhaps more pointed, note has sprouted on the rear of the mirror.  We’ve seen the passive-aggressive “please” and “thx,” and the even more ironic “XO” hugs and kisses.  What’s next?  A passive-aggressive smiley face?

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Dog Signage

German Village seems to be a very dog-friendly place.  Most of the people you see walking around have a dog, and I’d guess that dogs outnumber cats by about 10 to 1, if not more.

IMG_0828But then there’s that unfortunate but inevitable biological byproduct that dogs tend to leave behind. And if you don’t own a dog, and you’ve got a nice little flower bed between the sidewalk and the street that you’d like to cultivate, and the dog owners walking by aren’t living up to their end of the dog owner’s social compact with the rest of humanity, you might just get fed up about the whole issue.

And when that happens, a passive-aggressive sign is bound to be the result.  I particularly liked this one, with its neat penciled lettering on lined school notebook paper and all-weather plastic sheathing.  Proper punctuation and grammar, too, as well as kid-sensitive use of an acceptable alternative to more vulgar terminology.  It obviously wasn’t written in the heat of fury, but rather as a matter of deep resignation and indignation, after one too many discoveries of an unpleasant surprise.  The heartfelt “it’s disgusting” at the end is a particularly nice touch.

And it worked, too.  We always pick up after Kasey, but once I saw that sign I decided that discretion dictated steering Kasey away from even snuffling contact with that particular patch of ground to more neutral territory.

The Office Microwave Smell Zone

Yesterday I was walking down the office hall at about 11:30 when I encountered a sphere of odor so pungent it had an almost physical impact.  It had the kind of potency that made me think “Whoa!” and quicken my step to get away as quickly as possible.

Yes, I was passing the office microwave.  There’s a reason why, on virtually every floor in our firm, the office closest to the microwave is vacant.  Unless you’ve experienced a tragic childhood accident that cost you your sense of smell, you’re going to get away from the zone of noxiousness at the earliest possible opportunity.

IMG_0130In our office, around the lunch hour, the microwave area is a kind of no-go zone.  During the morning, the machine might be used for more innocent activities, like coffee warming or preparing a bowl of instant oatmeal.  But at lunchtime, the appalling aromas emerge.  Maybe it’s that kind of preservative-laden putrescence that inevitably accompanies bad takeout Chinese food or a one of those ready-made diet meals.  Perhaps it’s that overcooked to the edge of burnt aroma that you get from some home-cooked leftovers. Or you might be treated to the thin, almost tinny taint of reheated tuna fish casserole that paints a firm mental image of a congealed mass of overdone noodles so hard you could break a tooth if you took a bite.

And then there’s reheated fish, which is easily the worst of all.  It’s quite possible that minor Balkan wars have been started over people who are on some new diet and insist on heating up fish in the microwave so they can stick to a strict regimen.  Microwaved fish is almost certainly the biggest cause of hysterical, pathetically pleading, exclamation pointed, passive-aggressive signage in the office.  (“Will whoever is using the microwave to reheat fish please have mercy on us and stop!!!”)  And, when someone transgresses and uses the microwave for fishy purposes, the smell seemingly never fully vanishes.  It lingers, like the guest who wouldn’t leave, and ultimately sinks down into the carpeting so that it can always stay with us.

In fact, conducting interrogations in the same room where people are microwaving fish could be a very effective method to break the will of terrorism suspects, but that tactic probably would violate multiple provisions of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Parking Passions And Passive-Aggressiveness Placards

It’s the holidays.  We try to love our fellow man — except when they stink at parking.

What is it about parking that stirs the passions so profoundly?  Perhaps it’s because parking is such a simple, commonplace, communal activity that we take it for granted, and when someone violates the basic societal norms that have long governed the parking process it shakes the foundations of our world in deeply infuriating ways and suggests that we may live surrounded by clueless, self-absorbed idiots.

Whether the disturbing scenario involves going to a crowded parking lot and seeing that some jerk’s bad parking job has effectively taken up two of the precious spaces, or parking at a meter and returning to find that the kind people parking in front of and behind have left you no room whatsoever to maneuver out of your spot, or shoveling out your standard parking place after a huge snow storm, marking the spot, and then returning to find it occupied by someone else’s car, bad and inconsiderate parking tends to fuel rage.  And often the only meaningful outlet for the inward rage is a pointed, passive-aggressive note that can be hilarious to those of us who are only passing by.

Some years ago, BuzzFeed carried a story that displayed 40 great passive-aggressive parking notes.  There’s even a website called passiveaggressivenotes.com that collects choice examples of anonymous signage in which angry people try to change the behavior of the thoughtless people in the world.  And passive-aggressive signs aren’t limited to America; Richard and I saw the sign accompanying this post on our visit to Paris a few years ago.  The lesson for those of us with passive-aggressive tendencies is:  always have pen and paper handy, because you never know when you might see some jerky behavior that needs some gentle correction.