Instead of one coherent column, I thought I would write about a bunch of things that have been bugging me lately. So here is a compendium, if you will, of random pet peeves (some more serious than others):
1. The anti-texting-in-the-car law. Starting Oct. 1, you can get fined in Maryland just for using a hand-held phone or texting in your car, even if you weren't stopped for anything else (called a primary violation).
I have trouble believing this law will do much of anything for a while except rack up tons of money for the state, because I see people talking on phones and possibly even texting all the time.
Once, I was at a light (I won't say where or when!) and considered checking out something on my phone. I quickly glanced around for any police and, sure enough, I saw the person in the car next to me was flat-out talking on a hand-held phone.
It made me feel better to know that if police were around, they would probably pull over the "motorist next door" instead of me, but it's probably not a great sign for legislation trying to address the phone-use "problem."
2. Identical place names in different states. There is a Montgomery County in Pennsylvania. There is a Pasadena in Maryland. If you take a train from Baltimore to New York, you can go from Penn Station to Penn Station, which I think technically means you've entered "The Twilight Zone."
And there are the same street names in virtually all older towns. The junction of Pennsylvania and Main streets, in Bel Air, also exists in Walkersville, Edgewater and Westminster - and that's just in Maryland.
The point is, how could people of the past be so thoroughly uncreative when naming places?
3. Speaking of names… Route 1 has about 50 of them. I have heard from several people new to the Bel Air area who are very confused by Route 1/Belair Bypass/Hickory Bypass/Belair Road/Baltimore Pike/Conowingo Road.
Depending on where you are (and who you're asking), the two pieces of "Route 1" - the interstate Route 1 and the "business" one that goes through Bel Air - can have any of these names.
To further complicate things, the "business" Route 1 changes names at least five times just going through Benson/Bel Air.
And how can Route 1 be at the corner of Route 1? Anytime you have a street intersecting itself, it's not a good sign.
4. Meaningless warnings on food. When I bought a package of nuts lately, I noticed it said the product "may contain nuts." I have also bought frozen salmon or tilapia that warns me it "contains fish."
My response: It better contain fish, that's what I bought! I think I should be warned if that bag doesn't contain fish, so I'm not throwing money away.
I understand there are a lot more people today with nut allergies, and fish could pose health problems for somebody. But putting a nut warning on a bag of actual nuts just seems...nuts.
5. Journalists complaining about journalism. My college paper once had a huge, "banner" headline (the kind normally reserved for terrorist attacks or the apocalypse) about the journalism school threatening to take over the paper.
This was the biggest story of the day in no one's mind except the staff of the paper.
Nowadays, I regularly hear warnings about how print is dying, how journalism is in crisis or how "newspaper reporter" was found to be the "worst job" for 2013 (a story being covered by - who else? - newspaper reporters).
So the press has been in danger since pretty much forever, according to… journalists, mostly.
But other things covered by the First Amendment (speech, religion, peaceable assemblies) are doing fine? I don't think so.
6. As a bonus, here is one thing I actually do really like: "First world problems." This is a trendy new phrase "typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences" (hat-tip to KnowYourMeme.com).
What I like so much about people chiming in, "First world problems," is it's a reality check on a global scale. And how often does anything in pop culture encourage gratitude or humility? Not often enough.
It's like the time I was on a resort at Cancun and complained that the staff would bring out drinks to you on the beach but wouldn't take them back.
That would be a "first world problem," as would… everything I just complained about in this column, really. So, enough said.