As we head into the heart of the lazy, hazy days of summer, it is again time to register some of my pet peeves. To give us all a break, none has to do with this interminable election cycle. So, here are some of the things that have gotten under my skin of late:
1. The signs that sprout up like dandelions around Westminster each spring crying, "Host Families Needed, Students from Spain." There's a handwritten number in front of "Host Families" that declines over time. Are they saying that kids from Spain are invited here without first securing host families to house them? Really? What happens if not enough hosts step forward?
2. Hearing aid companies that spend a fortune on expensive mailers sent to senior citizens month after month and year after year. If they would cut down on these promotions, maybe the cost of the aids would be more affordable.
3. The "Plain Jane" utilitarian design of the new Md. 140 bridge over the Patapsco River. Has anyone seen the grand and welcoming bridges being built in Baltimore County? The one now extending Charles Street over the beltway looks like the gateway to heaven compared to our bare-bones span. Might partisan politics have played a role in the design and funding?
4. Drivers, often soccer moms, in enormous SUVs who sit high in the saddle, relentlessly tailgate, won't let you into their lane, and are often chatting on the phone. Having kids on board who are late for soccer practice is not an excuse.
5. The 22-year-old Apple programmer who keeps messing with my iPhone, iPod and iTunes. Every time I agree to a programming update, I have to relearn the system. And don't tell me Apple's new features are intuitive because apparently I don't "intuit" as well as that 22-year-old.
6. People who are oblivious in grocery stores as their order is tallied and then are unprepared when told what they owe. Instead of having their cash, credit card or debit card at the ready, they don't begin to fish in their oversized pocketbooks for wallets until told the total — as if they didn't know this process always culminates with a payment.
7. Showbiz personalities like Jane Fonda, Meg Ryan and Mickey Rourke who refuse to let the years reflect the natural aging process and end up looking like grotesque clones of their former selves.
8. Friends and relatives in warmer climes who delight in calling and gloating when we've just had a big snow or ice storm, but are mum when their temperatures hit 118 degrees. I know: "It's a dry heat."
9. Japanese beetles. These marauders are devastating my roses, canna lilies and grapevines. Birds don't like the critters, and the baited traps fill up with my neighbor's bugs, too. Just how do these pests fit into creation's plan?
10. Apple again. Why in the world would they invent a phone whose batteries aren't user-replaceable? Oh, right, so they can charge $79 plus shipping to replace them. Aargh!
11. Charities that bombard you with follow-up appeals within weeks of having cashed the check for your latest donation.
12. Assault rifles. Their continued availability isn't just about gun control anymore. It's about naively supplying these battlefield weapons to the terrorists in our midst.
13. Passwords. Sometimes I feel like I am living in the kingdom of Ali Baba where one needs a password to enter every door. Like most people, I can't keep track of the darn things, and it seems like I am constantly resetting them to access whatever it is being kept behind that barred door. We used passwords as kids when we had neighborhood clubs. Who knew that they'd become an essential protocol in the next century?
14. The use of "like," "that being said," and "at the end of the day." These cliches are unnecessary filler in conversations.