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The International Writers Magazine: Life Moments

Life's Little Annoyances
Martin Green

Paul Lerner wrote a monthly column called “Observations” for the senior newspaper that went to his Northern California retirement community.   After eight years, he sometimes found it difficult to come up with a subject to have observations about.   Usually, when this happened, he fell back on what he called LLA’s, or “Life’s Little Annoyances.”  

There was an endless supply of these:  the car that zipped in front of you to take the last space in the parking lot;  the lady at the supermarket check-out who had to write a check for her purchases and took hours doing so;  the daily mail with its load of credit card offers;  the phone calls at dinner from people wanting you to donate to their cause;  and so on and so forth.
Nothing was so annoying first thing in the morning, thought Paul, than not to have your newspaper there when you went out to get it.   It was one of those things you couldn’t quite believe, like not finding your keys in your pocket after locking the door of your house.   Of course, it was also a rainy morning.   He ventured out to see if maybe the paper was in the driveway, but all this accomplished was to get him wet and more annoyed.   He went back inside and told his wife Sally, “No newspaper today.”   He found the newspaper’s number in the phone book, called and was put on hold.   He held on for almost ten minutes while an automated voice kept assuring him that his call was important.    Finally, he banged the phone down with a curse.   “Can’t even get through to a human being any more,” he told Sally.   “I don’t have all morning to wait.”
“Go ahead and have your breakfast,” said Sally.   “I’ll call them later.”
“Good luck,” grumbled Paul..
This was the morning that Paul played pool with Sid Kaplan, another retirement community resident.   The pool room, which held six tables, was in a building called the Lodge, the center of most of the community’s activities.   Sid was an acerbic guy, who had all kinds of rules about playing pool.   If you scratched when sinking a ball, not only did that ball have to come out but another one as a penalty;  if you were snookered and couldn’t hit your ball you were penalized a ball.   This resulted in their having very long games.   Sid was very competitive and when he was losing he complained that Paul was playing too slowly and sometimes he claimed that Paul hadn’t hit the proper ball when Paul was sure he had.   All of this was annoying, but Sid had introduced Paul to the game when Paul was recovering from a surgery, so Paul didn’t think he could complain.   He just kept on getting more and more annoyed.
In their first game that morning, Paul was shooting well, then with only the eight and one other ball left he kept getting snookered because Sid had so many of his balls left on his table.   After a while, Paul had almost all of the balls he’d sunk back up on the table.   Paul eventually won in one of their usual long, drawn-out games.   Then at the end of their next long game, when Paul tried to just tip the eight ball and missed it by a hair Sid claimed that meant he’d lost the game, although Paul could have sworn the same thing had happened a few weeks ago with Sid and he’d only penalized himself by putting up one of his balls.   At any rate, Paul said, “Okay,” and when Sid suggested a third game, he said he had some errands to run.   Paul left the pool room even more annoyed with Sid than usual.
Paul did have an errand to run; he had to go to the bank to deposit the monthly check he received for writing his “Observations” column.   Going to the bank was invariably an annoying experience and this time proved to be no exception.   There wasn’t the usual long lunchtime line (the bank seemed to be able to provide only two tellers even at the busiest times), but each of the tellers had a woman customer whose transactions, whatever they were, seemed to go on forever.   Finally, one of the women took a considerable amount of cash and managed, after a struggle,  to get it stuffed into her purse.
Paul stepped forward and handed the teller, a young man who looked barely out of high school, his check and deposit slip.   The teller looked at these, then said, with a bright insincere smile, “How’re you doing today, Paul?”
Paul?   Had he met this youngster before?   No.   Paul was tempted to say something, but he was of a polite generation, unlike the current one, so he just replied, “I’m fine.   I’d like to deposit the check.”
The teller examined the check, then said, “Do you know your PIN number?”
  “Why?   I just want to put some money in, not take it out.”   Now Paul was getting really annoyed.
  “If you’ll just enter your PIN.”
  Paul almost asked what would happen if he had forgotten his PIN; did this mean he couldn’t put money in his own account.?   But, still polite, he entered his number and, after a time, the slip with his deposit amount came out. 
“There you are,” said the teller.   “Anything else we can do for you today?”   Another big insincere smile.
“Just don’t lose my money,”  Paul muttered as he left.
When Paul returned home, Sally told him they’d gotten their newspaper.    They had a new carrier on their route and he’d missed a number of homes.   “Great,” said Paul.   “I hope he doesn’t mess up tomorrow, too.”
“Steve called,” said Sally.   Steve was their youngest son, who lived only a few miles away.    “They want to bring the kids over Sunday afternoon.   There’s some kind of concert they want to go to.”
The kids were their two grandsons, Mark, age four, and Eric, age two.   “You mean we’ll be baby-sitting?   For how long?
“I don’t know; all afternoon, I suppose.  Isn’t that all right?”
  As far as Paul was concerned, that wasn’t all right.   Sunday was his day of relaxation.   He liked to have a leisurely breakfast, then do the Sunday crossword puzzle, and this Sunday there was a football game he was looking forward to watch.     “You know I watch football Sunday afternoons.   When are they going to find a baby-sitter?   Besides us?”  

Steve and his wife Jane had moved to their new house two years ago and ever since Paul and Sally had been doing a lot of baby-sitting.   Sally would never refuse and it seemed to Paul that his son and daughter-in-law were taking advantage of her.   And if Sally baby-sat that meant Paul would also have to do so.
  “Don’t you want to see your grandsons?”
  “Yes, but I don’t want to be on call all the time.   Next time can you please ask me first before you say we’ll baby-sit?”
  “You weren’t here.”
  “All right, we’ll baby sit, but next time ask me.”   God, Sally could be annoying at times.   Paul grabbed the newspaper and went into the bedroom to finally read it.
After lunch, Paul went to his computer to compose his “Observations” for the month.   When he’d finished a draft he turned on his printer so that he could print it out and show it to Sally as usual.   But as soon as the printer was on it began to spit out paper, one page after another.   Paul turned off the printer as quickly as he could.   He went into the living room and asked Sally if shed used the printer that morning..   She said she had but something had gone wrong.   “Well, you’ve messed up my printer again,” he told her.
Paul went back to his computer and saw that, sure enough, there was an uncompleted printing job.   Sally appeared in the doorway.   “I was going to tell you,” she said, "but then Steve called and I forgot.  Can I do anything?”
“Yes, just go away and let me alone.”   This had happened before and he went through the steps to delete the job to clear the printer.   He didn’t always remember the correct sequence of steps and this time it took him almost half an hour before he was successful.   Damnit, Paul thought, this was turning out to be a miserable day.   When he printed out his “Observations,” he left them on his desk.   He didn’t want to see Sally just then.
Paul and Sally ate their dinner mostly in silence.   Afterward, Sally watched her usual television programs; Paul again went back to his bedroom chair and read.   The young hero of the novel he was reading had decided that he’d lost his belief in God and didn’t believe in an afterlife.   Paul had turned 75 the year before and had realized with a shock that he’d been around for three-quarters of a century.   Since then, not a day passed by that Paul didn’t think that, like a runner nearing the finish line, he was coming to the end of his life’s journey.    When you were young it was easy to dismiss religion and the usual notions of an afterlife.   Paul didn’t believe that there was a Heaven and a Hell, but the idea that once his life was over that was it was one he didn’t like to dwell on.
In his mind, Paul reviewed the events of the day, -the missing newspaper, the pool games with Sid, the moronic young bank teller, the printer fiasco, his annoyance at having to baby-sit his grandchildren the coming Sunday.   Life’s little annoyances.   Was he becoming an old grouch?   That’s the way he thought of Sid.   Did other people think the same of him?   Was it resentment that the time he had left was much less than the time gone by that was making him so edgy?   He shouldn’t let himself get so upset over  trivial matters, like the newspaper.   He should be nicer.   Well, not too nice.   He went into the living room and watched television with Sally until eleven.   When they were in bed, he turned to her as he did every night, kissed her and told her he loved her.   She murmured something.   Lying on his back, he thought, maybe instead of writing another “Observations” on life’s little annoyances he should write one on life’s little pleasures.   There were some left, weren’t they, even when you were 75 years old.   There were Mark and Eric, his grandsons; they were a pleasure, most of the time.   He’d think about it.
© Martin Green November 2008
<mgreensuncity at>

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