If an Annoying Person is Alone, Are They Still Annoying?

Our world, the “real” world, is full of all sorts of obstacles and hurdles that can make enjoying life a task in of itself. How then can one possibly find joy here? Well, Ross Gay shares the experience of taking the mundane, difficult, and forgettable moments of our days and changing them into something beautiful in their The Book of Delights: Essays. As the title suggests, this book is a collection of essays, which Ross Gay has used to comment and reflect on simple stories of life and how they have found “delight” in them. In many ways, this work serves as a meditation for Gay, just as it did for me as I read it.

I’ll resist from spoiling the book for you (which is hard because it’s not really a narrative), but I’d like to discuss a chapter about halfway through called “Annoyed No More”. In this chapter (or “meditation”, which I prefer), Gay talks about his experience picking up food from an Afghan Restaurant. While we may not all have access to an Afghan restaurant (I can’t think of any in Charleston, SC), the shared experience of picking up food from a restaurant seems relatively universal. In Gay’s restaurant, however, the pickup line is going in the opposite (wrong) direction. This presents our conflict.

The system feels broken to Gay, which begins creating that age old feeling of annoyance. He lingers in this state for a moment, thinking about his state. Where does this annoyance come from? Surely it’s from those evil people changing the line. Gay, however, remembers that the annoyance is in him. He can release that out on to the world or he can decide to isolate and ignore it. He chooses the latter, joins the line and gets his food. The world does not change for the worse.

I think this is a such a small part of our day, but such an important one. Annoyance, anger, etc. are all emotions that can build if we let them. They are, like all emotions, important, but we can choose how we use them. Gay shows us how to identify our emotions and deal with them in a healthy, small way that can make all the difference.

One Response to If an Annoying Person is Alone, Are They Still Annoying?

  1. Prof VZ January 29, 2023 at 6:49 pm #

    I liked his reflection on annoyance as well–all about how we let the small moments of self-righteousness that our often idiosyncratic and invented, get in the way of thinking about how things might be done differently (does cooking without the stove light on, as his partner does, heighten other senses, for example?).

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