AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
Annoyance is one of those feelings that can be experienced at almost any time, at any place. It is one of those constants that can be relied upon no matter what the circumstances, it never fails you like say, love does. It is however subjective: what sounds sweet as honey to one person is like nails scraping the chalkboard. Over and over again.
Take death metal music for instance. To aficionados it can actually help them to sleep. To their mothers it is like a near-death experience. Or the hidden talent of a child that the parents insist on showing off to the guests despite their desperation to go home after a heavy, sleep-inducing meal. Just when the guests are fantasizing a relaxing night watching their favourite serial or sports channel with a mug of steaming hot tea, the dinner takes an unexpected turn when the hosts announce that their eleven-year old will now perform a Hindi song and dance routine. The child is sweet and all but the voice has yet to reach a level that is bearable to the eardrums. Hence the rest of the night is spent grimacing through an hour and a half of endless screeching and dance moves that would make even the most brazen blush. This is what annoyance is like. Brutish but not necessarily short.
Small, apparently innocuous things may deeply annoy you. Like when you are craving for a tasty snack and by some miracle find a mango bar in your black hole of a bag. It is the perfect break from an otherwise annoying day. It could be a lifesaver. But try tearing off the darn wrapper -- nothing can seem to break it open. After a long and empty struggle, during which a tooth has been chipped and a cherished nail broken not to mention the unmentionables uttered, you may come with the brilliant idea of piercing the offending wrapping with the tip of your ball point pen. So what if the pen is ruined? So what if you look a little maniacal and your colleagues are looking at you apprehensively? The point is that you have managed to tear open that precious packet and can now get rid of those knots of annoyance with bites from the delicious bar. The only problem is that during the war against wrapping, you may have accidentally severed half the mango bar and mistakenly stepped on it while stamping your foot -- in annoyance.
Ever since the Tylenol scandal many years ago when bottles of the painkiller had been laced with cyanide leading to deaths in the US, the world has gone to extreme lengths to make sure consumers are not poisoned to death due to tampering. Or maybe it was a response to rampant copying of products, Jingira style, from toiletries, medicine to food items. This is why almost everything we buy is swathed in protective seals that are almost impossible to break open without injury. It is almost like these companies get a kick by secretly annoying the customer. Think about the mineral water bottles with plastic coverings, the puffed up potato chip packets, the sealed plastic on shampoos, eye pencils and even ketchup bottles -- you just can't tear them off. The perforation seldom works. You will be huffing and puffing until your face is blue but still there is no sign of a tear. This is when you need that sharp nib of your ball point pen to stab into the impenetrable shield and tear it to shreds. It may sound a little brutal but the violence helps alleviate some of the annoyance.
There are a thousand and million ways that one can get annoyed which makes this phenomenon so special. Power outage at the climax of a riveting film, a jammed DVD just when the hero is about to admit his love after long and annoying procrastination, your child nagging you to let her go to a concert and then nagging you some more asking why it is not possible, your co-worker constantly making a chirping sound to get pieces of meat out of his teeth, the incessant groaning of a fan that has an ailing capacitor, the cacophonous ranting of politicians and evangelists at 2 am at night, the dripping of a faulty faucet just when the sedative has kicked in…
Annoyance is a continuous, bad feeling, like a droning mosquito which, you have to admit, is very annoying. Even the sound of the word conveys irritation.
Try saying 'annoy' ten times.
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