Discuss: Pushing My Buttons

Aug 26, 2011


I don’t have pet peeves, I collect them.  I sometimes joke that if I were to write a memoir, it would be titled, “Peeved: A Life Spent Annoyed.”  But yesterday, I realized that there is one pet peeve that rises above the rest, a Super Pet Peeve, if you will.  The one that makes me so angry that I will actually call it complete strangers for doing it.

Nearly every building constructed or remodeled after the passage of the American’s with Disabilities Act has an automatic door.  The button used to open this door is usually emblazoned with the figure of a man in a wheelchair, because it’s supposed to be reserved for people who are physically unable to open the door themselves.  Unfortunately, like the healthy person who parks in the handicap space, some able-bodied people treat this button like it’s their own personal doorman.

Now, I understand that if you’re overloaded with grocery bags, pushing a baby stroller or walking your dog, using the automatic door is just easier.  It might even be necessary.  So I’m willing to make some reasonable exceptions.  I also recognize that not all disabilities are obvious at first glance.  But nothing makes my blood boil like watching a seemingly healthy, unemcumbered person push the button for the automatic door.  Especially, if that person happens to be a neighbor of mine. 

First off, it’s just plain lazy.  “Sure, I could use my perfectly healthy arm to open this door, but why should I do that when someone installed this handy little button that will do it for me?”  Those of us lucky enough to have two working arms and a healthy skeletal system shouldn’t rely on an electronic mechanism to open the door for us.

Secondly, automatic doors are timed to stay open long enough that a person with a handicap or a person in a wheelchair can make it through.  This is usually several seconds longer than a healthy person needs to walk through a door.  And when you live in downtown high rise, nothing makes you quite as nervous as coming home to see the front door to your “secure” building open and unattended because your neighbor used the automatic door unnecessarily.  

All the key fobs and magnetic locks in the world won’t protect you if you leave the door wide open.  We don’t exactly live in Mayberry, here, people.

Finally, I hate when healthy people use the automatic door because there’s something truly…well, for lack of a better word, douchey…about a person who will stand in front of an automatic door for three seconds waiting for it to open sesame when it would take less time to just open the door yourself.  And it’s extra annoying when there are people standing behind you and on the other side of the door who now have to wait for the door to open automatically because you were too good to just use the handle.

So while I dislike slow walkers, hate it when people order steaks well done or dressing on the side, and detest when people send dozens of text messages rather than picking up the phone or putting it in an e-mail, healthy people who use the automatic door just plain tick me off.  Because I know a number of people, one of them a Marine who lost the use of both of his hands due to a combat injury, who’d love nothing more than to be healthy enough to be able to open that door without using the button.  

I’ve told you mine, and I’d love to hear about yours.  For today’s discussion, let’s talk about your biggest pet peeve.  What is the one, otherwise insignificant, thing that just pushes your buttons and makes your blood boil?


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  1. DB says:

    Can tourists just be an entire category? I feel so rude admitting this, because having moved to DC, I often take for granted what people will travel across the country to see. But somehow I feel like oftentimes the thousands of tourists that flock to the city in the summer leave their manners (or spatial perception) at home. What gets me more than anything else is when groups will walk 3/4/5 people across and take up the entire sidewalk. And they're usually walking slower than I am. All I ask is that people be aware of the width of the sidewalk and the fact that other people have places to get and be respectful of this fact. I also just ask that if you're going to stop to orient yourself on you map because you're not sure which way the numbered streets are going, just please don't do it in the middle of the sidewalk. And please don't be an esca-lefter. Just don't do it. There should really be an entire manual on how to be a tourist in DC. With an entire section on how to work the metro ticketing machines.

    I guess my pet peeve is more generally just people that are constantly unaware of their surroundings. It's not like a short woman walking quickly down the sidewalk in pumps is so quiet that they can't hear my approach and let me pass.

  2. You know, I had never considered this (although I never pushed that button unless I had the stroller) until last winter. I walked into a building, showed the guard my badge, and kept walking. But the guard stopped me. He wanted to say thank you! He said people push that button all day long, and it keeps the door open longer, which makes the guards freeze and they aren't allowed to wear coats. I told him I would try to get the message out. Glad you posted this! People who unnecessarily push that button are being inconsiderate, so hopefully your post will make them stop and consider who they could be affecting.

  3. Govvie says:

    Fun! Happy Friday!
    Trying to avoid people on the sidewalk/in the metro/in the mall who are not looking where they are walking because they are absorbed in their smart phone.

  4. VA says:

    My biggest DC pet peeve is people who use their cell phones on public transportation. Ugh. I do not want to hear about your surgery, or your daughter's romantic problems, or how important you are at work. I just want to go home. I was on a bus a couples weeks ago and a woman was on her cell phone having this really inappropriate-for-a-public-place conversation about sex – her most awkward morning after, her recent one-night stand, etc. I'm not a prude, but seriously, that's not cool, and there were little kids on the bus who don't need to hear that conversation. A man asked her to lower her voice and she told him to “learn some f-ing manners and mind your own business.” I guess you can't teach people class.

  5. Adrien says:

    That bothers me too! It also irritates me to see perfectly healthy people take an elevator up or down ONE FLOOR. This happens in my office building all the time.

    My big (and probably irrational) peeve is when people take extra time to back into a parking lot space. It's pointless and holds up everyone else behind them. Back-inners aren't saving themselves any time because it takes twice as long to back in than it would to just freaking pull into the spot like everyone else. Ugh.

  6. KP says:

    Hi Belle,

    I just completed an internship at the Capitol. During our tour training the head of disability services asked every intern to use the handicapped automatic doors throughout the complex. If there is a problem with them they would like us to be the ones to report it rather than having to make someone who actually needs it wait for it to be fixed.

    My biggest pet peeve is when people are rude or just plain mean to people in the service industry. Like waiters or grocery baggers. There is no need to be inconsiderate to people who are trying to help you

  7. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    Jaywalkers! And, people who stand on the edge of the sidewalk, or worse, those who stand on the road in heavy traffic waiting for the walk signal. I HATE driving by them feeling like I'm going to scrape them. Stay on the sidewalk! While I have no problem with people who cross on a non-busy street, those who hold up traffic in downtown DC because they decide they can't wait their turn infuriate me. We have a system. It works and everyone gets to go where they are going when they follow the rules! When I'm driving I don't blast red lights, but tons of pedestrians think they can just mosey across a green light taking their sweet time. Do they really think every driver is looking for them and won't hit them? So, so dumb. And, P.S. I mostly walk everywhere I RARELY drive. I've observed several pedestrians almost get hit by cars because of this kind of stupidity.

  8. NOVA says:

    Adrien– My husband and I both back into parking spots because we are police officers. If we are called (even off duty) to an incident, we need to exit as quickly as possible.

  9. amy b.s. says:

    pehaps we could write the book together. seriously, that is so annoying! i also hate when people don't hold the door open for you and it sort of hits you or slams shut right as you're trying to enter. now, in a big city, i can kind of understand this with apartment buildings and such, but in montana, it's probably okay to hold the door open for me to enter the dentist office right behind you. annoying!

  10. Emily says:

    People who park SUVs in compact car spots. People who go slow in the fast lane. People who drive with their blinker on for miles. People who change lanes suddenly without using their blinker. People who stay in the exit only lane because it's faster and then slow everyone down by trying to get get over into regular traffic at the last minute. Clearly, I have issues 🙂

  11. L says:

    I can't stand people who check gum or food loudly or smack it. While I am certainly not miss manners, if i can HEAR you smacking your gum on the metro over my ipod, it's a problem. you are not a cow, you are a human being. close your mouth.

  12. Katie says:

    Drivers that change lanes without signaling! And people that are discourteous to others in general. Both make me annoyed just thinking about them! Argh!

  13. anon says:

    …I hate that most of the doors in the Senate buildings are tied to the handicapped door openers, so a) they're incredibly heavy and really difficult to pull open, and b) even if you do open it manually, the automatic thing kicks in and you still have to wait for it to open itself, and it holds itself open for a while. This used to be a pet peeve of mine and now I'm totally guilty of doing it at the Dirksen ground floor entrance, because it's actually faster to push the button, and it uses up the same energy either way. I don't know whether they're impossibly heavy because they're tied to the handicap mechanism or because they're security doors, like in the CVC?

  14. E says:


  15. Amy says:

    My freshman year, I lived on a floor with a student in a wheelchair. Our lounge had a button on it to make it automatic. Those of us who weren't disabled were actually instructed to use the button because pulling on the door could damage the hardware used to make it automatic. I don't know if it's because it was a normal door adapted to be automatic or not but still, not using the button could actually make things worse.

  16. SC says:

    Adrien – backing into a parking spot is safer than backing out of the parking lot. When you back out into a busy lane, you're more likely to hit people and cars, as opposed to being able to see whatever is coming your way, and not just rely on mirrors and having your head twisted to a side. I'd much rather take the time to be safe even if there are people honking at me. And to be honest, the reason why people take so long to back into a spot is because they haven't been doing so often enough. It actually takes me the same time, in some cases less time, to back into a spot versus pulling into one.

    My pet peeve is people who take the elevator up one floor when they're not holding anything, and they are perfectly healthy. Stop clogging up the elevators and walk! It's faster to walk up or down than wait for the elevator!

  17. E says:

    I use the automatic buttons all the time, especially in the House office buildings. Why? Because the doors that are designed for handicapped people can be incredibly hard to open manually. It feels like there's a lead weight on the door and I get exhausted having to attempt this multiple times a day.

  18. I love reading the reason why people do these things that irritate others, like explaining that interns were instructed to use the handicapped door, or a police officer explaining why she needs to be able to pull out quickly. So often we don't think about legitimate reasons for doing our pet peeves, and perhaps this will help us judge a little less harshly now!

    My personal pet peeve: using words when you don't know the origin and thus completely misspell them. The one that always leaves me red in the face angry is voila — I have no problem if you're lazy like me and leave the accent off the a, but for the love of god, it is French, it has a meaning, and it is spelled voila. It is not wala, wahlah, ouila, or any variant. If you are going to use the word, know what it means and how to spell it!

  19. Alicia says:

    Oh, this is fun:
    Pedestrians and bikers who stand in the road waiting for the light to change.
    Pedestrians and bikers crossing/jaywalking when they don't have the right of way (i.e the pedestrian sign is red). Or they try to beat the light. Or they just walk slow to defy the oncoming car, even though they are in the wrong.
    Bikers who use the sidewalk when the bike lane is two feet to the left.
    Bike lanes in general, since my gas tax goes to pay for your bike lane; my gas tax should pay for my road, not your road.
    Discourteous drivers who don't use turn signals for turns or lane changes.
    And make that discourteous drivers, in general.
    Rant over.

  20. danielle says:

    this is one that i've noticed recently: say you're talking with someone about a method of doing something or other sort of topic that personal taste factors into heavily. the other person just won't or can't recognize that they have different tastes with you, and keep trying to justify their own personal choices as if it's a pissing contest. for example, the other day i was discussing keurig coffee machines with a friend. there's one in my office and one at my home, but neither were purchased or picked out by me. i drink coffee from them because someone else buys those silly little cups, but i personally think they are wasteful and the coffee tastes horrible. she was expounding on how convenient they were and how she likes this brand it doesn't taste bad blah blah. and i'm thinking “okay… i never said you couldn't drink your keurig coffee! all i said was i find the taste watery and bland, i prefer cold brewed coffee, i don't find the method cumbersome for ME.” i guess it seems like people feel the need to force their own methods for doing things on other people, or just want to feel justified in the way they do them. i find myself frequently saying something along the lines of, “well that's just my personal preference. i'm sure the way you do that works better for you!” just to get someone to shut up about it!

    oh and also? spelling errors that don't even make SENSE. while the whole your/you're and their/there/they're things are annoying and tedious, i feel like anyone with basic grasp of the english language should know that it is not spelled “defiantly.” although, that one normally gives me a chuckle, as i just picture the speaker doing whatever it is defiantly.

  21. Miss W says:

    There is no faster way to tick me off than to interrupt me. I was raised in a household of manners, and I am completely baffled by how many people continue to believe what they have to say is more important than that of anyone else (I'm looking at YOU Bill O'Reilly…schtick or not). Poor grammar is a close second (particularly when mixing up me vs I or who vs whom).

  22. Emma says:

    Hear, hear on the heavy handicapped doors. The ones in Dirksen are so incredibly heavy I can barely pull them open or push out of them — that's why I sometimes resort to the button. When it's getting to the point that I think I'm going to pull a muscle from trying to shove the door, I don't think there's a problem with using the buttons.

    I like Sugar Scientist's comment — I definitely have my pet peeves, and it's good to remember sometimes people might have a reason for backing in to spaces or the like. I'll gladly be held up by a police officer any day — I'm grateful they're around to rush off to incidents for the rest of us.

  23. saisai says:

    I use the phrase “pet peeve” to mean something that's more annoying than it should be for the inconvenience caused–not so much things that are dangerous or cause major headaches (like biking on the sidewalk when you're going with traffic or running red lights).

    My biggest pet peeves all come from feeling like people are not aware of themselves and their surroundings in public places, especially enclosed places like the metro, bus, elevator, etc. When people take the whole pole on a crowded metro car by leaning against it. When people don't step in all the way on the bus, so people getting on get crammed in the front. When people hold the elevator door open to finish a conversation even though there are strangers still in the car. It all comes from being discourteous to others using common resources. I hate that.

  24. Rachel says:

    Yikes. There is a whole lotta negativity going on here for a gorgeous Friday, y'all.

  25. deb says:

    Unappreciative people. Maybe we can do a list of things we all like or appreciate?

  26. E says:

    Nothing wrong with a little venting now and then!

  27. Karen says:

    Deep breaths everyone! There is too much stress and anger in the world already. I can see being annoyed when personal safety is an issue but every once in a while it's healthier just to say “hakuna matata” and get on with your day.

  28. Kim says:

    This is not meant as a personal attack Belle, but my biggest pet peeve is when people assume I don't have a disability because it isn't immediately visible to them.

    I'm sure even if you say something, you let it go after the person tells you they do in fact have a disability, but I have actually had people argue with me about it. I have MS and, depending on the day, it can make me tired, weak, have trouble standing, etc. (among a whole host of other things). So, not only do I sometimes feel that I can't stand through a 20-minute metro ride because my legs hurt and are shaking, I have to summon up the energy to argue with people about whether I have a disability when I am already exhausted. I generally use a cane on days when I feel my balance is going to be off in the morning, which usually stops people from saying anything, but on some days I feel perfectly fine at 9:00 am and really bad by 6:00 pm.

    I just think it would be great if more people acknowledged that on some occasions, rare as they may be, people do have invisible disabilities. So, thanks for acknowledging that, Belle!

  29. Belle says:


    I always give strangers the benefit of the doubt, but if I know someone, like a neighbor, I get pretty upset.

    And to everyone who says this is a negative exercise, there's nothing wrong with expressing what bothers you. In fact, it's healthy. It's people who bottle it up who have problems.

  30. VA says:

    New pet peeve – people who come to the comments section of a “tell me some things that annoy you” blog post to say, “OMG, stop being so negative” 😉

  31. CMS says:

    1. When people use has and have incorrectly.
    2. POTHOLES.
    3. When people take up the ENTIRE sidewalk as they lollygag their way down the street.
    4. When people post pics of their babies on Facebook and then write the quotations below in baby talk. THAT KILLS ME.
    5. When people talk about their kids' bathroom habits/potty training on Facebook. To all you mommies guilty of this – you make the rest of us not want to have kids for fear that the most interesting thing we'll have to post about on Facebook is our kids' bowel movements.
    6. When people use the word retard, although that falls more into my “serious offenses” category rather than pet peeves.

  32. CMS says:

    Also, when people post pics on Facebook immediately after the birth of a child when the baby is still full of goo and blood. I've seen it too many times, and it's definitely one of those things that is better left private.

  33. Kate says:

    Alicia –

    Actually, gas taxes pay for around half of “your road.” The rest is covered by other taxes that all citizens (even us bikers) pay. See the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group report on the topic.

    My pet peeve: People on the internet assuming all bikers are red-light running “Lance Wannabes.” Some of us are in skirts and heels just trying to get to work without being hit by a car.

  34. shan says:

    Alicia, don't forget: more people commuting on bikes and public transit (which I believe also gets some of its funding from gas taxes) = fewer cars on “your” road = less traffic, more parking, cleaner air, etc.

  35. KC says:

    My pet peeve is people responding on Internet blog posts telling people to not be negative or to say ” hakuna matata”. We are just responding to Belle's hilarious post. Oh and if you claim you have no pet peeves, you are full of crap. Plus, isn't fun to complain sometimes about silly stuff?

    On to the topic at hand, Belle I totally agree with you about the handicap doors. I was always taught as a kid to never use them unless you were actually handicapped and to this day it still bugs me if people use it inappropriately.

  36. Ellie says:

    HATE the sound of peoples' teeth scraping on their forks. Honestly. Use your lips to pull your food off. Ugh.

    Also, totally agree with the complaints of people who are just generally unaware of their surroundings. Let's all stop at the top of the escalator. Or cut off other people because you need to turn. Or take up the entire sidewalk. Or stand on the left of the escalator.

  37. J says:

    When someone uses the copy machine to make more than 1 copy, but doesn't reprogram it back to 1 when they're done.

  38. STL says:

    Ok, I'll play: Most of my pet peeves involve eating. Ice-crunching, lip smacking, mouth open chewing – all incredibly annoying. However the worst is finger licking… it shocks me how many people and even friends of mine with otherwise good manners do this. Use a napkin! It's a disgusting habit and is impolite. Also quite unsanitary — I don't care if you washed your hands right before you ordered the plate of nachos (usually not the case anyway), I don't think it will kill you if that bit of cheese sauce ends up on a napkin rather than in your mouth.

  39. Noelle says:

    People who take personal calls at their desk. I share an office space with five people, including two who do this All. The. Time. No one wants to hear about your kid's birthday party, whether your boyfriend did well on his test, if you're having problems selling something on eBay. That's what those little call boxes in the hall are for!

  40. mad says:

    ESCLEFTERS! (people who STAND on the left side of the escalator in the metro.)

    also Virginia drivers

  41. Montana says:

    1. People who sing and in stores, restaurants, metro, etc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No one wants to hear you sing – BE QUIET
    2. Nosepickers!
    3. People who don't flush the toilet………

    I feel better now.

  42. RE: Virginia drivers says:

    RE: Virginia drivers.

    You must be a Marylander.

  43. L says:

    People who don't use headphones on the metro. I always get the urge to sit next to them and turn on music they would find really annoying just to make a point of how irritating it is to everyone else on the metro.

  44. loonlaugh says:

    1. VANITY SIZING. Far and away my biggest pet peeve. Being a normal American sized four, I won't be duped into thinking I am somehow smaller than I am just because J Crew and Ann Taylor have decided my ego needs to be a size zero. What happens to the really slender women (not petite, just willowy)? Where are they forced to shop? size 00 isn't real, so garment business, can we please stop trying to pet the egos of American women. We aren't dumb, we know we eat too much, sit too much, exercise too little, and pretending we are smaller than we are by forcing us into smaller numbered clothes isn't going to change the actuality of size. GAH!

    2. Federal building doors that are so heavy that you might rip your arms off trying to open them.

    3. Whistling. I think this really is just a me thing, but boy does it drive me bonkers.

    4. Bus drivers that gun it away from the stop before you sit down, effectively launching you into the lap of a stranger or face first into the standing safety bars. Along those same lines, bus drivers that stomp on the brakes, throwing passengers out of their seats. It is a bus, you shouldn't have to hold on with both hands like a roller coaster and balance your weight like you are on a motorbike!

    5. Uneven sidewalks that never seem to be fixed/ cobblestone sidewalks. DC is a pedestrian business city, that means heels and walking which don't mix well with those type of sidewalks. I know this one from personal experience, I seem to bite it every other week or so, even when I studiously watch the way ahead of me.

    Thanks for the forum to rant, Belle.

  45. re:re:virginiadrivers says:

    totally a Marylander (and i will admit, we have merging issues).

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