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Andrea's column: Collecting complaints

Last week, for a reason that has escaped me, I remembered a grade school assignment. Third grade, I think. Our teacher told us to write a composition about our pet peeve. I recall raising my hand and saying I didn't have a pet. I then asked what peeve meant.

Judging by the bowed heads and busy yellow pencils of my classmates, I was the only one who didn't understand the task. Still, the teacher explained the concept: What is our most common annoyance? What irks us the most and why?

I couldn't think of anything. I was a happy kid and nothing bothered me. I made something up about my year-younger sister bugging me and hoped my subterfuge wouldn't be discovered.

Over the years, though, I have become all too familiar with pet peeves. One that makes me crazy is when a person says, "No problem," when I thank them for helping me. I wonder what has become of, "You are welcome." Or better yet, "My pleasure."

Another irritation is when my husband takes his eyes off the road ahead when he is driving. He looks to his left at cows, buildings, even sidewalks. I start counting and when he turns his face forward again, I tell him if the car ahead had slammed on the brakes in the four-and-a-half seconds he was sight-seeing, we'd be dead.

I asked a friend what grates on her. It's people who take a bite of food and clink the fork with their teeth. And moviegoers who talk during the show. It's all right at home, she says, because she can hit the pause button. But when she pays for a ticket, she doesn't want to miss a word.

My husband and I don't go to theaters anymore but I am sure he would say he hates that I press pause when we're watching a DVD. I do it a lot but only to point out that an actor in the video once appeared as an attorney in "Law & Order" or had been married to so-and-so.

When I surveyed another friend about what annoys her, she was quick to respond. It's people who sit at a stop light after it has turned to green. "They're thinking about something else or they're on the phone," she said.

Her other gripe is drivers who don't turn on their headlights when it's raining or dark outside.

That reminded me of the night my mother went somewhere with a friend and left her car in the driveway. I was a year away from getting my driver's license but "borrowed" the keys to the bright yellow convertible so my friend and I could take a joy ride up and down Lake Street.

It wasn't long before Mom's friend's car was alongside us. The horn was blaring and my mother was yelling. Her arm was out the window as she motioned for me to pull over. I made a right turn and came to a stop. When Mom told me to move over, that she would drive home, I asked how she found us so fast. She said it had been easy. I was the only idiot who hadn't turned on their headlights.

At that point, if anyone had asked, I'll bet my mother would have said her pet peeve was her oldest child. A daughter who liked to challenge the rules. Being an idiot, though, that daughter never got away with anything.