A FEW YEARS AGO, I became uncharacteristically chill when it came to dealing with other people. Thanks to enforced lockdowns in most parts of the country, the pandemic era was a unique lesson in how to coexist with our neighbours and general community in ways we’d never imagined possible, especially not in the high density living arrangements that characterise most capital cities today. Though it was arguably one of the darkest times in global history, when the pandemic wasn’t being politicised, it certainly ushered in a temporary age of civility. At least it did for me. I remember being frustrated at many things during this time—politicians, airlines, alcohol delivery delays—but other humans were not often among them.
Times of great strife, like wars, natural disasters or diseases that shut down global economies, are often the times that bind us together. We pull up for the greater good and realise the things that unite us—like our general humanity or collective distaste for a conveniently absent Prime Minister—are more important than the smaller things that set us apart. But we are, thankfully, no longer in those times. The acute phase is mostly behind us, and so we can all return to getting annoyed by completely inconsequential things on a daily basis.
Sorry, did I say ‘we’? I meant ‘me’.
As we arrive at the tail-end of the first official year without lockdowns, I’ve noticed that version of me that embraced a more blasé attitude to life changing. Things I never used to care that much about are starting to give me the you-know-whats in a spectacularly rapid fashion. The list of offences is long and mostly trivial: people parking oh-so-slightly over our driveway. Loud dogs barking at night. Cafes that only play lo-fi house covers of R&B songs. e-Bikes being dumped all over the footpath. You know, standard stuff. All of these existed in some fashion during the pandemic, but I didn’t view them as microaggressions.
2023 was meant to be a clear sailing. Why has it unlocked this easily perturbed monster inside me?
I’ll admit that becoming a first-time father, with the sleep and spare time deficit—perhaps the antithesis of the yawning chasms of endless nothingness that marked the high point of the pandemic—doesn’t help. But I’ve also noticed this newfound sense of irritability in some of my mates who don’t have kids. They move to another table at the pub because the one next to them is full of dickheads loudly commentating on the cricket. Bitch about the woman next door who fills up the entire recycling bin with Amazon packaging. Maybe we’re all getting older, but we’re only a year older than last year. When it comes to music and films, I still have the taste of an eighth grader. I’d like to think this old man angst doesn’t really track.
All of this is apt timing given that the undisputed king of being ticked off by insignificant things is about to hang up his hat. Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and perhaps the world’s most beloved serial complainer this week announced that the incoming 12th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, his show about how annoying everyone else is, would be his last. David, who among other things, has made spite entertaining, and managed to reposition the loveable Ted Danson as someone to be disliked, has reinforced the idea that the world is full of morons and every day is man’s personal struggle to navigate said morons. David would likely encourage my newfound crabbiness as a sign of personal growth–certainly not a good thing for anyone that lives with or around me.
I’m not really one for resolutions any more. After all, it only took me a few weeks to fail at my own swear jar challenge. But if I had one to keep as we enter the long interregnum between Christmas and the ushering in of another year, it would be to return to the mindset I had when everyday life was whittled down to its essence. To focus on what’s great–my family, health and work–and become less fixated on the guy having a mind-numbingly boring conversation through his car speaker on full volume with his windows down outside my house while I finish off this column.
I think it’ll be a breeze. Yes, that’s my new, un-irritable self talking.