Don't bug me!
These days, we're pestered by so many irritants that it's a real bother trying not to get exasperated.
(''Don't be such a grumpy, old man!" Pardon me. That was my wife, who is looking over my shoulder as I write.)
You want to see grumpy? There's a whole science behind what bugs us and why.
Great. Researchers won't even let us get peeved by pet nuisances without turning it into a science project. They'll probably test us on it, too.
(My wife: ''Tests are fun.'')
Oh, you were one of THOSE pesky students. Figures.
Anyway, to be clear, I am not talking about the fossil of an ant as big as a hummingbird that was found in Wyoming. Bruce Archibald, a paleoentomologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, announced last week that the monster ant was 2 inches long.
(''Wow! That would bug me.'')
That's another thing that beleaguers me - I warm up to a topic and my wife changes its direction.
Look, when I said ''bug,'' I didn't mean a bug bug, but a bugging kind of bug. Got it?
(''A dinosaur ant in the house still would bug me.'')
If you must read over my shoulder, pay attention. I wasn't talking about dinosaurs. I was talking about bugs. I mean, things that bug us.
Anyway, a new book called ''Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us'' was written by a couple of NPR guys named Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman.
(''Is NPR still on the air?'')
We are not talking about perturbing public radio with funding cuts. We are talking about the science of what bugs us. Please stop interrupting.
According to the authors from NPR, which may or may not still be on the air ...
(''I just checked. They're on. Want to listen?'')
Not now! Anyway, the science of annoyance says that to be buggy, a thing should be ''temporary, unpleasant and unpredictable, like a boring meeting or mosquito bites.''
(''Or ant bites. From giant, dinosaur ants.'')
Um, yeah. So, think about the guy at the restaurant talking on the cell phone. People at other tables are talking to each other. Why is it that only the cell phone talker chafes the soul?
(''Maybe he's calling the exterminator for the dinosaur ants.'')
It is not! It's because phone talkers practically shout, and usually about things we don't care to know. Palca and Lichtman say it fits the description of unpleasant and temporary. We hope it's temporary. Actually, we don't know how long the call will last and can't do anything about it.
(''We could send the dinosaur ants over to carry away the phone.'')
Hmm. Wait, they're fossils! As I was saying... another reason phone calls bug us is it is impossible not to listen. We're hardwired to follow conversations. We can't turn them off. And when half of the conversation is missing and there's no way we can understand what's going on and we wished the person would just shut up, it's particularly agitating.
(''Then it's a good thing that everyone can hear both sides of this conversation.'')
Actually, I was thinking... um, never mind.
(''People can be annoying. Deal with it.'')
Sigh. That's the true science of it all.
----- Bug Cole at email@example.com or on his Burton W. Cole Facebook fan page.