I get irritated more easily than most people--and "irritation" is exactly the word for what I feel: an itchy inability to bear whatever it is for another moment.
Anyone who is at all intimate with me knows this--and knows, equally well, to ignore me when I leap up, flapping my arms in agitation and crying, "I hate it! I hate it!"
"Yes, Flavia," my friends say. "I know you do."
Victoria calls this my "finely-tuned annoyingness radar," which may be a more charitable description than it deserves. I don't react strongly to obvious tics or nervous habits--perhaps on the understanding that those aren't fully under a person's control--but other, seemingly more innocuous behaviors send me into fits. "WHY," I ask, "does so-and-so DO THAT? It's awful. It's annoying. It's counterproductive and socially hostile."
(Rarely are these things that bother other people. When I begin a sentence with, "don't you hate it when. . . ?", the answer, usually, is "no.")
I've recently rediscovered that one of the things that sets off my radar is a certain kind of academic writing. I'm not talking about the kind of academic writing that we all hate and all make fun of; I mean writing that is self-consciously not that kind of writing: writing that is almost quite good, but that cherishes its goodness a little too much, massaging an extended metaphor here and an exotic phrasing there--and altogether filling my nostrils with the sickly-sweet smell of self-love.
I hate that shit. And me being me, I have to respond. "Yuck," I write in the margins of one page, and "Are you fucking kidding me??" at the top of another. I corner my colleagues in the office, shaking an open book at them. "Will you LISTEN to this?" I say. "It's so awful. I have to read it to you!"
The itch must be scratched. But I fear I'm already a terrible, terrible crank.