assembling a Shovel List to keep tabs on Covid-era annoyances

I have been feeling increasingly fed up this week. It could be the colder weather, the dark sky falling earlier and earlier with each passing day. Or maybe it’s because Covid seems to be creeping closer; anecdotally, I know more people now who have the virus than ever before.

A friend messaged me from her sick-bed to say how exhausted and miserable she is, warning me to be careful. “You don’t want to get this, Louise,” she said, and I agreed. The thought of isolating for two weeks is one thing, I could get over that. It’s the prospect of losing my sense of smell and taste that horrifies me. 

That’s the only good thing about being ill — the creamy scrambled eggs loaded onto buttered toast, the chicken soup, the mashed potatoes, the cups of hot chocolate. What comfort can be had when comfort food tastes of nothing?

So, here we are. Facing into another winter of discontent. To put myself in a better mood, I started to write a Shovel List. (For those of you who are unaware, it comes from The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes where Helen, the main character, keeps a list “of all the people and things I hate so much that I want to hit them in the face with a shovel”.) 

It was oddly soothing so I decided I would share it with you in case you wanted inspiration for a list of your own.

1. Multiple hashtags on Instagram. 

For some reason, people who use twenty hashtags — most of which are incredibly intricate to the point where they’re writing things like #MotherOfFiveSonsNoDaughtersButThatsOkayILoveMySonsAnywayTheyAreGreatIPromise #SonsCanBeCoolToo #Dinosaurs #Tractors #BoyMom #FiveBoys — make me want to scream into the abyss. When I am benevolent dictator of this country, you will be allowed two hashtags. Use them sparingly.

2. People who fall asleep quickly. 

It has come to my attention that there are men and women in the world who turn off the light and fall asleep within seconds of their head hitting the pillow. I hate those people. As someone who spends, on average, between 30 and 45 minutes trying to drift off, I am deeply resentful of anyone who says cheerfully “I could fall asleep standing up!” Oh, could you Mark?

Do you want to know what it’s like in my world? I’m about to drift off and suddenly remember something excruciatingly embarrassing that I did when I was 22 and have a full body cringe and have to spend the next hour reassuring myself that no one else remembers what I said at 2am in July 2007? Do you?

3. People saying “Not an ad!” when talking about a product they use on social media. 

You have 25 followers, my friend. I admire the confidence.

4. Brightly coloured, American tan, or sheer tights. 

Black tights are the only acceptable option. This is law.

5. Not letting people enjoy things.

Now, I’m aware this contradicts everything I’ve said above — I’m nothing if not inconsistent — but if someone says they love something, whether that’s a book or a film or a TV show, there is nothing more unpleasant than someone else insisting they’re wrong and explaining in great detail why. Let people love what they love. We all need to take our joy where we can find it.

6. The comment section on the Irish Times Home Facebook page. 

I get it, property is expensive. I am also appalled by the lack of value in the market and I, too, believe the government needs to do something to address the housing crisis. 

But please stop screaming “800k for a crappy three bed semi-d!!!!” on a painstakingly refurbished Victorian terraced house and sharing links for a five-hundred-acre farm in Offaly that costs €20. You’re being deliberately obtuse.

7. Pretending that a ‘healthy’ alternative to a Snickers bar is just as tasty as the original thing. 

It’s not. Unless you have a medical condition that precludes it, eat the Snickers. Life is too short to be messing around with Carob and agave syrup.

8. Not taking the compliment.

If you rebut my compliment vehemently — “what? this RAG? I found it in a dumpster near my house, I’m almost blinded by how HIDEOUS it is.” — you’re implying I have bad taste. Please don’t do that. Smile, say thank you, and let’s all move on with our lives.

9. Phone calls.

Anyone who phones rather than sends a text message is immediately on my shovel list. The audacity! You don’t know my life. I could be busy! Okay, I’m probably just sitting on the couch with my dog, reading, but that’s not the point. 

There was a recent report of a hiker who was lost on Mount Elbert, one of Colorado’s highest mountains, for 24 hours, because he ignored repeated phone calls from rescuers as they were from an unknown number. I have never felt so connected to another human being in my entire life.

10. People who still don’t know how to unmute themselves on Zoom calls. 

It’s been two years of this shit. You have no excuse.

(PS: If any of the above has made you want to add me to your Shovel List, I apologise.)

Louise Says:

Read: A Single Thread of Moonlight by Laura Wood. This book is like Cinderella meets Bridgeton and it’s irresistibly romantic. Pure swoon and the perfect escapist read.

Listen: Power Hour with Adrienne Herbert. As a self-proclaimed morning person, I really enjoyed this podcast diving into the morning routines of coaches, thought leaders, and change-makers.

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