Exasperation Majors: Fall 2010 Courses

Posted on July 14, 2010

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This is a trick question. The man is riled (B). The woman is vexed (D). The teacher is discouraged, disheartened, and disappointed (not shown).

There are people who are rarely bothered by anything. They float through life like one of those new car models in the wind tunnel, all aerodynamic and smooth. When something unpleasant happens, they step aside and keep on humming. When someone else is rude or obnoxious, they shrug their shoulders and wish them a good day. When they burn the cookies or get a flat tire or find themselves stuck behind a bad driver, they smile.

I hate those people.

I am an open wound rolling around in a field of poison ivy, broken glass, and barbed wire. In other words, I am affected by everything, and usually not in a good way. If I’m in that wind tunnel, I’ve got all of my doors wide open and there’s a Christmas tree tied to the roof. You know that expression, “water off a duck’s back”? Water never rolls off my back. I’m like one of those quilted paper towels. Or a sponge. No, memory foam: I soak that water up and never let it go.

Now the people I first mentioned, the ones who float through life, they’re unusual. Most people are normal and get annoyed by things at appropriate levels. They can forget some things, react a little to others, and get really steamed once in a while. I may not be normal, but my attitude isn’t unique either. There are a few of us sprinkled throughout the population. We are the ones who have figured out what’s wrong with the world and could fix it all if everyone else would just listen. (Well, we could probably fix something if someone would listen.) (Hey, are you still reading this?)

I recently became acquainted with another blogger, and fellow crank, and commented that she and I were far beyond just having the attitude; we could teach college courses in it. Naturally, no sooner had I typed the words than my idiot brain, not caring that I have eleven or twelve really important things to do, started thinking about what such courses might be like. And hours later and with those same eleven or twelve things still undone, here is what I came up with. These are the courses I could teach, or this other blogger could teach, or we could teach together, assuming we didn’t get on each other’s nerves too much. They’re for anyone who wishes to stop all the humming and smiling and get real. Who wants to move beyond the occasional annoyance of normal people and become one of us. Anyone, in short, who thinks, “Hey, my life seems pretty good right now. I must have missed something.” This program is for Exasperation majors, with a minor in Crabbiness.

Course descriptions:

Intro to Irritation (3 credits)
This entry-level course divides modern society into five general categories: Family Life, Transportation, Politics, Education, and Oral Hygiene. Students will be required to create a collage depicting the ten most irritating people or events in their lives. (The fact that they’re taking a post-secondary course and are still cutting out pictures from magazines can be included in the collage itself.) An essay will be assigned for each of the categories. Possible topics include: How Close I Came to Actually Killing My Little Brother; Why Windshield Wipers Always Break When It’s Raining; I Keep Voting for the Loser; My Math Teacher Wears the Same Shirt Every Day; and Is She Really Going to Explain How To Floss Again?

Annoyance in Prehistoric Cultures (4 credits)
An exploration of ancient civilizations and their treatment of vexatious events. Focus will be on theory as well as physical evidence in answering the following questions: Why does pottery always break? Making fire: wouldn’t matches be a lot easier? Does the goatskin loincloth give everyone a rash, or is it me? When are comfortable shoes going to be invented, maybe something with an arch? Is there a fair way to divide up a deer among an odd number of hunter-gatherers? Why aren’t there more land bridges? Did no one see this Ice Age coming?

Philosophy of Classical Aggravation (4 credits)
Our understanding of annoyance in everyday life has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome. Discussions will include Plato and Socrates and why they couldn’t stand each other; man’s search for meaning, and how lawyers use Latin phrases as a way to help; and the role of the catapult in dealing with stress. The following questions will also be addressed: Are pet peeves imaginary or do they exist in the real world? Which gods’ names can be safely taken in vain, and when? Why does the universe exist, and could it have been located somewhere else, maybe someplace with more parking?

From Gaul to Galling: The Peskiest Events in the History of Western Europe (5 credits)
Session I: The Huns invade from the East, bringing with them bad table manners and an inability to wait their turn. Session II: The Visigoths settle in Roman territory and immediately begin renaming everything. Session III: The Vandals attack Italy, running all over the place and completely ruining the basil crop. Session IV: The bubonic plague causes unusually long wait times at doctors’ offices, and greatly expands the fine print in health insurance policies.

You Say Perturbed, I Say Disturbed (4 credits)
This intermediate course examines the ways in which humans differ in their sensitivity and response to unpleasant events, with special attention paid to married couples. Topics include: Does dirty laundry belong on the floor? You’re crazy: I never said any such thing! And, it’s your turn to watch Sleeping Beauty with her; I’m moving to Argentina. As a final project, students will analyze the film, Making the Bed: What’s the Point? Anyone talking out loud, coughing a lot, or using their cell phone during the movie will receive extra credit.

Frustration and the Modern World (5 credits)
During this eight-week advanced course, students will be subjected to the most maddening aspects of 21st-century life, including repetitive television commercials, attempts to mail a package from the post office, and waiting on line at the supermarket the day before a blizzard. Field trips to the motor vehicle department and a daycare center are also scheduled, with special attention to speed bumps and one-way streets.

Nervous Breakdown (6 credits)
Taken only with the permission of the instructor. In part one, students will write and perform a thirty-minute monologue, dramatizing every single thing that has ever bothered them, from diaper rash to tuition increases. In part two, they will imagine and act out irritating incidents that have never actually happened to anyone (but could possibly happen), and how they would react to them. Participants will be graded based on eye twitching, hyperventilation, elevated blood pressure, and dangerously-high heart rates achieved. Near-death experiences will qualify students for the post-graduate program.

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