You’d think, says Spa! (Aug 1), that maturity would mellow us, but a survey it conducts of 200 salarymen in their 30s and 40s reveals, on the contrary, irritability intensifying, not subsiding, with age. Perhaps it’s not surprising. So many people living and working together under so much pressure with so little space between them are bound to get on each other’s nerves. Maybe the wonder is that somehow in spite of everything peace prevails. If the exasperated feelings we repress, at the cost of so much stress, were ever released, social and economic life would become impossible.
Of the 200 polled, 116 report rising irritability (49 considerably, 67 somewhat), as against 14 who say they are mellowing (only two considerably). Three venues in particular, it seems, bring out the worst in us: the workplace, the commuter train, and one of the places we go, supposedly, to get away from all that: the izakaya (pub).
It’s the little things that get you. The smell of the office toilet; the idiot in the elevator who, as though on purpose, stands right in front of the panel when you’re trying to push your floor number; the new employee who shies away from the phone when it rings; the colleague who collars you and talks your ear off endlessly about nothing – doesn’t he have work to do? You certainly do!
That’s the workplace. On the train, there’s the idiot who stands right in front of the door even though he’s not getting off, as you are trying to do; the fellow-passenger standing, as luck would have it, right next to you and announcing into his cell phone, “I can’t talk now, I’m on the train” – and then launching into a conversation just as though he were in his own private living room; the oaf spreading his legs across a seat and a half, forcing you to shrivel into half a seat – and so on and so on.
At the izakaya – well, you gesture, call, shout, in vain: the waiter or waitress simply will not notice you. Then there’s the celebration going on at the next table. They’re having a good time, more power to them, but couldn’t they show a little consideration for the other customers, yourself among them, who had looked forward to a quiet pint after a hard day?
Well, you’ve somehow survived your day’s work, the train at last pulls in to your station and disgorges you into your very own neighborhood, a short walk will take you to your very own house – release! Relief! Right? Wrong. You drop into the local convenience store for cigarettes or whatever. You’re standing at the counter. Where is everybody? Where is somebody? It’s the izakaya all over again. “Sumimasen! (Excuse me!)” Finally somebody comes. You pay, leave, get home – only to be reminded that all is not quite well on the home front. There’s the wife who refuses to acknowledge that you do help with the housework whenever you can, and if you don’t do more, it’s only because you have a job that demands attention, too. Or she’s in a bad mood about something – she’s making it as obvious as she can – but about what? She refuses to say. “Nothing, nothing,” she says, implying that if you weren’t such a blockhead, you wouldn’t have to ask. Or this little feminine trick: pretending to address the children, she lets it all out: “Your father is impossible!” – for this, that and the other reason. You sigh, excuse yourself, retire to a secluded part of the house (if any) and take out the smartphone.
But here too, Spa! finds, irritations abound. You input your data to get into this or that site, only to be admonished, “Invalid user name” – you have to do it all over again. Or you check into the Line message app and find no shortage of messages but nothing of even slight interest.
Hey, none of this is serious. Spa! suggests “the 6-second rule”: when you feel your anger rising, choke on it for six seconds – you’ll find it gone; maybe you’ll even laugh at yourself for overreacting to nothing. That’s good. It’ll help you to sleep. But then you wake up next morning and it begins all over again.© Japan Today