So, I’m sitting at the drive through window flipping through Facebook updates on my phone to kill time while I’m waiting for my heart-attack-in-a-sack. I hear the window flung open accompanied by a grating little squeak as if the building itself can’t do anything more than utter a whimper in tribute to its life as a grease factory. The lackluster girl behind the counter puts her face up to the opening announcing the total with even less joie de vivre than the window if possible. I give her my debit card and she runs it up and down the card machine three times with a well-practiced hand, waits for the receipt to print and then passes the card and tree fodder back out the window with a nasally, “There’s that.” She turns to the soda machine a few steps to her left, grabs the large Coke that I had ordered and passes it to me with another, “There’s that.” A 270° aborted pirouette later and she’s mangling my straw that’s poking out of the top of the sack that’s clutched in her claws as she returns to the window for a final time. “There’s that.” The fastfood girl drifts from the window like a ghost but “There’s that,” simply will not vanish into the night like a good little spectre.
My thoughts turned to the fact that there are some things in this world that simply rub our souls the wrong way. Like my sixth grade teacher who could not abide it when a student would approach from her left hand side. It didn’t matter if your pants were on fire, you had better walk the circumference of that classroom to approach from the correct side or you might as well just sit there and fan the flames yourself. Of course that’s a complete exageration, but that’s the very example that engraved the expression “pet peeve” into my vocabulary. Over the years since that clarion day, I have birthed, raised and nurtured many pet peeves and have even seen a few pass softly into the not-so eternal shrowd of historical context. I could feel in my soul that another had just announced itself to the world – not with the ardent, piercing cry of a newborn, but with the simpering, pitchy voice of a teenage girl. “There’s that.”
In defense of annoying teens and tweens everywhere – I eat out too often. As a single guy, it’s just too convenient, but that exposes me to more than the average share of server hospitality and platitudes. So it appears that over the past few years, I have developed a preternaturally heightened sensitivity to the phrase, “there’s that.” All-in-all it’s a very innocuous expression, but I believe that’s one of the reasons I find it so irritating aside from the fact that I’ve probably heard it a thousand times in the same context. Having minored in creative writing, specificity was one of the key concepts that I took away from my writing classes. “There’s that,” could be the large, caramel-colored Coca-Cola that I ordered or a glass vial of bitter hemlock or worse yet, Diet Coke!
Oddly, if used in the proper context, this is one of my favorite phrases to use in conversation. When ceding a point over a debated topic, “well, there’s that,” tritely rolls off my lips accompanied by a wry smile and a slight clockwise roll of my eyes – while I don’t use it that often, I have perfected the delivery. To my mind, the vague allusion to some overaching idea that I’ve been discussing is appropriate whereas most people deliver that scentiment with a casual indifference to their bastardization of my well-performed turn of phrase. While I’m sure there are any number of other reasons, “there’s that,” is like a cheese grater on the naked flesh of my raw ears when spoken by another I’ve decided to be truculent on creative grounds as a writer and erstwhile performer.
As the gloom of the night and the glow of the streetlamps began to mark the growing distance between my car and the restaurant, I thought to myself, “there’s that,” has now become the most annoying phrase that I have EVER heard. It really had to work at it but it has finally succeeded. Without warning, an unbidden thought swirled behind my eyes, dancing between my ears with a lustful exhuberance that would not be quelled, needing, yearning to be scrutinized. As my consciousness lightly brushed past that thought, “what WAS the most annoying phrase I have ever heard?” A grimace of indiscribable pain contorted my face as my head suddenly reverberated with the force of every memory that had been locked away, every occurance of that dreaded expression that I had thought safely hidden, every delivery, inflection, tone, timber, tried to free themselves from my mind in that one blinding millisecond. The power of those recollections could not be contained in the obscure recesses of my brain and I found myself stopped at a green light screaming through my windshield that dreaded utterance, “SSCCHHWWIIIIIIIINNNNGGGG!!!!”