TIP OF THE WEEK: Pay attention to what annoys you

You’ve probably given some thought to the big things that make you angry – racism, sexism, poverty, broken health care systems, to name just a few. But what about the things that simply bug you? This week I’ve been thinking about how often these provide fertile ground—and sometimes an opportunity to use humor to address larger issues.

Consider this Slate piece that came through my Facebook feed with the great headline “My question is the following statement.” The author took this familiar irritation as his subject, diving down in an effort to discover what’s really going on here. (People—including editors—love pieces about how people (aka all of us) really work.)

I’m also a fan of pieces that bring us together through a shared sense of life’s absurdities—a brief respite from the world’s many dangers and demands. One of my faves in recent weeks: this (to my mind hilarious) Awl essay entitled “The Vast Bay Leaf Conspiracy.”

And perhaps my all-time favorite comes from a Columbia Public Voices Fellow I worked with last year, who was irritated to find the free snack she was accustomed to receiving on U.S.-Asia flights had been eliminated. She sent me an email saying in essence: “The flight attendant was sympathetic and told me I should complain to corporate. But I had a better idea.” She attached a draft to what became this CNN op-ed.  Especially impressive is how she ties this minor annoyance to a much bigger issue as reflected in the headline, “What our airlines say about America.”

The above is an excerpt from OpEd Project leader Amy Gutman’s weekly missive to our 20 Dartmouth Public Voices fellows


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