Bob Franken: The no Thanksgiving

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014 4:25pm
  • Opinion

As even-handed as I try to be, it is time to be fair and balanced about Thanksgiving, meaning we should give equal time to the unthankful side, with the traditional discussion of my pet peeves. This is not a comprehensive list, because I have so many pet peeves you could fill up a peeve petting zoo with them.

For starters, there’s that annoying presidential turkey pardon. Each year, since the Bush I administration, POTUS holds a White House ceremony to spare a couple of the birds, so they end up in some nearby park instead of on a platter, unlike the millions of others that are engorged each year.

Perhaps it’s to store energy for Black Friday. Put that on my hit list. Why do people voluntarily risk their lives in dangerous, stampeding crowds to holiday shop on that one day, when most of the bargains are overhyped at best. Speaking of which, note that I used the word “holiday.” That’s an intentional effort to rile up those who get obnoxious when someone decides to be sensitive to others’ beliefs or nonbeliefs by not specifying Christmas during the Yuletide season. That doesn’t mean, as some of them rage, that there is any “War on Christmas.” To be honest, I believe what they’re doing when they raise a ruckus is conducting a war on religious freedom.

Did you notice my phrase “To be honest”? That’s another one: As if I’m going to let you know I’m lying. It’s just one of those expressions that are completely empty or transparently insincere.

One of my favorite unfavorites is the one we all get when we’re leaving someone and he or she says, “Have a nice day.” Just once, I’d love to hear someone hope out loud that I have a real crummy rest of the day, that I twist my ankle or something. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? Of course, when we meet up, one or both of us greet the other with “How’re you doing?” Put that in the same category as emails that invariably begin with, “I hope you are well.” We couldn’t care less about how the other is doing or how well we are. Admit it.

But we dutifully answer, “Fine” even if we’re going through a terrible divorce, have filed for bankruptcy and actually did twist our ankle as we came from our last encounter. It’s meaningless.

What’s even worse is when someone responds and then adds, “Thank you for asking.” For a while I would snap, “And thank you for thanking me,” but I got tired of the blank stares.

Moving right along: This one will be a bit controversial, but I really dislike hyphenated names. I fully support the idea that each spouse should keep his or her own surname, but what about the kid? What happens when “The One” also has a hyphenated name? What’s the etiquette? Do the offspring have four last names? It can get pretty cumbersome. I’m having trouble just saying “he or she” so I can be politically correct.

Maybe the spouses stick with their name coming in to the marriage, and each child is assigned the one from the parent of the same gender, if there is one. Or the couple can agree on one, without any assumption that it will be the male’s. Just some compromise possibilities.

Actually, the lack of political compromise is one of my pettest peeves of all (a new word is born): It’s the mindless refusal of our political leaders to seek out a middle ground. They talk about being adults, but they just can’t seem to pull it off.

We can pardon all the turkeys we want, but we certainly shouldn’t extend any to our politicians. Their behavior is peevishly unpardonable.

So there you have it, this year’s annual pet peeve rant — first annual, I might add. And have a nice day.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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