Knowing When to Stop

Everyone admires the self starter, that man or woman who, without hint or directive, can voluntarily tackle a task needing doing. The self-starter can launch into a project and have the job half done before we laggarts have recognized a need for action.

Yes, we all admire self starters, and the world undoubtedly would benefit if we had more of them.

But if you ask me (and no one has), what this old world needs more than more self starters are people who know when to stop. It seems to me a lot of so-called activities continue unabated by people who have forgotten or never learned how to cease and desist. To illustrate, please consider the following situations:

The compulsive talker

Some people begin a conversation with nary an exit strategy in mind. The discourse takes on a life of its own, with one subject or anecdote launching another and that one yet another, with scarcely a pause for breath. The captive audience resembles so many fish with mouths agape as they strive to get in a word or two themselves, such as: "Shut up, already!"

We all admire self starters: if only they knew when to stop.

The cell phone addict

Addict? Read that as a plural. Laws to the contrary notwithstanding, people continue to cell phone each other while negotiating congested traffic. Perhaps they see it as a defense mechanism, for knowledgable drivers give the cell phoners ample highway space, just in case. Equally annoying as the mobile cell phoner are those who can't let their cell phones cool off while in a restaurant or other gathering place. Those nearby, trying to enjoy a quiet meal, for instance, find their ears accosted from all sides with mostly unintelligible snippets of conversations they find impossible to ignore, impossible to comprehend. So, all you cell phone addicts: "Give your phones a break! At the count of ten, close them up! TEN!"

The road warrior

You know the type. He (sorry, guys, "he" fits the bill 90% of the time) floorboards the fuel pedal the instant the light turns green and roars through the intersection. He weaves in and out of traffic, causing consternation right and left. As you ease up to the next stop light, guess whose vehicle you find next to yours? The road warriors! Apparently he did not make it in time to catch the green. So, does he sit quietly waiting for the light to change? Not he. He can't keep his heavy foot off the throttle. His car or truck rocks back and forth under the surge of his constantly revved-up engine. His hands grip the steering wheel as he prepares for the next take off. The vehicle rocks and roars and revs. "So, all you would-be bomber pilots out there revving your engines: Join the Air Force! They need you!"

The TV channel changer

Give some people access to the TV remote and they go berserk. The channels flicker by faster than power poles past a speeding car. Does the remote control person pause long enough for anyone to analyze or voice an opinion on a program? Indeed not. By the time the remote control controller returns to the original channel, a new flood of commercials will have arrived. So off we go again, clickety clacking through the channels, a process guaranteeing maximum commercial viewing and fleeting glimpses of the programs others might wish to see. You can put a stop to this nonsense before it begins: "Hey there! Have cleaver! Touch remote, draw back bloody stump!"

The long goodbye

The party has ended, but some partiers linger on and linger on to say goodbye, say goodbye, say goodbye. Each goodbye fosters a lengthy discourse on the last party, the state of the weather, the wonderful food consumed at this party, how late it's gotten to be, who's coming to the next party, the state of the weather (for by now it has changed significantly), the state of politics, and did we mention the food we enjoyed tonight? "Please! When you say goodbye, mean goodbye! And remove your foot: we're closing the door!"

There you have it: five superstars in the world of compulsive behavior. Once started, they never quit. While those around them smolder in frustrated silence, they go on and on, on and on -- talking, phoning, revving, remoting and goodbying. But now I must stop, lest you conclude I have an incurable tendancy for ranting.

A Bit of Peace and Quiet
A Bit of Peace and Quiet

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