In the pursuit of a good column, I often ask my friends and acquaintances for help in choosing a topic. For whatever reason, the most common suggestion is to write about how much people suck. Finally, I decided to honor their request, and the easiest way seemed to be to point out the types of people to whom they referred. The problem is, I”ve made a concerted effort to keep this space profanity free. Therefore, in lieu of its more profane anatomical cousin, I will use the term “sphincter” to describe unpleasant people.
The first category that bears discussion is the dumb sphincters. By dumb, I”m not referring to true intelligence, but rather the inability to grasp the basic concepts of day-to-day life. These are the people who are so generally dumb that their mere presence serves as an irritant. The best way to identify one of them is through your reaction. If you shake your head and rub your eyes every time a particular person says or does something, there is a good chance that he or she is a dumb sphincter. A prime example is that person who, even though the semester is nearly over, still gets phone calls during class on a regular basis.
At the same time, someone who perpetrates that specific act could also fit into the classification of cell-phone sphincters. These are individuals whose cell-phone use has exceeded the limits of reason, pushing them from the ridiculous to the sublime. In particular, this category applies to people who talk on the phone while in a bathroom stall. I cannot conceive what is so fantastically important that it would take precedence over the business at hand. And that”s not even my biggest concern. If something is so important that you must interrupt your bodily functions for it, do you really want to hear about it while your pants are around your ankles? Astonishing.
As exemplified by the cell-phone category, sometimes sphincters can be defined by their technology and/or possessions. This brings us to another favorite, automotive sphincters, a classification that can further be broken down into “bad drivers” and “obnoxious drivers.” Bad drivers are a real pain due largely to their unpredictability. Turns from the wrong lane are a large part of their repertoire, as are unnecessarily sudden stops. They are easily recognizable by their inability to comprehend the concept of “gridlock” and its causes. Some may say that bad drivers don”t count as sphincters because it”s not their fault. I say, if they were genuinely concerned for the rest of us, they would recognize their faults behind the wheel and seek alternate modes of transportation.
No such argument can even be attempted for obnoxious drivers, many of whom are actually good drivers. The problem is that due to their perceived superiority, many good drivers opt to drive like, well, raging sphincters. These are the people who refuse to acknowledge that pedestrians do in fact have the right of way. Signs for easy identification include screeching tires, a blaring horn and an extended middle finger. A New Jersey license plate is also a good indication that the driver will be this sort of automotive sphincter.
Another characteristic shared by many obnoxious drivers is a certain arrogance. This may be a sign that they are also arrogant sphincters. These are a particularly insidious group of sphincters. Not only do they think they”re better than the rest of us, but they are determined to make that view apparent through their spoken and physical manner. You”ll know arrogant sphincters by the way they walk with their noses turned up, allowing them to avoid eye contact with us common people while at the same time looking down on us. More so than the other categories, arrogant sphincters tend to stick to their own kind, often congregating in similarly attired packs. In this situation, what appears to be a total lack of original thought is in fact a visual and verbal representation of the group”s perceived superiority.
Other than the general irritation factor, there is another problem with arrogant sphincters. Often, they will have some characteristic in common, which allows prejudicial sphincters to reach unfair generalizations about larger groups. An on-campus example of prejudicial sphincters in action is when fraternities and the Greek system as a whole are lambasted for the actions of one individual. The thought process of a typical prejudicial sphincter can be characterized as “well, if one of them (blanks), then all of them must (blank), so they all must suck.”
Fortunately, there are some people out there working to keep all of the other sphincters in line. I”m referring, of course, to sarcastic/obnoxious sphincters. As their name would suggest, these people tend to be extremely sarcastic and obnoxious, usually at the expense of some other poor sphincter. What makes this group special is that they recognize (and often revel in) the fact that they are indeed sphincters. Depending on the circumstances, this can make sarcastic/obnoxious sphincters either the most or least tolerable form of sphincter to be around.
There, in a nutshell, is a classification of the various kinds of sphincters on this campus. It is, however, far from a complete list. Who did I miss? What did I get wrong? Since so many people requested this topic, I”m sure lots of you have feedback, and I welcome it. If you do choose to respond to me, please, I only ask one favor of you: whatever you do, don”t be an asshole.
Steven Kyritz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.