Since the beginning of time, everybody has gotten on everybody else’s nerves. Nobody is immune from this form of CrankaTsuris. It does not matter if you are a person with a lot of nerve, have some nerve, or have no nerve whatsoever. No matter what category you fit in, sure enough, you will get on somebody’s nerve, and somebody will be getting on your nerves as well. No nerves are required.
When someone gets on your nerves, and invariably let out a CrankaTsuris, you immediately let the other person know how much nerve that person happens to have.
“Let me tell you. You have a lot of nerve to say such a thing!”
“You know, you have some nerve showing up late like this!”
“Do you know what your problem is? You don’t have any nerve!”
It is even possible to have no nerve and have a lot nerve at the same time and then be told that you that you have no nerve and a lot of nerve which gets on a close family member’s nerves, and this family member then proceeds to get on your nerves.
The Yiddish word for nerve is “Chutzpah,” and it is here that we see this play out, and which every Jewish kid got to experience at some point growing up.
“Mother: You know what your problem is? You do not have any Chutzpah. You need to have some Chutzpah. How else are you going to get anywhere in this world if you do not have any Chutzpah? You see your father has chtuzpah. Your brother has chutzpah. Even your baby sister has more chutzpah than you.
Son: Mom! Do I have to hear your Chutzpah speech again? Really? For once, can you just get off my freakin’ back! Enough with the Chutzpah!
Mother: Now, watch your mouth! Don’t be so Chutzpadic with me!”
I first learned about having “a lot of nerve” (and a tremendous amount of chutzpah) was in Fourth Grade. I went to a Jewish School in the South Bronx. This was a school that poor Jewish parents in the Bronx sent their kids to. The rich families all sent their kids to the Riverdale Academy. My family could never afford that.
The School was named Yeshiva Torah V’emunah, and it was run by Ultra-Orthodox rabbis from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I always imagined that the best teachers in Williamsburg actually were able to teach in the many Jewish schools in Williamsburg, and it was the less talented teachers that were sent to the school an hour and a half away by train in the Bronx.
Getting back to Fourth Grade, my teacher was Rabbi Scholar. That was his name, and did not necessarily mean that he was actually a scholar. Rabbi Scholar was a huge man, who would sit in class smoking a cigar, drinking coffee while taking his many medications, and studying the horse race charts while the kids would all read from the Bible.
One day, a student in the class, Manny Cerezo, who was also known as the Puerto Rican Jew because of the fact that he was the only Puerto Rican Jew in the class, walked in late, with a ham and cheese sandwich in his hand.
For those people who may not know, ham is never kosher, and it is also even less kosher, if that is possible, to mix meat and dairy.
Now, if it was bad enough to walk in late into class in a Religious Jewish school with a ham and cheese sandwich, Manny made matters much worse by asking Rabbi Scholar the following question:
“Hey, Rabb…Do you want a bite of my ham and cheese sandwich?”
Rabbi Scholar’s face turned beet red. He proceeded to grab Manny by the shirt collar, and stuffed poor Manny underneath his desk. Rabbi Scholar proceeded to kick Manny for the rest of the morning. Since Rabbi Scholar smoked cigars in class, he used Manny as his ashtray. I sat in the first row, and I heard Manny whimpering the rest of the morning.
Manny had a lot of nerve that morning, and obviously got on Rabbi Scholar’s nerves.
Manny never ate a ham and cheese sandwich ever again.
I learned about having “some nerve” in high school. I went to the Bronx High School of Science, and in my senior year, I was in the Drama Class which meant that I got to be in the school play.
That year, the school play was a musical called “Dark of the Moon.” We all played hillbillies, and there was a drinking scene that the lead members of the cast sang the following chorus:
“We are swillin, always swillin all day and all night long..
We are swillin, always swillin that smokey mountain corn!”
For the first few performances, we pretended to drink this supposedly alcoholic brew. Of course, there was no alcohol in the bottles, but to make it look like “smokey mountain corn”, our bottles were all filled with apple juice. However, for the Sunday matinee, somebody who will go nameless (but, not me!) thought that it would be a fun idea to mix the apple juice with actual alcohol. One cast member put some vodka in each of our bottles. Nobody would ever find out because we would all just drink from the brew from the bottle.
Unfortunately, one cast member who will go nameless (It was not me!) did not want to drink alcohol on stage, and when it was his turn to drink, he shpritzed out of his mouth onto the first row.
More unfortunately, it was our drama teacher who got the alcoholic shower while sitting in the first row. His face turned beet red.
The next day, we were all summoned to the Principal’s Office. We were told:
“You kids have some nerve doing a stunt like that on stage!”
The next day, me and the other cast members were given bottles of turpentine and our punishment was that we had to clean all the graffiti off of the school building for the rest of the school year during recess.
We became known as the “anti-graffiti team” and I was appointed team captain. The only problem was that everybody in the school knew about the alcohol episode, and kids started calling me “Turpentine”.
Some kids would shout at me while I was scrubbing the graffiti off of the school walls:
“Hey, Turpentine! Do you need a shot glass for your turpentine? You are looking thirsty!”
It turns out that teenagers happen to have a lot of nerve. I tried really hard not to let these taunts get to my nerves. I do have to admit, though. There were many days I came close to pouring a bottle of turpentine over the Shot Glass Kid.
We learned that “having some nerve” has its consequences. We also learned that having some nerve definitely got on to many peoples’ nerves.
In my professional life as an attorney, the people who get on my nerves the most are those people who do not have any nerves. They are unable to make any decision. They are always asking which way to go, and what to do. “Should I go left or should I go right? If I put one foot in front of the other, should I put the left foot in front of the right foot, or do I put the right foot in front of the left?”
These people who happen to have no nerve and therefore, are unable to make any decision even to go to the bathroom, also happen to be very nervous all the time. They walk around spreading their nervous energy which ends up getting on my nerves.
What makes it even worse is the fact that these people with no nerves whatsoever happen to be attorneys. This fact always puzzles me. You see, I went to law school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. We were all taught during the first year of law school how to get on peoples’ nerves. We were all taught during the second year how to rub people the wrong way. For the third and final year of law school, we were all taught on how to get under people’s skin.
These attorneys are expected to be professionals on getting on people’s nerves, rubbing them the wrong way, and getting under people’s’ skin. However, the only time when they utilize this skill is when they send out the legal bill for their professional services that clearly did not exhibit the fact that they had any nerve whatsoever other than when they got to act very very nervous.
I also have this observation. When somebody gets on our nerves, we never inform the other person that they are actually on our nerves. Rather, we only inform this person that they are merely getting on our nerves, as if to say that they have not quite landed yet.
However, they have landed.
“Mission Control: This annoying person has landed!
Annoyed Person: One small step on man’s brain. One giant step on mankind’s brain.”
Oy. I am getting such a headache!
We only express to other people that a person got on our nerves after we took some drastic action.
“Why did you dump the guy?
He got on my nerves.”
In the late 70s in the Bronx, the most notorious crime family was known as the Bronx Bombers. They were tough and ruthless and they were led by Big Boss Billy. Big Boss Billy became the big boss because he knew how to get on peoples’ nerves. He knew how to rub people the wrong way. He knew how to get under peoples’ skin. Because of this, nobody crossed Big Boss Billy.
Big Boss Billy’s top enforcer was Fatty Patty, who got the nickname “Fatty Patty Melt”. One day, Fatty Patty Melt came to Big Boss Billy, and he told him that he no longer had the nerves to be the top enforcer.
Fatty Patty Melt told Big Boss Billy:
“My nerves are completely shot!”
This apparently got on Big Boss Billy’s nerves, and one day, Fatty Patty Melt was nowhere to be seen.
After a couple of weeks, Little Johnny came into Big Boss Billy’s office and asked about Fatty Patty Melt.
“Little Johnny: So, what happened to Fatty Patty Melt?
Big Boss Billy: He told me that his nerves were completely shot! My top enforcer. That got on my nerves. If I kept him on, it would start to rub me the wrong way, and after that, if I did nuttin, it would start to get under my skin.
Little Johnny: You definitely do not want Fatty Patty Melt under your skin, Billy. So what happened to Fatty Patty Melt?
Big Boss Billy: Let me just say this. May Fatty Patty melt in pieces, if you get the drift.
Little Johnny: Yeah. May Fatty Patty melt in peace.”
As all these stories tell you, no matter the amount of nerves or the lack thereof, we get on each other’s nerves. There is no way out. It leads to a “Get on My Nerves CrankaTsuris.” This condition can be dangerous for the person suffering from this condition or the person who is on the receiving end of this CrankaTsuris. Because of this, it needs to be dealt with as well.
Otherwise, you find yourself telling your own story of Poor Fatty Patty Melt.
This does not mean that there is a sure fire way of ending the Getting on My Nerves CrankaTsuris. There is no known cure. However, there is good news. Since we all get on each other’s nerves, we need to acknowledge this fact. If someone gets on your nerves, you cannot react as if you are a virgin when it comes to getting on other peoples’ nerves. Face it. You are just as annoying as everyone else.
With this acknowledgement, it starts to soften up when other people get on your nerves. You can even make a bit light. When do you get on peoples’ nerves? When do you rub people the wrong way? When do you get under someone’s skin?
Write this list with your partner. Have your partner make his or her own list. Compare the lists. “I get on your nerves when..” This is not the “You get on my nerves” list. However, this list is about acknowledgement. Maybe, there are a couple of things you can take off. Maybe, there are some things that the two annoying people can agree to leave on.
When you do this, have a glass of wine, and remember, this is being done in all good fun. And most importantly, remember to laugh at your self a bit here.
As Oscar Wilde once said “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
And perhaps, that is the cure for “Getting on My Nerves CrankaTsuris.”