My apologies for dampening the cheer of this holiday season. Of late, I have been irritated and annoyed – just one of those weeks, I guess. Even the adjectives irritated and annoyed have been irritating and annoying.
My parents often reacted similarly to daily life. My father was a man of few words and blunt talk: when riled, he sought solitude in the barn with his ladies-of-the-moo or on a tractor circling some field. Mother, ever the nuanced vocabulist, was more likely to be provoked or irked: an understandable response to a troop of pesky daughters too often underfoot in her kitchen.
However, my parents’ outmoded participles – riled, provoked, irked – seem no more effective than irritated or annoyed. I checked my running list of perfectly-good words that long ago fell by the wayside, and there it was. Vexed! Events have been vexing me. I have felt vexed. Realizing the extent of my recent vexation, I shall commence with the venting.
I have been majorly vexed, for example, by those incessant Medicare commercials airing for several weeks now, the ones promising an entire array of $0 benefits. I have ruined the mute button on my remote shielding myself from the red-white-blue insurance pitches with phone numbers positioned right above the tiniest of fine print. Thankfully, the enrollment deadline has passed; I simply cannot listen to Joe Namath even one more time.
These vexing commercials have been rivaled only by the non-stop robocalls about car warranty renewals and cruises I have won. Well, I am proud to report I outsmarted one of them. Occasionally unable to resist answering a scam call for the sole purpose of yelling at a disembodied voice, I speak very sternly in German, demanding the name of the speaker and the purpose of the call. With impeccable timing the other day, I inserted my foreign phrases into one of those supposedly natural-sounding chat calls. The guy’s voice finally interrupted, expressed thanks for my time, and hung up – on me. Ha! Victory against vexation!
Regrettably, my excitement was short-lived. I have been miffed – another great synonym for vexed – since Thanksgiving. My all-time favorite holiday commercial, the 30-year-old classic of the Hershey Kiss bell choir playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” has been unnecessarily altered. Oh, the little girl reaching in for a chocolate kiss to top her peanut butter cookie is cute enough, and the scene with her father heartwarming. The company, it seems, decided this year to honor holiday baking traditions. Bah, humbug! Their feeble attempt to improve upon perfection – or to sell more product – is downright vexing. Their new version is now on a par with the annual Chia Pet commercials!
Of course, I could turn off the television, but I prefer listening to programs as I knit children’s hats to donate to CT COMM and the Caring Kitchen. Seven winter caps from my goal, I have had to pause for a week to clear up my self-diagnosed case of carpal-tunnel-shoulder caused by overenthusiastic stitch-making: simply a minor setback not rising to the level of true vexation.
While I knit, Jeopardy! runs each evening in the background. I am savoring Alex Trebek’s last few appearances, anticipating former mega-champion Ken Jennings’ stint as interim host in January, and gleaning interesting information always in the form of a question. Last week I learned how the Rotary Club was named. In 1905 four Chicagoans with businesses in the same building founded the now-international service organization. They convened weekly, rotating among their offices for meetings – thus, the name. Who knew?
Even at my most vexed, music calms me and lightens my mood. As expressed by the 15th century British poet/playwright William Congreve: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast…” To that end, I have stockpiled a small collection of favorite songs specifically for vexing weeks.
In fact, I have played one a dozen times already this Christmas season. As unlikely as it sounds, the talented Chorus Niagara from Ontario, Canada, several years ago performed Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” as a flash mob in a food court. Having sung the piece in high school under Ruth Peirson’s direction, I know enough to be impressed by their acapella performance so professionally accomplished without sheet music in a noisy shopping mall. To enjoy their presentation, type Christmas Food Court Flash Mob into the YouTube search box.
This past fall I discovered a lovely virtual choir performance. The One Voice Children’s Choir, organized to sing for the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 with an appearance on America’s Got Talent seven years later, inspired me with their rendition of “Memories.” The song, as originally recorded by Maroon 5, seems darker and starker than the children’s sweetly-upbeat version. Type One Voice Children’s Choir Memories into YouTube’s search box.
I saved the best for last. A Facebook post led me to a performance of “Let There Be Peace on Earth” by West Liberty-Salem’s Varsity Choir. This ensemble, their director Brice Henry, and former Varsity Choir member Allison Buroker collaborated to also sign the song in Sign Exact English. The beautiful result is available for viewing at WLSTIGERS.ORG on the left side of their webpage.
I am now red-faced at the pitifully small amount of vexation about which I have been venting. There really is much in my life, global pandemic notwithstanding, to make me feel quite content: a positively lovely adjective for any generation!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.