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New York Irritation League

May 23, 1946

The gripe department hasn’t been visited in a long time and I happened to think of that neglect when I ran across an item about the League to Prevent Perpetual Irritation of New Yorkers. There’s nothing exclusively New Yorky about this League. Any city could have one. The irritations which threaten to be perpetual are just as irritating in East Knee Bend, Nevada. The founder and president of this New York League is a Mr. Felix Sper, a high school teacher in Brooklyn who also plays the violin. That’s a cumbersome sentence arrangement, isn’t it? Maybe I should have said . . . a high school teacher who plays the violin in Brooklyn. Not much better, is it? In any event . . . the irritations with which his agenda is seized are as follows: cracked cups in restaurants, broken glass on the sidewalk. . . . It’s unfair to interrupt this list so early . . . this didn’t occur to me last night when I noted this on the pad, but now that I review those first two offenders I can see that they sag. If Mr. Sper objects to cracked cups in restaurants does that imply that he likes them only at home? And if he finds it irritating to encounter broken glass on the sidewalk . . . where does he like broken glass? That’s unfair, isn’t it? All right. I’ll continue with the list. He bemoans the lack of street signs and direction indicators in the subways. And the total absence of house numbers. There I agree with him to the point of making out a formal application for membership in the League. Maybe in your town people are careful to put a number on the house which can be seen without a long glass from the sidewalk. In New York, there is a prevailing secrecy about house numbers which can only be a carry over from wartime restrictions and severe military security regulations. If you’re house-hunting for example . . . .which about five fourths of the city’s populations seems to be at the moment . . . and you read in the Sunday Times that there is a vacancy at number 84 Mudpack Drive. You spend the first four days trying to find a New Yorker who knows there IS a Mudpack Drive. Then you follow directions and look for a street sign. Chances are there never was a street sign indicating Mudpack Drive. If there was, it had long ago been removed to serve as a support for somebody’s porch swing or a tent stay for Boy Scout Troop 18. If the street sign is on the corner, it has been twisted by the local athletes chinning themselves on it . . . to the point where it is bent double in rheumatic agony and clearly indicates that Mudpack Drive runs straight up in the direction of small gray cloud. The cloud is as vacant as anything, but offers few modern conveniences in the way housing. Then when you’ve determined that you are at last on Mudpack Drive, you are faced with the problem of finding number 84. Obviously the first step is to see which side of the street bears the even numbers. This is not as simple as it sounds. The first house has no number. The next one has at one time had two thin metallic numbers nailed onto the top step . . . but the second number has been removed and all you have to go by is a six . . . which tells you that it’s sixty something . . . but you don’t know what. At the third house the numbers are concealed behind a clump of fading azaleas. If you go poking around you’ll probably be picked up as a suspicious character with no visible means of support. And so it goes. Finally, with the aid of a Chesapeake Bay Retriever at heel and a special FBI deputy, you locate number 84 and find that it has been sold three times since you saw the ad. You might have made better time if you had used the offices of a numerologist in the first place. But chances are the numerologist would have told you that according to the cube root of the letters in your middle name you would have been unhappy in a house numbered 84 anyway. I’m afraid I’ve interrupted Mr. Spers catalog of irritations again, but that’s the one that struck me behind the ear . . . the rest of them are a bit on the corny side. Sound, no doubt . . . but stale. He is annoyed by the way women jabber through a play or a movie or a concert; and their monstrous hats which block your view, and the medium sized panic which attends their dropping a pair of gloves or a handkerchief or a coin. His League feels that women’s pocket books should be reorganized so that it would not be necessary for them to block traffic at the subway turnstiles while they sort through the myriad of oddments groping for a nickel. And he thinks women should improve their manners in lines. The League avers . . . through its spokesmen that in a line, outside a movie or keyed up in front of a bakery counter . . . there are two types of female offenders . . . the big tough babe who glares at you as she steps in front of you so that you don’t dare tell her off . . . or the pretty young thing who smiles sweetly and you don’t want to. If it’s any comfort to the southern ladies . . . Mr. Sper speaks a good word for them . . . which coming from the mastermind of the League of Irritation is a good word indeed. He says, they are more deferential to men, they don’t argue or force issues and their voices are pitched attractively low.