Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.28.16
Stanstead, Quebec


How to be irritating

Hello, I'm Ross Murray, but I insist you call me by the nickname I've given myself, "Ponchy." Giving yourself a nickname is just one of many simple and mostly inexpensive ways to be irritating. Today, Ponchy is going to share some of these ways with you. Ponchy knows what he's talking about.

Do you see what I did there with 'Ponchy' in the third person? Wasn't that irritating? Now pretend you know how to say that in a foreign language, even though you clearly don't. Si no pablo irritato, qué?

I have been irritating people for close to fifty years, except for a very brief period in 1990 when I went into a deep depression after they cancelled "ALF." If I had a nickel for every time someone told me I was irritating, I would take those nickels and shake them loudly in my pocket at random intervals while they were trying to read quietly. "If you need any nickels, I have some," I would say, "but you can't have any."

It's not enough to simply want to be irritating. It takes pwactice, pwactice, pwactice. (Fake speech impediments are irritating - - but not real speech impediments, though. Real speech impediments are thad.)

To truly become irritating, you must follow the rules of I-R-R-I-T-A-T-E:

I: Ignorance. Don't learn facts. Instead, share your vaguely formed ideas based on assumptions and the thinnest of understanding. Social media is wonderful for both picking up and disseminating your half-baked ideas.

R: Righteousness. Always be right. Always be holier than thou. Always use Old English when you can.

R: Rangoon. "When I was getting my degree in bird slapping in Rangoon…" "Your story about your mother's emergency surgery reminds me of the time I was in Rangoon…" "Yes, I know they call it 'Yangon' now but to me it will always be 'Rangoon,' which reminds me…"

T: Take. Take what isn't yours out of the office fridge. Take your sibling's favourite sweater and loan it to a friend. Take the last cold beer and don't replace it. Take the long way home. Take a look at my girlfriend. Speak in Supertramp lyrics.

A: Anxiety. If you worry about every little detail in your life, every possible thing that might happen, every celebrity you might bump into – and look at you in that torn T-shirt with the armpit stains that you've been wearing for days now, how embarrassing it would be to meet your favourite celebrity (Alex Trebek, which you pronounce "TREE-bek") dressed like that, so just hang on, gang, while I go change, but, oh, into what? – well, that's pretty darn irritating.

T: Taxes. So irritating. E: Eliminate. Leave out critical bits of information and promised details. The vaguer the better. Always leave them wanting mor.

Follow those nine simple guidelines and you are well on your way to being irritating.

Of course, being irritating is more than just action. It's an attitude, an awareness that you are the only one who truly matters in your universe. One sock left on the bathroom floor does not an irritating person make. It takes sock after sock after sock, day in and day out. Think of it as committing to a fitness routine, except instead of doing sit-ups, it's tuneless humming.

As the beloved philosopher and Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, "You call that a vow of silence? Your nose-breathing sounds like a train whistle, for God's sake!"

The beauty of being irritating is that it allows you to stand out in the crowd, probably because you're pin-wheeling your arms as you warm up for your daily 5K run, which you're sure to mention to everyone you meet, about the 5K run, which you do every day. Now tell them what your best times are.

You see? Build irritation upon irritation. Be uber-irritating. Add "uber" to all your adverbs and adjectives.

Got the idea? To get you on your irritating way, here are a few more examples of irritation in action:

Tell people you are a strong advocate of lifelong leaning.

Repeat yourself. I've been repeating myself for close to fifty years, except for a very brief period in 1990 when I went into a deep depression after they cancelled "ALF."

Loudly deny the existence of funerals.


"Help" people with their crossword puzzles.

Become a newspaper columnist.

Start a sentence by saying, "I don't necessarily agree with everything Donald Trump says, but…"

Be Donald Trump.