Top Ten Everyday Problems (That Are Staggeringly Inconsequential)
People have problems. Most of them are staggeringly inconsequential. (Big words should always be used more than once.) These problems mean almost nothing to the universe at large; indeed, the universe might look down upon our struggles and label them as ‘First World Problems’. The universe would be right.
Here is a top ten list. Everybody loves top ten lists.
The toothpaste won’t come out of the tube.
Nemesis, thy name is Tube.
You wake up. You yawn and hack up an evening’s worth of phlegm, disgusting even yourself. You stumble to the kitchen, burn some toast, slurp an unhealthy amount of java, peruse the news for the latest tragedies, and stumble to the bathroom. Oral hygiene waits, desperate to purge your mouth of morning funk and breakfast flakes that failed to reach your gullet.
Yet hygiene resists. You must work for your minty prize - because the toothpaste is all the way at the bottom of the tube. You’ve lived in paradise for too long, and now, thanks to your foolishness, none of it is readily available. Idiot.
Blinking through a thick layer of morning crust, you pinch two sturdy fingers against the base of the toothpaste tube and squeeze upward. The lump of toothpaste cowering there like a frightened refugee moves half an inch up the deflated tube, even though your fingers travel the full circuit. You try again, and again, and again, and ultimately, after a billion years of striving in vain, arm muscles fighting Newton’s gravitic forces, ultimately, ultimately… a tiny squirt of toothpaste erupts from the end.
It plops onto your toothbrush, a newborn birthed from a stubborn mother.
But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
I can’t find my ________.
Underwear, check. Pants, check. Shirt, check. Tie, check. Wallet, check. Money, check. Keys, check. ________...
Uh oh. Where the devil is _________?
At first, the absence of _________ sparks confusion. Your face mimics a bulldog. Your hands search out your hips. Time for stern disapproval. Somewhere, deep inside the nutty sections of your brain, you pray that this posturing will bring _________, shame-faced, back to you. The power of grump!
It doesn’t work. Confusion and facial expressions do nothing to reunite you with your lost _________. The search begins.
It’s a logical process. Where is _________ most likely to be? On your dresser? The kitchen table? Shoved under that smelly bundle of laundry which requires a haz-mat suit to search? Nothing. Where did you have _________ last? While sitting in front of the TV? The computer? The microwave? (Why do you sit in front of the microwave?) You check. No dice. Has somebody else in the house seen _________? You ask, even if you’re alone. The reply, be it vocal or silent, is a negative.
Now, the strange. Rather than checking places where _________ should be, you check places where _________ could be. Under the sofa. Between the seat covers. In your bed. In the fridge. Atop a shelf covered in dust and insect corpses. Inside a box you know you haven’t touched for a decade - but maybe you went insane and opened it in your sleep the night before. Maybe the secretive gnomes that live beneath the floorboards are up to no good, and they’ve stowed _________ in the box. Or something. _________ might be there, and you won’t know until you check.
You will, eventually, find _________. And you’ll find it in an obvious place. But you’ll be sweaty, teary-eyed, and covered in crime when comes the revelation. You’ll blame _________ for misplacing itself.
Don’t you ever do that again, _________.
I can’t find the end of this roll of tape.
It is safer to assume that rolls of tape have no end. That way you’ll make your own end with a knife. But you know it’s there, you know it exists, a clean-yet-ragged perforation that’s as much a chameleon as it is a helpful guide to using the tape. You turn the roll over, and over, and over again, and after the fifth rotation you assume the last blighter to use the tape somehow managed to lose the end on you. Perhaps, insidiously, they stole it from you.
You know better, of course. Such things are impossible. But when you’re annoyed, the impossible suddenly becomes probable. You have a new enemy.
I’m out of toilet paper.
According to the New York Times, Americans use 23.6 rolls of toilet paper per person each year. Multiply that number by the population of the United States (somewhere over the 300 million mark) and you’ve got, roughly, eighty-five gazillion rolls of paper being consumed by Americans annually. Ginormous. It’s virtually impossible to go a day as a westernized human being without at least thinking about toilet paper. So why is it that we always manage to not have toilet paper on hand when we need it? Where does it all go?
There must be some universal constant, established billions of years ago, which predicted toilet paper. It must also have predicted the decay of toilet paper, sheet by blessed sheet. How else can we explain the near-constant need to fish around for a fresh roll, seemingly minutes after we set one on the toilet spinner thing? How can this be an omnipresent issue when people aged three and up can count on a toilet paper shortage and prepare in advance?
Perhaps this is not a natural dissolution. Perhaps there is an organization, foul of intent and purpose, which steals toilet paper at all hours of the day. When you aren’t in your bathroom one of their agents is at work, ripping sheet after sheet from that roll of toilet paper you so carefully placed on the spindle. Surely these agents wear white trench coats, that they might blend in with the two-ply should somebody enter the bathroom while they’re busy thieving. Each of them has a moustache to twirl when their job is complete. They are practiced in cackling.
Where does all this toilet paper go? Only the agents know. And since we can’t prove their existence, they won’t be telling any time soon. But some day…
The _______ is all the way over there.
Dangit, _________! Why must you cause such pain? We’ve worked so hard today, only to come home, slump into a chair, and spy you on the other side of the room! That’s a long walk to pick you up! Can’t you be merciful and move to us, _________? Can’t you show us the love we show you? Why must we bend our legs and ponderously stand, that we might fetch you from your wretched resting place? We can’t use the Force yet, _________! Some day, maybe, but George Lucas is still working on it!
It is unfair, _________. It is unjust. You are criminal.
These power cords are tangled.
Assuming Wikipedia is to be believed (emphatic Yes), Gorgons are defined as such:
‘While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature and occur in the earliest examples of Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld her to stone.’
In short, Gorgons are an absolute mess. They do not preen their snake hair. Their serpents twist and writhe of their own accord, resulting in a horribly-tangled mane that better projects a Gorgon’s image of menace. Gorgon, we fear thee, because your snakes fill us with horror.
(Also, you’re ugly. But that’s another can of reptiles.)
Power cords are not Gorgons. They are not found on anyone’s head, unless that person is having a very bad day, and they are not capable of turning ordinary humans to stone. (Though with HD on the rise, anything is possible.) Not once were cords ever mentioned in The Iliad or The Odyssey, nor is it likely that Odysseus struggled with a tangled cell phone charger while hiding inside the front-leg leg of the Trojan Horse.
But power cords are alive. Despite your best efforts, power cords will always become tangled with one another when placed in close proximity. They are guided by pack mentality to bond, to twist and intertwine into rat king-esque nightmares that grow worse the more cords are added. Cords are as evil as any supernatural creature, and no matter what you might do to save yourself from their mismatched wrath, you cannot prevail. The cords will always win.
I’m walking near somebody else.
You are walking down a street. Perhaps you hunger for a bagel, and wish to partake of doughy goodness at your local eatery. Perhaps there is a new DVD on sale, starring beefy men and sleek women, awaiting your greedy hands at a nearby electronics store. Perhaps, just perhaps, you are out because you love the world, you love life, and walking is one of the best ways to express that love. More power to you.
But you are not the only person to live in this world. There are other people who love life. And you must occasionally share the sidewalk with them.
Most of these people are not a problem. You pass them, regardless of direction, without more than a moment’s notice. You may make casual observations to yourself about their lack of fashion sense, shapely bodies, or the odd, rodent-shaped birthmarks on their cheeks. (A common ailment.) Mere strangers, passing in the mist.
Re-read the first sentence of that previous paragraph. The first word. What was it again? Ah, yes. ‘Most’. Most of these people are not a problem.
You may not be on a sidewalk. You may be in a mall. Or an office building. Or striding across a field, brazenly ignoring the ‘Do not walk on grass’ signs, because you are a horrible vagabond. The point is, you are walking. And somewhere nearby, someone is walking at the same clip as you. The same pace. The same speed. The same direction. The same everything. They might be behind you, they might be in front of you, they might be beside you, but they are there, and so are you, and neither of you is willing to break from your destination. To break off is to fail.
There are multiple ways to confront this problem without losing face.
- If the malefactor is walking behind you, you must subtly change your route. Divert from your present course, but only slightly. Adjusting your trajectory to, say, observe a store window, is not shameful. Store windows are often filled with goods worthy of purchase. T’would be more shameful not to stop.
- If the brigand is walking in front of you and you feel like a stalker, you must adjust your speed. There is no choice in the matter. Either slow down, that you might better check your watch for the time, or turn into a blur of motion that can rival Superman and speed past. The former is practical; the latter is proof of your might.
- If the cur is walking beside you, feel free to body check them into the nearest rubbish bin. Other strangers may judge you, but they would do the same in your position. Body checking is an under-utilized tool in many social interactions.
- If the fiend is walking above or below you, they may be breaking the laws of nature. Report them to the nearest physicist.
There’s a noise that’s bothering me and I can’t figure out where it’s coming from.
It is time for bed. The day is ended, and all is silent. Your eyes close. Fatigue prepares to punch out for the night and let Sleep take control of your brain’s command centre. They pass one another in the corridors of your neurons, waving professionally to one another -
- and that’s when it begins.
It is a rhythmic noise, triggered every three seconds, almost on the dot. Click. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three MississiClick. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three MississiClick. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three MississiClick. Sometimes it is accompanied by the movement of water, perhaps through pipes in the apartment below, perhaps through the guts of whatever foul beast is Clicking.
Your partner sleeps without fuss. Their Fatigue and their Sleep had no trouble passing the torch in their cranial control post. But you, no, oh no, you are Click instead subjected to Click the incessant Click clicking sound that Click seeps through Click some part of the Click house and into Click your ears. Click.
You have looked for an explanation, tearing up floorboards and interrogating your neighbours and screaming your frustrations at people passing by your home. Anyone who can speak is a target. You desire the ‘why’. But there is no why. There is only the Click. And you fear you may go insane ere you can bring its despotic rule over your psyche to an end.
My headphones keep falling out.
Headphones are headphones because they are meant to be a part of your head. They’re a technological extension of your body, an extra pair of sensory organs that deliver rather than receive. Without headphones, many of us are nothing.
You plug the right ear bud (yes, get it in the proper ear, don’t mess with the R and L signs, they’re there for a reason) into your ear. It fits so snugly that you swear you were born with it attached to your eardrum. The left is much the same, and when Rebecca Black begins crooning about Friday you suddenly feel complete. Your taste in music may be poor, but you are whole.
Then, just as Rebecca hits the chorus and her friends start to dance in a music video far away, half of the sound flees.
You’re confused. Flustered. Wondering if you went a little deaf. You faintly register the soft plop of a lump of plastic against your shirt. You don’t have to look down to know that one of the headphones has come loose. Grunting, you replace it in your ear. Grooving recommences.
The other headphone falls out. Possibly as you’re putting the first one back in. Your follow-up grunt is more forceful. It’s the sound a boar makes when it meets trouble while hunting for food in the jungle, the sound of a bear confronted by a thoughtless human, the sound of a coffee drinker as he or she or it discovers that the barista gave them the wrong order, because, by god, leaving the caramel off of the macchiato is every bit as important as keeping the stupid headphones in your stupid ears. So you put it back in and swear under your breath.
Both headphones fall out.
The next swear word is much louder. The heavens shake, the earth boils and rumbles, and you notice to your great fury that the headphones are now twisted together. Indeed, they’ve always been twisted together, somewhere near the junction where one becomes two, a cluster of smelly rubber resembling an untidy ball of yarn. You struggle, wondering if your headphones are not headphones but, in fact, a Gorgon, and as you pitch and scream and wail people move away from you, no longer content to remain parallel to you but seeking refuge, safety, perhaps to locate their missing _________, perhaps to save their toilet paper from the forces of evil, perhaps, simply, to brush their teeth. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
You flail and cry, as powerless as a turtle pushed onto its back and bullied by its peers. Your world falls apart, because, by god, you can’t listen to your music for more than a few seconds at a time. All goes black, all goes silent, and you are left swinging your arms in the dark.
I’ve been going insane and I didn’t have time to make dinner.
Order souvlaki. You’ve put up with enough for one day.