Many contenders are at play for The Most Horrible Thing designation

Now that we're in full winter sports mode, it won't be long before playoffs start. In that vein, I decided to have a playoff of horrible things.

I have them in two groups of 12 where they'll go head to head, with the most horrible things in each group facing off against each other for the title of Most Horrible Thing. I truly have no idea how this will turn out, so let’s get started:

Horrible Things Division I:

1. Colonoscopies

2. PBS Fund Drives

3. Telephone Menu Systems

4. Taxes

5. Supreme Court

6. Cell Phones

7. Traffic

8. Teenagers

9. Sarah Palin

10. Ear Hair

11. Anonymous Critics

12. Tar Snakes

First round of

Division I

1 vs. 12, Colonoscopies vs. Tar Snakes: Colonoscopies are once every 10 years and you have to drink a gallon of that awful stuff the day before. Tar snakes are when they don't have enough money to do a proper road repair and just fill the gaps in with tar; these are awful when you ride your motorcycle over them, believe me. Since colonoscopies only happen once every 10 years, tar snakes win the first bout.

2 vs. 11, PBS Fund Drives vs. Anonymous Critics: PBS fund drives just go on forever, and, if you donate early, you still have to sit through the whole thing. Who needs another tote bag anyway, plus, despite all the donations, there are still commercials! Anonymous critics are all the tweeters and bloggers who post all this Internet vitriol without identifying themselves. As bad as the fund drives are, anonymous critics are worse.

3 vs. 10, Telephone Menu Systems vs. Ear Hair: Telephone Menu Systems — "your call is important to us" — are a perfect example of how technology doesn't always make life better. Ear hair is something we men get as we age; it's awfully ugly, very hard to take care of, and just plain gross. This is a real tough one, but telephone menu systems are that bad so they win.

4 vs. 9, Taxes vs. Sarah Palin: Taxes are not bad in concept; they allow us to have a functioning society where everyone gets benefits (police, road repair, food inspection etc.). The problem with taxes is there are too many of them and the laws are too complex. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, continues to be a national embarrassment. Her latest gaffe was "the truth is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Ave." She was of course trying to criticize the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.; even school kids know where the White House is. This is an easy one — Sarah Palin wins in a rout.

5 vs. 8, Supreme Court vs. Teenagers: The Supreme Court, despite the judges’ combined age and "wisdom," when push comes to shove, takes the easy way out and votes on party line. Teenagers think they know everything and make your life crazy until they finally "get it." At least teenagers grow up. Supreme Court wins this one.

6 vs. 7, Cell Phones vs. Traffic: Everything is about phones these days, and, while smart phones truly are technological marvels, it's just getting to be too much already. Traffic is bad but, if you have a good stereo and have some travel smarts, it can be death with, so cell phones win.

On to Division I finals

First round of Division I is over, so now we have:

— Tar Snakes vs. Cell Phones: Phones affect more of us so they win;

— Anonymous Critics vs. Supreme Court: Anonymous critics are cowards so they win;

— Telephone Menu Systems vs. Sarah Palin: She will, I hope, at some point just go away, so telephone menu systems win.


Second round is over. Anonymous Critics get a "bye" so we have:

— Cell Phones vs. Telephone Menus Systems: Isn't it funny how both are phone related? Telephone menu systems easily win here, which brings us to the Division I finals:

— Telephone Menu Systems vs. Anonymous Critics: This is a tough one because both are truly horrible, but you can always ignore or delete anonymous critics, so telephone menu systems are the winners of the Horrible Things Division I playoffs!

Division II

1. Congress

2. Tuna Casseroles

3. Reality TV

4. Plumbing

5. Political Ads

6. Unwanted Phone Calls

7. Squirrels

8. Piercings

9. Graffiti

10. Coffee Snobbery

11. The Packed Snow at the End of the Driveway

12. Low-Interest Rates

1 vs. 12, Congress vs. Low Interest Rates: This Congress, our paid representatives, has done virtually nothing. When Congress does act, it's often to obstruct rather than achieve. Meanwhile, the stock market goes up and up yet you can't get any interest at the bank. How are you supposed to teach kids the value of saving? We can throw the bums in Congress out, so low-interest rates win.

2 vs. 11, Tuna Casseroles vs. the Packed Snow at the End of the Driveway: Just the smell of a tuna casserole leaves me nauseas; you just can't serve tuna hot. Compare this to the snow at the end of the driveway, packed in by the town plow in that low area by the street; my back hurts just thinking about it. As bad as heated tuna is, the packed snow at the end of the driveway wins.

3 vs. 10, Reality TV vs. Coffee Snobbery: I refuse to watch any so-called "reality TV," which is of course produced and scripted. If you want my attention, at least make an attempt to put on something worthwhile. As far as coffee snobbery, give me a plain cup of coffee, not a latte or a frappe or a whatever. We can always turn the TV off, so coffee snobbery wins.

4 vs. 9, Plumbing vs. Graffiti: Of all the trades, plumbing is the one I least like doing. There's nothing worse than a leak and the damage it can cause. Some people like graffiti but, no matter how artistic you may think it is, it's still vandalism. I can always get better at plumbing or hire someone, so graffiti wins.

5 vs. 8, Political Ads vs. Piercings: When did all the political ads go negative? It's really awful when you can't think of anything to do but criticize your opponent. Piercings are something I've never gotten; when you see a pretty young girl with this shiny thing sticking out of her nose, all you do is stare at it, ugh. Painful. As bad as the negative ads are, piercings win.

6 vs. 7, Unwanted Phone Calls vs. Squirrels: I don't mind taking a survey now and then, but not during dinner. What happened to the Do Not Call registry? Not working in my house. Squirrels are true suburban marauders, wrecking havoc with bird feeders and digging up the garden. As bad as the unsolicited calls are, because of the damage and commotion squirrels cause, they win hands down.

On to Division II finals

That's it for Division II first round, so now we have:

— Low Interest Rates vs. Squirrels: This is a tough one. There are other investment vehicles, so squirrels win.

— The Packed Snow at the End of the Driveway vs. Piercings: Snow eventually melts, so piercings win.

— Coffee Snobbery vs. Graffiti: Graffiti is a criminal act, so graffiti wins.

Again, after the bye we have:

— Squirrels vs. Graffiti: I'm letting squirrels off the hook easy here though I hate to do it! Graffiti wins.

— Graffiti vs. Piercings: I realize not liking piercings may be a generational thing, in that I'm so old I just don't get it. Therefore graffiti wins Division II Most Horrible Thing

And the winner is...

That means we are down to the finals for the Most Horrible Thing:


Telephone Menu Systems vs. Graffiti: This is an interesting final — I honestly had no idea how it would play out.

Telephone menu systems are so bad on so many levels. Think about it, a call to your business is an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward, to reinforce that customer relationship that you've worked so hard to build.

Instead, when you force your customers to go through level after level of frustrating menus just to finally get to a real live person, whatever goodwill you may have earned is basically lost. I've actually taken time off from work to visit places that have awful telephone menu systems, that's how much I can't stand these things. That's why I'll always support companies where a real live person is there to help you.

Graffiti, no matter what any "artists" tell you, is vandalism. I love walking in the downtowns of new cities and I just hate to see wonderful old buildings ruined by this garbage.

Sit by a railroad crossing and count how many boxcars are "tagged" as well. What a total waste of creativity. This is a tough call, it really is, but I'm going to give telephone menu systems the win for Most Horrible Thing, with graffiti a very close second.

If you think about it, the fact that there are so many "players" for a Most Horrible Things contest is pretty bad, and I'm sure you can think of other ones. Oh well, we can always focus on the good stuff. The glass is half-full, right?