Steamed: The 10 worst things since broccoli

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By Jack Sparacino
Well, I try to give equal time in this column.  Having written a few months ago about the 10 best things since sliced bread, and at the urging of several readers, here is my initial list of the 10 worst things.  Plus a bonus. Don’t hesitate to let me know if I left out any of your “favorites.”
1. Horrid foodstuffs. We’ve all got our hit list, so here’s mine after over 60 years of careful taste testing: sea urchins, radishes, canned green beans, sake and flavored water.  Yeah, I’m willing to take my lumps from the American Radish Foundation and Vegetarians for Democracy. And the guys who flavor water. (By the way, I actually like broccoli, though it seems to have acquired an unsavory reputation in some circles.)
2. Computer viruses. Aside from the fact that they keep some technicians employed undoing them, these bugs create incalculable damage, waste and expense. The fact that they are often caused deliberately should condemn the perpetrators to a punishment that includes a permanent diet of putrid sea urchins and flavored water. With radishes for dessert.
3. Screaming ads on TV. When you can’t fast forward past them, they can make you wonder why you ever bought a TV in the first place. Maybe there’s research somewhere that shows they’re effective, at least for the hard of hearing or those who need to be shaken, not stirred.
3a. Visa card ad with lady climbing a huge rock formation. This one gets honorable mention. While there’s no screaming, the song lyrics are indecipherable and the music is grating and irrelevant. A shipping company with brown trucks that touts its logistics capability with a send-you-up-a-wall jingle very nearly beat out the lady, who was “way up there.”
4. Flying coach. Right, an easy one.  Well, it used to be fun to fly, anyway, before airlines decided they really wanted to emulate bus companies and leave customer service to some other guys. The silver lining here is that after being cramped and hassled for hours, one’s destination can easily go from good to great in comparison with the trip.
5. Diagramming sentences. Do English teachers still foist this weird and silly exercise on kids anywhere?  Is there anyone out there who learned to read, write or do just about anything better as a result of making a perfectly nice sentence look like a fishbone diagram?
6. Never being able to get to a Howard Johnson’s for their fried clams. OK, there may be a few folks out there, like my wife, who think they’re like eating rubber bands, but I continue to meet people who just crave a nice big plate of these wonderful sweet clams with a lemon wedge and a little fluted paper cup of tarter sauce.  Yeah, it has to be fluted.
7. Mosquitoes. Aside from providing a food source for small fish and maybe some birds, do mosquitoes have any real value?  Net net, their miniscule positives are outweighed by all the disease they spread and their nasty bites. But hey, it’s 2012 already.  Surely scientists can come up with something to get rid of them without poisoning the planet. Maybe someone with the name Skeeter should lead the team.
8. Yellow linoleum floors. In all fairness, I like floors. Large and small.  Hardwood, laminate, terra cotta, you name it. There’s just something about yellow linoleum that makes me feel like something bad is about to happen.  Maybe it’s a carryover from having had a polio shot on one when I was a kid.
9. Turtleneck sweaters (in a narrow “win” over suspenders). Now if you don’t need to wear a necktie, and that seems to be increasingly common, why would you choose to have something else grabbing at your throat? Don’t get me wrong, though. I do like sweaters.  And turtles.
10. Digital watches. Sure, they’re sometimes so inexpensive they’re almost disposable and they take all the anguish out of actually reading the hands on a regular watch. But many of them look cheesy and you shouldn’t need a kid to help you set the time or understand half the functions. I still have one that cost $50. On sale. It’s supposed to be good to 500 feet under water or some such thing but most of my dives are in the kiddy end of the pool. When the battery died, it could only be found by first locating the world’s tiniest screwdriver and then removing four minute screws. Sort of like performing brain surgery on a fly. The new battery, not cheap, caused the watch to flash incoherently and then go blank. So what time is it? Time to toss it out.
Now for the bonus: Toll booths. Yes, I’m the guy who once pulled up to a booth with barely 5 cents on me and had to grovel for assistance.  Toll booths seem to be set up on only the busiest highways and bridges and therefore add to an already strained commute.  Surely there’s a better way to raise the necessary funds. Maybe a gigantic bake sale?  Right, complete with toll house cookies!