Top 5 useless products that refuse to go away

It is almost Thanksgiving and that means list-making season is creeping up on us! Not to be outdone, I’ve thought of a list that I can contribute for the greater good. Friends, I now proudly present to you “Anirban’s Top 5 List of Useless Products That Refuse to Go Away”.

A word on why we need this list. There are some things that are just so unnatural that they should be banned in perpetuity. They have caused so much suffering to humanity, and yet greedy corporations continue to profit from them. Shockingly, as a testament to our collective idiocy, we continue to aid and abet these corporations in their immoral goals by putting up with them. We are the reason these useless things haven’t disappeared off of the face of the planet.

In compiling this list, my overriding goal has been to educate you. To make my list, an obnoxious product must be both current and widely-available. This automatically rules out novelty products such as Thanksgiving dinner soda which is repugnant, but not common. This also rules out Windows Vista because it is widely-available, but no longer current, since it has been replaced by the vastly-superior Windows 7.

Anyways, without further ado, here is my list, counted down from number 5.

5) Decaffeinated coffee and non-alcoholic beer

This one is a tie for fifth place. Studies have shown that lab animals don’t like the taste of either coffee or beer. Humans are not born with any sort of fondness for coffee or beer either. If you don’t believe me, put in an Ethiopia Sidamo or an India Pale Ale in a baby bottle and see what happens! (I am not suggesting you do this by the way).

It is true that we acquire tastes for coffee and beer, but the reason we drink them is because we are hooked on the chemicals in them. We get hooked on caffeine and alcohol and to drink decaffeinated coffee or non-alcoholic beer is about as fun as trying to swim in a dry river-bed!

4) Hotel-lobby wireless internet

This is not a product, but a service. However, to not include this in the list would be a travesty in itself. For those who have never stayed in a hotel room with advertised “free” internet-access in the lobby, let me explain. When you check in to a 250 dollar-a-night hotel room, the snobbish, clean-shaven concierge tells you that, a) there is free wireless internet access in the lobby and lounge area, and b) that he wants you to enjoy your stay. Both are shame-faced lies told with impunity.

There is no internet access in the lobby, only ten gullible people with laptops trying to log on to a non-existent network! What the hotel wants you to do is to give up, go to your room, and get the internet package that costs $14.99 per day plus taxes and convenience fee (or closer to $25.00 dollars).

3) Anti-glare coating for eyeglasses

I am not even sure that this product even actually exists. You go for your annual eye-exam and expect to dish out the co-pay plus a bit extra for new eyeglasses and contact lenses. The doctor insists that you get the anti-glare coating for your glasses. You think, “I have health insurance, how much can this cost me?” Well, after you’ve chosen the frame and the “optional-but-recommended” breakage insurance, the assistant bullies you into getting the anti-glare coating for your eyeglass lenses. You are given choices between different kinds of coating, but these are not really choices, because no matter what you say, you always end up with the most-expensive anti-glare coating. And of course, it is not covered by your insurance.

2) Reduced-fat bacon

What an abomination! It is one of those “neither-here-nor-there” products that would not exist, but for our sheer stupidity. Taste? Meh! Fat content? Still pretty high. The “honorable mention” for this one is “Tofu turkey”.

1)Paper toilet-seat cover

And the grand-prize winner is the paper toilet-seat cover. You see these things pretty much in every public restroom in the United States. Someone came up with the bright idea of marketing a tissue-paper seat cover to place over the toilet seat in the public stalls. Of course, the purpose here is not to protect you from the germs left behind by people before you, but to make you feel better about using the facilities after putting a flimsy, 0.01 mm thick piece of bath tissue that tears as you pull it from the dispenser, between your backside and the seat.

Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY?

© 2009-2011, Anirban

My diatribe against Facebook, or why I hate social networking.

Ok, so I just signed up for Facebook and started a blog today. Don’t hold it against me or against my right to spew venom against the global conspiracy that is “social networking”.

I resisted for as long as I could. I held out for months while the rest of the literate world raved on about Facebook and Twitter and how Web 2.0 was the best thing since buttered bread (tired cliché intended). Well, I was doing just fine with 1.0.

Let us look at the benefits of avoiding social networking. You can keep your enemies far and your friends farther. In the real world, you keep your work buddies separate from your knitting buddies. No one needs to know what you do every waking moment of every day. You can avoid a party at a socially awkward colleague’s house by saying that you would like to attend, but unfortunate circumstances require you to be at your favorite uncle’s funeral. You can then conveniently slip away from his clutches and sip mojitos in your postmodern apartment while listening to Scooter’s techno-classic Posse (I Need You On the Floor) (extended version, of course). No one needs to know what you do, everyone minds their own business, and the earth keeps revolving.

I have to point out that of course, we are speaking hypothetically here (because you all know that I would never do anything like this to you). But we cannot deny that social networking ruins this fragile, idyllic lifestyle. You use Facebook and your spouse finds out that you commented on a mutual friend’s page when you were supposed to be in an important business meeting. Your attractive friend finds out that you actually have a spouse. And your awkward friend keepings reminding you that he sent you an invitation to be his friend and that you haven’t replied in weeks. Your jig is up and soon or later out of the kindness of your heart you have to let the vile creature into your sanctum sanctorum.

Alas! For me peer-pressure kept mounting and so I had to buckle too. The chattering and the scrapping and the tweeting just wouldn’t stop! Because everyone else was networking online, whenever I entered a room, everyone looked at me like I was straight out of 1984. And I am talking about the year 1984, and not the anti-totalitarian novel by Orwell or the eponymous film with the brilliant, pained method-acting by John Hurt.

I tried to counter social ostracism with outward, deliberate geekiness. There I’d be, drawing my BlackBerry from my holster and texting away like a sophisticated speed-demon, but to what avail? No one took me seriously! Because I didn’t have a Facebook account, in every room and in every bar in this nation, I was a source of ridicule – I was the Geico caveman without the chic couture.

So, I went ahead and signed up and started sending out invitations to people I knew in the flesh so that they could become my buddies in ether (not the paranormal or anesthetic kind). All the while, the website kept reminding me of my inadequacy. I kept adding acquaintances, but was shocked to find out that everyone else had at least one hundred friends. Some had over five hundred! People – that is enough to stage a coup in a small Pacific island! If you are reading this I recommend the island of Tonga and that you act fast since the oceans are rising due to global warming (or likely due to “normal” cyclical fluctuations, if you happen to be lawyer for a Fortune 500 energy company).

The point is I now have to keep inviting people until my ego is satisfied that I have enough so-called friends. I have exhausted my bipedal acquaintances and just recently extended invitations to an apparition in Amityville and a yak in Mongolia. In addition, the system also keeps prompting me that Beyonce and I have a gazillion mutual friends and that I should invite her to be my friend too. Not my fault, so folks stop it, already! I am sure Beyonce already has a BFF who thinks she should have won this year’s Video Music Award.

Another problem I have is that I can’t get by with only a Facebook account. If you didn’t already know, I’m from India and the most popular social networking site there is Orkut. Incidentally, Orkut is also crazy popular in Brazil and I am quite sure that it is because of the coconut connection. Anyways, I had to open an account with Orkut to deal with my cultural schizophrenia. Very few Indians on Orkut communicate in English and those that do, do it very badly. This is not a theory (like evolution), this is a scientific fact. So unwillingly, I had to open a Facebook account for my anglophile friends and an Orkut account to deal with my coconut-crazy desi heritage. And for the record I am not being an elitist bastard here; I will not judge the plebes if they want to drink tap-water and they in turn, should not begrudge me my Evian. And you there grinning on your couch, why don’t you try faking poor English? “Myself am wanting to be your reliable friend,” isn’t as easy as it looks.

I guess life will never be the same again. Like the “can-you-hear-me-now” salesperson in the phone ad, Facebook and Orkut will continue to annoy me forever. Fortunately, there might actually one redeeming feature about social networking. Used effectively, it might actually help a misanthrope like me annoy others. I’ve heard that the experts say that we can expect an unusually brutal winter across North America and I think I’ll post some photographs of the trip I took in summer. What’s some unabashed gloating among friends? Hawaii in May is so lovely!

© 2009-2011, Anirban

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