Minor Irritation Insurance

March 2nd, 2007


Phnom Penh — In a time when it’s possible to buy insurance against everything from catastrophic long-term health care to lost luggage, I’ve noticed a gaping hole.Why does no one offer minor-irritation insurance?

There are whole months when everything goes along okay except for the occasional broken arm or burst pipe. Those are bothersome, but if you’re insured to your nostrils, you have the satisfaction of knowing that someone somewhere is going to have to pay for this. If nothing else, it gives you a sense that your account with the Universe is going to get squared.

But then there are days when the Universe hits you lightly but repeatedly in the face with a folded newspaper, and there’s no one to turn to for compensation.

I think this is the kind of thing that results in people Going Postal, if you’ll forgive the occupational slur. Two or three of these incidents, and a little light goes out of the day. Seven or eight, you begin to mutter unpleasantly at people you love. Fifteen or 20, and you find yourself in line to buy a Glock 9-millimeter and four boxes of shells.

I believe society in general would be a lot safer if we could be insured against these kinds of incidents.

So I suggest the following examples, with recommended compensation:

  • Turning on the TV in a hotel room and hearing Willard Scott refer to someone as “121 years young.” Should be worth $12.76.
  • Packing only one novel for a long trip and discovering that you’ve already read it: $13.07
  • Discovering that you’ve already read it while you’re flying U.S. Air: $31.12
  • Hearing people who have the world’s safety in their hands say, “nucular”: $9 exactly
  • The term barista. I want my coffee poured by a coffee-pourer, someone whose job description tells me that he or she knows what coffee is and has learned to pour it. A barista sounds to me like someone in the bull ring who makes faces at the bull to get it mad enough to gore the matador. Sort of a safer picador. Barista should be worth $1.19 and a free cup of coffee.
  • Seeing a white guy wearing his baseball cap backwards: $4.84
  • Hearing a white woman say, “You go, girl.” $7.43 and a pair of noise-canceling earphones
  • Being exposed to any white person of either sex who refers to friends and acquaintances as “homies.” $14.29 and short-term use of a tranquilizer dart and the gun to fire it.
  • Having to listen to “Stairway to Heaven” on the car radio: $3.39
  • Punching through 1,271 cable channels and not finding anything worth watching: $13.66 and a medical examination for carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Repeated exposure to the term “hat trick”: $1.71 per
  • Apostrophe pollution, as in the following sentence: “He picked up the suitcase by it’s handle.” I mean, Jesus Christ. Is there anywhere someone so clueless that he or she would write, “He picked up the suitcase by it is handle.”? How simple is this, anyway? If you can’t replace “it’s” with “it is,” then write “its.” Let the apostrophe go someplace it’s needed. It’s not like there is an infinite number of apostrophes – every one that’s misused deprives some poor writer of one he or she may need. This one should cost Mutual of Omaha $89.54.
  • Any inadvertent experience of karaoke. A few years back in Taiwan, a drunken businessman grabbed the microphone in a karaoke bar, held onto it, and sang “My Way” six times in a row. The other drunken businessmen in the bar beat him to death with heavy metal ashtrays. If those men had known that each slurred repetition of “My Way” was worth, say, $7.32, that man would be alive today. Not that that would necessarily be a good thing.
  • Opening a menu and finding “Caesar” (as in Caesar Salad) misspelled. If people put half the energy into feeding the world that they put into finding wrong ways to spell “Caesar,” there would be Jenny Craig franchises in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m no fan of big government, but I think there should be Caesar Salad Squads that do nothing but visit restaurants and check the menus, and they should have the power to force the ones that get it wrong to serve a salad they can spell. “Green,” for example. “Ceaser” should put $2.29 in my pocket every time I see it.
  • And while we’re at it, Menus that use Capitals for each Important Word. I can actually sort out for myself what’s important in an entree like Loin of Beef Simmered over an Open Fire in a Fragrant Sauce of Shallots. It’s meat, right? It’s got some stuff poured on it. $3.72, and hold the sauce.
  • Donald Rumsfeld. Fortunately, this one’s pretty much over. $17.65
  • Politicians who use the phrase, “At this moment in time.” As opposed to what? A moment in space? In cotton futures? In the ingredients for shampoo? In a quart of milk? $3.99, and a bargain at the price.
  • Anyone who employs more than five words to describe a bottle of wine. Double indemnity if they use the words “fruity” or “undertone.” So, $2.71 for six words or more, $5.42 for that bottle of Merlot with the fruity hint of blackberry, and $8.13 if it’s also got an undertone of oak. If I want to drink oak, I’ll throw some acorns in the Vita-Mix. Everything I want to know about a wine can be summed up in four words: It’s red. It works.

I could go on for days, but I have to watch my blood pressure. If there are any minor irritations you’d like insurance against, send them to me, and maybe I’ll put up a new list. If I choose yours, I might even throw in a visit to your local barista.

7 Responses to “Minor Irritation Insurance”

  1. Stephen Cohn Says:

    Hey Tim – this is great! I’ve been waiting for years to be compensated for the daily assaults of life in our aim-for-the-lowest-common-denominator-culture. I’m almost afraid to get started – but…
    How about a multi-level policy for dealing with phone calls to big companies? It’s almost too huge to contemplate. For instance, how much should we be paid for reaching a recorded menu which then refers us to other recorded menus, none of which addresses our issues or leads to a human (and I use the word loosely) being. Then if you are clever enough, with repeated experiments, to get a person, how much for enduring a preamble to conversation which beings with “Thank you for calling Charter Cable. According to our records you have not taken advantage of our All in One Communications Package. I can get you started immediately. How would you like to pay for that, Visa or Master Card?”

    This, of course, doesn’t even scratch the surface but I believe with your new insurance concept we can begin to improve America. Bravo on you for your patriotism!

  2. Kathy Honda Says:

    …or when people use the term, “most unique”. It either is unique, one of a kind, or it isn’t.

  3. Steve Body Says:

    Tim,

    I’ve enjoyed the books tremendously and eagerly await each new one but have to take exception with the last item. I run a wine shop and they’re too different, bottle to bottle, to sum up in one sentence. I’ve tried being succinct – “I think you’ll love it. Just buy the shit, okay?” but, for reasons I can’t understand, that doesn’t work so well. I have to use the descriptors but I try to make them entertaining at least. Here are a few of mine:

    * Aromatic as a South Georgia high school prom.

    * Full-bodied and muscular but surprisingly graceful, like Lisa Leslie in a bottle.

    * The bounteous stuffing of this wine hides the alcohol better than a suburban housewife with a vokda Jones.

    * A brawling, thick-necked stevedore of a wine.

    * A wimpy, undistinguished piss-ant of a wine that not only wouldn’t stand up to a steak, it would run if you wrote it on the same grocery list.

    * A Syrah so miraculously unrestrained that this guy’s neighbors probably burned him in effigy…well, being French, they probably sauteed him in effigy.

    I gotta sell wine, man! This stuff helps. But, if you come into my place, I’ll just bag a bottle and hand it to you and hold my tongue. Deal?

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Deal — although you could probably get away with something like “This one tastes okay and will really put you away.” (I especially like the French neighbors who sauteed someone in effigy.)

    Tim

  5. Natscan Says:

    I personally would like insurance against middle management speak

    …singing from the same songbook
    …on the same page
    …at this point in reality (what are we in a dream – in my world you call this a nightmare)
    …thinking outside the square
    …getting out of the box

    etc etc etc.

    A personal assistant friend of mine keeps track of which idiot says what at meetings that she minutes and when she has all of phrases she added to her list that morning she stands up and yells “BINGO!”

    She likes to keep her five GMs in check. I think they appreciate her helping to breaking the habits that make them look like management cut-outs.

    Nat

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks — as someone who spent years in the corporate world, I learned to grit my teeth when I heard these things, too. Another one that makes my hair itch is “at this moment in time.” What else could a moment be in? At this moment in milk? At this moment in plaid trousers?

  7. Natscan Says:

    I’d also like insurance against people who can spell “something” and “anything” but are completely unable to say the “g” on the end and insist on replacing it with a “k”

    Somethink, anythink. How the hell do people make this mistake, every day of their lives?

    I have a friend who is a primary school teacher. I pull her up on it all the time because I keep imagining that she is creating hordes of little people who will wind up annoying me at some point.

    How are these kids expected to learn to spell when their teacher says words wrong.

    Her response to my suggestion that the word is “something” not “somethink” is ALWAYS “I know, I just say it that way”

    It does my head in.

    Every time someone says “somethink” or “anythink” or “everythink” should be worth $AU19.00.

    Is this just an Australian thing (it’s quite common here…probably my fiend’s fault)or does it happen elsewhere?

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