Street Smart Chicago

Common Sense: The Tyranny of Lists

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By Rob Patrick

My girlfriend has a list of every guy she kissed from the time she was 14 until she was 22. I have no idea how many names are on that list (or if any are followed by an asterisk). She offered to tell me, but frankly I don’t want to know. And that’s pretty much how I feel about all lists: Keep them to your fucking self. So in the interest of a little Independence Day irony (and after all, what is the Declaration of Independence but a list, albeit a very well-written one), here is my list of lists I loathe.

1. “To Do” lists—I once read a children’s book about an anal frog and a toad who are best friends. One day the frog makes a long list of things to do—wake up, eat breakfast, visit Toad, etc. His whole goddamn life is that list, and he checks off each thing he does. Then the wind blows his list away, but he can’t chase it because chasing the list isn’t an item on the list. And without that list, he can’t function at all. I know people exactly like that frog. They wake up, sit with a cup of coffee, and write their “list of things to do today.” They even buy notepads with pre-printed numbers, which is typical of people who need lists. Not only are they forgetful and neurotic, they’re also lazy.

2. “To Do” lists someone else writes for you—Nothing so emasculates a man like having his wife hand him a list of “things I want you to do today,” particularly if “clean the bathroom” is at the top and “have sex” isn’t on it at all.

3. Grocery lists—While they may seem harmless, grocery lists steal your dignity and piss all over it. Is so much of your life riding on the need to buy mustard that you have to write it down? Look, if you’ve got Alzheimer’s knock yourself out, but if you’re under 70, a grocery list signals to the world you’ve got all the cognitive strength of a turnip.

4. “Useless Information” lists—Want to see a list of America’s most popular tourist attractions? How about the top five places in Chicago to buy curly fries? Or the five most common STDs among celebrities? Lists like these are the intellectual equivalent of crystal meth. They rot your teeth, make you think you’re smarter than you actually are and probably cause those skin abscesses you’ve been worried about.

5. “All About Me” lists—Now maybe, just maybe, I’d be interested to know what your favorite Michael Jackson song is, but your top ten favorite Michael Jackson songs? Like I give a shit.

6. “I’m sorry, sir, but your name is not on the list” lists—No? Well to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, you can take that list and shove it up your royal ass.

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