Back Spin: 50 unfestive things

50 things I hate about Christmas

I am not dreaming of a white Christmas. I do not want my two front teeth, and I do not want to walk in a winter wonderland.

"Why should that be?" you may ask. "Why would the season of peace on earth and goodwill to all men not suck you in and spit you out covered in tinsel and bonhomie?"

Let me count the ways . . .

I have lots of important stuff to get done (1) and with Christmas just around the corner (2) there's not much time to get it done (3), so anything that slows me down is just a pain in the festive tush (4).

Why do the voices that prompt you in voice mail (5) speak so laboriously (6)? I'm sure that anyone on lithium has a fine time with these systems, but for us very busy people this is enough to turn us into raving lunatics.

Come on, come on, what time was the darn message sent (couldn't they tell you that before replaying the message (7)?). Is it a five for the envelope details or a six (8) . . . I'll press six. "You . . . have . . . pressed . . . an invalid . . . key (9). Press zero . . . to return . . . to the main menu." %*&$!. Sounds like William Shatner on valium.

Then I had a call to make. How come some companies have no operator (10) but their interactive voice response system implies that one could be available (11). "Enter the extension you want or hit zero for assistance" . . . (you enter zero) ... "Hi. This is Betty in accounts, please leave your . . ." (12).

Better yet, "Enter the extension you want or hit zero for assistance" . . . (you enter zero) . . . "Enter the extension you want at any time otherwise hit zero . . ." (13).

The best? "Enter the extension you want at any time, otherwise hit zero for assistance" ... (you enter zero) ... "Sorry, that isn't a valid extension. Goodbye" (14).

Another call to make. "Please wait." There's music on hold (15). Why can't I press some key to switch it off (16)? Is that too much to ask? Being on hold is bad enough, but being on hold and having to listen to family Christmas favorites (17) played by the Boston Pops (18) for 20 minutes (19) is worse than dentistry without Novocain.

I finish my calls and now I'm out running errands. My cell phone drops calls (20). We were with Cingular, which claims the lowest number of dropped calls. Not in my universe (21). Now we are with T-Mobile. Is T-Mobile better? I think so - when you can get a signal (22).

Back to the office, and we have everybody's favorite to deal with: Winrot (23). For the second time this year my main Windows PC is showing all the signs of needing a complete operating system (24) and applications rebuild (25). I sit down and find that CCAPP, the Symantec antivirus user session service, is permanently hogging more than 80% of the processor (26). Nothing else is getting anywhere (27). Kill CCAPP? Can't do it (28), it runs protected. Reboot (29).

Oh, now my G5 Mac running OS X is acting up (30). Again (31). Every now and then the cinema display blanks for no reason (32), then turns back on (33), then blanks (34), then . . . (35). Everything is up to date, no faults detected, no clues at all (36).

OK, Windows rebooted - why does it take so long (37)? No! Outlook crashed (38). Great, start it up again and now it has to check its message store (39), which will take at least 10 minutes (40), which I haven't got (41), because I am busy, busy, busy (42)!

Oh great, Outlook is retrieving a couple hundred messages. What a surprise! I have more newsletters I didn't subscribe to (43) and don't want (44). Loads of penny stock spam (45). Lots of e-mail addressed to "Fernando Hitsman" (46), and still more that start with phrases such as "Dearest One / With respect and humanity, I decided to send this proposal to you . . ." (47).

That's it! I'm not going to get anything done so I might as well give up (48) and enjoy Christmas, because once its over I'm going to be dealing with this mess all over again (49). Merry Christmas (50).

Bah humbug to backspin@gibbs.com.

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