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Piece of cake: 4 things that should be easy but aren’t

Heather SkompThings I Learned Today

1. Making a cake.

Ironic, isn’t it? The idiom “a piece of cake” implies that something is easy to do, but making a cake is unequivocally not the easiest thing to do. In fact, even when you’re baking it from a box, it can be a giant pain in the ass. Just ask this person:

terrible-cake

No doubt you’ve seen a jillion bad cakes on the internet, so I won’t bore you with more. That train left the station a long time ago. But there is a reason grocery stores and Whole Foods and other places are doing rather well in the cake portion of their program – people love cake, but making them yourself is an exercise in stupid.

“Awwwwwwwwww mom, but I want a homemade cake. If you were a good mom, you’d do that for me, your adorable but completely ignorant and self-centered child!”

Screw you kid. I’ll make the cake but you have to clean up the kitchen afterwards.

messy-kitchen

I know when I used to make cakes for people, I eventually ditched the baking part and had someone else do it for me. I hated it. It’s messy, time-consuming, and no matter what stellar recipe I used from some celebrity cake book, they never tasted quite as good as I felt they should for all the grueling effort that had been expended. The cleanup was a nightmare of pans, bowls, utensils, tabletops, oven, cake racks, measuring cups, floors… and that’s just what I can remember.

Enter: someone else doing that part for me. Score! I got to do the part I liked the best, which was frosting, sculpting and decorating it, but the baking of the cake part, and the cleanup – let someone else do it. It’s more than worth the $20 you pay.

So next time your kid wants a homemade birthday cake, and you really want to do it, go to your local grocer and tell them you want an unfrosted baked cake. Then, take it home, make your own frosting (so much better-tasting and less messy) and decorations, and turn it into whatever masterpiece you’re lying to yourself it will be. Trust me, it will be closer doing it this way than baking it yourself, and your kid won’t know the difference.

2. Exercising.

Today, I decided to exercise, as I’m always wont to do, but this time I actually did it. Besides, we have to work off that cake we just spent all day making and eating. Every day I take George for a walk for 30 minutes, but that never feels like anything worthwhile, and it’s certainly not going to burn off a whole cake (don’t lie, you’ve done it). So I attempt to exercise in a concentrated way for an hour three times a week. It’s a lofty goal, but I have it. It used to be six days a week, but I never seemed to make that goal. Don’t judge.

Besides, this is nothing new for most of us.

Fit people wonder why not-so-fit people don’t exercise. Well, let me tell you why: besides it being hard, boring, and sweaty (and for most of us, no, we don’t get a high afterwards, we just get muscle strain), for some reason the Universe wants, on top of all that, to make it even more difficult for us to do it by putting unquestionably the most irritating impediments in the way to ruin any possible chance that we might find a miracle way to enjoy it. Why? I don’t know, since the entire world of God’s creation wants to tell us how bloody important exercise is. But let me tell ya, it is a giant mountain of an uphill battle every aerobic and pedometer step of the way.

Let’s take today for example. My exercise program should take about an hour. Should. The actual time it takes to do the exercises only adds up to about 60 minutes – I know, because I time it to the second so I don’t have to do any more than I absolutely have to. But today, it took at least an hour and a half, possibly more, and I do it in the comfort of my own home! I don’t even have to drive anywhere. So why did it take so dang long? Well I’ll just tell you.

The first thing that got in the way was my mp3 player. I have this because doing step aerobics (my exercise of choice) is hard enough with good music, but without it, it’s… well, it’s just not happening at all. I don’t have a stereo in my house anymore (does anyone?), so the music has to come from somewhere, and it has to be loud enough to drown out the groans and whining and wheezing that can otherwise be heard being expressed from my person. Well, I had just finished convincing myself that I was, in fact, going to do my exercise program today, when I discovered that in spite of being hooked to the charger for the last couple of days, the mp3 player battery was, in fact, dead. How, I have yet to learn. So there’s my first hurdle.

It’s a miracle I kept trying after that. I mean really, who hasn’t used the excuse of a dead mp3 player battery not to exercise? However, I was determined, so I enlisted the aid of my phone. Which is also not easy. Of course it isn’t. First of all, it’s too heavy. I can’t use my phone clip, because when attached to my yoga pants during the jarring up and down movement of step aerobics, it causes them to fall down. This is not ideal. I don’t have an armband, because why would I? I have an mp3 player that has a clip. Ohhhhhh right… the battery is dead.

step-aerobics

So there’s my second hurdle. How to attach my phone to my body without creating even bigger problems in the process? I decided to store it in my sports bra. Seemed logical. And this actually worked, because hey folks, it’s pretty tight in there. So yay! Let’s get started!

I’m on my dancing way. And, it worked great… for the first song. On to the third hurdle: not every song on my phone is right for what I’m doing, because hello, I don’t use it for exercise. I can’t exactly bounce to “Say Something” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. So I have to keep pulling my phone out of my bra in order to change the song. Every three and a half minutes. And while I can advance through the song list without unlocking my phone, I can’t actually see the list. So now, every three and a half minutes, I’m stopping, pulling my phone out of my bra, unlocking the phone, and searching for a new song that fits what I’m doing. It’s an endless, time-consuming process. It would have been faster with a Walkman and a cassette tape.

So why don’t I just temporarily quit the phone lock? Well, I’ll tell you. Because every time I pull the phone out of my bra, or put it back in, something gets pushed, and another app starts. Same thing happens every time I put it in a pocket or my purse. Anyone ever gotten fed up with that? My messenger will start, or my phone will call someone, or the stopwatch will begin, or I’ll open up my bank account – it’s always something.

“Hey Heather, did you just call me?”

“Sorry no, that was my boob.”

Amazing how insensitive the buttons are when I want to start an app, but ohhhhh, when I don’t? They’re ALL fired up and ready to go. So phone lock it is.

Let’s not end this section without mentioning earbud cords. And no, I’m not going to spend $200 on wireless earbuds. Since my phone is now in my bra and not on my pants, the cords are loooooong. And they bounce around and slap my face and tangle in my hair and in my necklace and get in the WAY, every time I have to pull the phone out of my bra. Seriously… I should have just quit right then and there.

I didn’t though. I made it through the hour, which turned into an hour and a half. Maybe longer. I stopped counting.

And those were just the problems I had today. But is anyone surprised now why people are deterred from exercising?

It should be easy.

3. Cleaning the toilet.

This is another one we’re supposed to do more often than we do. Why don’t we do it? Because the whole process is gross from beginning to never-end. There is not one part of cleaning a toilet that is satisfying, not even when it’s done. Why?

Because you know you’re just one burrito (or cake) away from having to do it again.

So why is it unnecessarily difficult? Well, let’s look at the tools we’re working with. The toilet brush. This device hasn’t been improved upon since I was born, and that’s several decades ago now. We’ve advanced in phone technology, computer technology, cooking technology, television technology, vehicle technology, brain surgery technology… but no advancement in toilet cleaning technology. How is this possible? No matter what new design idea they come up with, it never ever seems to be able to clean under the rim. We can clean a coronary artery until it gleams, but not under a toilet rim. And after your dismal efforts, while you’re busy craning your neck to check your work, your hair is falling into the bowl, whilst the bristles regularly splatter your face with water/shit/toilet bowl cleaner. Keep your mouth closed, whatever you do.

cleaning-toilet

And this doesn’t address the issue of cleaning the underside of the seat. Do you use something else to do that? Because the brush does an abominable job. The bristles have zero absorbency, so water just leaks out of it, collecting the muck off the seat, and trailing that delicious mixture all over the top of the bowl and down the sides on to the floor. So there’s a new, more disgusting mess you get to clean that you didn’t even have before.

Arguably, one should just use paper towels, but does anyone really want only a wet, absorbent, weak piece of paper that is always on the brink of tearing between your hand and that stank? Generally, no. You want to stay as far away from that as possible. So your options are the dirty ineffective toilet brush, or the biggest wad of paper towels you can afford. I typically go for the latter and clean my hands with battery acid afterwards.

Although… I suppose I could use rubber gloves. I hadn’t thought of that.

How about we begin a Kickstarter campaign for someone to invent a better toilet brush? Or better yet, a self-cleaning toilet?

4. Surfing the internet.

Yeah, none of us can get away from this one. It’s become a daily necessity. But it’s gotten harder and harder to do (for me, anyway), and less and less fun. Why? I don’t know, maybe it’s because my internet goes out about twenty times a day. Just long enough for it to fuck up whatever I’m doing, but not long enough for me to call, wade through five levels of indigestible voice commands, listen to another ten minutes of hold music, and finally get a customer service rep on the line so I can scream about it. By then it would be back on again and the rep would think I’m the insane one.

Why else? Let’s talk about the user experience anymore. But before I delve into this quagmire of misery, I will say that I exempt most brick and mortar company websites and non-profits (which are their own brand of design hell if they’re done in-house, but not necessarily a user nightmare). I’m sure there are others, but for the sake of this article, we’ll just exclude those for the moment.

No, the ones that make your life not worth surfing are the information sites. Which, let’s face it, is 80% of the reason we’re on the internet anyway. We’re looking for information. Or maybe Facebook. Or You Tube. Whatever, they’re all a disaster, so I’m lumping them in together for the sake of expediency. The other 20% is shopping, which I can say for the many years I’ve shopped online, has generally been an easy and pleasant experience, and just keeps getting better and better.

No, this bitch is about the information/blog/entertainment sites. It seems that these sites really, clearly, seriously don’t give a shit about you, the user, while you’re attempting to move around on their sites. All they care about is getting their email signup forms and their ads punching you in the face at every possible opportunity and in every conceivable corner of the site. They’re like schoolyard bullies pushing you for lunch money. Ads and email signups are jammed into every available pixel, sliding in, popping up, screaming “pay attention to ME, not what you came here for!”, hiding their close buttons so you just give up and leave. And with screens getting bigger and bigger, I foresee it will just get worse and worse until we all go blind or have strokes.

Or, just say “no”.

Now on my computer, I have ad blockers on every browser except for one, which I keep open for sites that won’t let me see what I’m looking for unless I disable the ad blocker. Not on your life, bub. If your information turns out to be crap, then I have to go through all the process of blocking your crappy ass again. No thanks. So I quickly pull up the site on the non-blocked browsers, shield my eyes, and hope for the best. Nine times out of ten, it wasn’t worth it. Most articles are so poorly written these days (thanks, content marketing), the cost is just too high to bother.

So, those sites simply don’t get my viewing eyes, or my potential open wallet. Forbes.com is one of the worst. I won’t even go to the article anymore if I see that it’s at Forbes. I know, they all cry about needing advertising dollars to pay the bills, but I call greedy. You might need some, but is it required that they dominate the page? It is non-negotiable that ads have to literally interrupt my reading experience? You didn’t do that in print. How about this: why don’t you axe the article altogether and just put up a page of ads? Oh wait, Google doesn’t like that, and we mustn’t upset almighty Google (but it’s okay to upset your readers). All right then, is there a law that says ads must be flashing and moving and yelling at me the moment the page comes into view (and often times, before)? Will your site burn in hell if they are a little more visually appealing? I think it’s burning in hell now because they aren’t. Do ads have to be so weighty and obnoxious that they crash my browser? Kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

ad-punching

Nope, none of these things have to be the way they are. So sayonara, dickheads. I’ll find someone else who can give me a better article and a better user experience. God knows, there are millions out there, they’re just not as well-funded as your ad-crappy site that buys you high search rankings. Now, the best way to find the most relevant and user-friendly articles is to skip the first page of a Google search entirely. Most of those are whored-out junk anyway. Just head straight to the second page, and chances are, you’ll find what you need without mangling your brain stem or getting a venereal disease.

One last thing that makes these sites awful and surfing intolerable – articles that have multiple pages. Screw ALL of you who do that. I discovered that, of course, the reason for paginating an article is – gasp! – so the site owner can crow about higher pageviews and ultimately put even more ads on multiple pages. So the site is really about the owner and not about the users. Surprised? Not really. Sigh… such short term, greedy, inverse thinking. Problem is, the whole process is so unpleasant, and the writing generally so bad, users just abandon the article altogether. Sorry magazine and blog sites, reading on a computer isn’t the same as reading in print. Ads are monumentally more annoying online, as is having to load a new page six times just to finish an article on ear wax. Hasn’t anyone caught on to this yet?

Internet should be easy.

So that’s the list for today. I know there are far more than four things that should be easy but aren’t, but I’ve hit my writing quota for the day.

There will be more.

floatie