Below the Beltway
(Eric Shansby)
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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm not against things that are useless. Hell, I'm useless. I'm against things that are worse than useless:

The little paper tags that are stapled to buttonholes or belt loops on laundered or dry-cleaned garments, the only purpose of which is to be overlooked and idiotically worn in public.

The "trip computer" on your car that uses the magic of modern telemetry to tell you exactly how many miles you have left in your gas tank, except when you get below 50 miles and could really USE this information, which is when it just says "low."

The human "erector Pili" muscles that make your hair stand on end when frightened so that you will look physically bigger to a predator that is thinking of eating you. The sole remaining function of the erector Pili goes beyond unnecessary to creepy: It's what gives you goose bumps.

The CAPS LOCK key, the only purpose of which is to facilitate the sputterings of online lunatics, but which is easily and annoyingly pressed by mistake. Locating this key between the tab and shift is about as smart as locating the rat poison between the bubble bath and the sippy cup.

Cellphones that make a lot of noise when they vibrate, defeating the strategic purpose of "vibrate," and cellphones that vibrate so violently that they will dance off a table.

Internet Explorer asking you, every time it crashes your computer, if you wish to "report" the error, as though Microsoft has a vast team of specialists somewhere ready to get right to the bottom of your particular problem, which may or may not have involved attempting to access

Motion-sensor doors that are so slow you have to wait for them to open, delaying you more than if you'd opened the door yourself.

The cheap little plastic slitted disk that seals the plastic bag on a loaf of bread, an allegedly resealable system that turns out to be a fiction because the first time you try to reuse it, it snaps like a dry noodle.

Your dog's anal glands.

The QWERTY keyboard, laid out during the early days of the typewriter, when it was necessary to keep frequently used letters at a distance from each other so the keys didn't "stick," but which now is primarily a facilitator of common typos like "teh," "aobut" and "mabye."

Software that automatically corrects common typos, forcing you to type and retype "teh," "aobut" and "mabye" until the computer is satisfied this was your intent.

Software that doesn't let you stop numbering items in a list, even after the list is finished.

Caps on the stems of your tires. They exist only to get lost and make you feel vaguely unprotected.

Cellphone voicemail that steals 12 seconds of your life by outlining, very slowly, a series of ludicrously self-evident instructions such as that you should wait for the tone before leaving a message and that, once you have left your message, you can hang up.

Flatware in a restaurant that is wrapped so tightly in a paper napkin that you must shred the napkin to get to your fork.

Small sticky things that cannot be flicked off a finger. These include the stickers on individual pieces of fruit and the backing from one of those tiny round Band-Aids, a product that is also less than useless. If the boo-boo is that small, man up.

Any computer program that ends with "Wizard."

The "Sent from my iPhone" or "Sent from my BlackBerry" text that is automatically appended to your e-mails, which serves no purpose beyond branding you as a tool.

Bus stops located within one block of other bus stops on the same route.

So-called "pockets" that can accommodate nothing larger than an Altoid.

The "I am out of the office" option on business e-mail systems, which means that anyone who sends a systemwide message to his colleagues, seeking, for example, ideas for things that are worse than useless, must then deal with an inbox full of notices that 135 different people are currently out of the office.

Jennifer Agiesta, Allison Ghaman, Bob Greiner, Rachel Manteuffel, Rob Pegoraro and Alexandra Petri contributed to this article.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at

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