Yesterday’s news: The lure of the lists, and why we sorta need them (Part 1)

Tom Hoffarth /

In the same pass through a local media service that put out its list of the 11 best spots in L.A. to scream your lungs out, there’s also available the list of the eight most tranquil hot springs in the state to “heal” our “weary soul,” near the list of the eight of the best hikes that will take you through “glorious fall foliage” near the list of the eight places to go pick apples.

They each come with interactive maps, which reminds us, in the list of must-have books, we miss not being able to engage in our most enjoyable page-turner — a new, updated Thomas Guide, which used to be No. 1 on the most-useful thing we could get for family members at Christmas time.

We’ve actually been screaming internally for the last couple of weeks to locate a nice place to have a quality moment of silence in this new post-pandemic existence. Our house of worship has been one of those locations, but we yearn to re-explore, look at cities and freeways and supermarkets and other stuff with a new appreciation. Even if it means picking forbidden fruit.

We might want to dive into that same media company’s current list of the 101 “best California experiences.” But when we noticed one of them was the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Echo Park, we felt another twinge of anxiety. Puppets aren’t our thing. Too many strings attached.

Just as this same source has pushed out lists of Los Angeles’ 65 best bookstores, 41 coolest plant shops, the 38 most classic Mexican restaurants, 10 best places to find Chinese donuts, the 15 best Michelladas, or even the six top vegan taco recipes — and one of our latest favorites was Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 best TV shows of all time — it reminds our mind of the allure of the list and its mental health benefits.

These aren’t “to-do” lists. That’s a whole other activity. This is taking things that exist and, in essence, ranking their value in our own subjective way, then sharing to compare notes and see what others might have on their list.

In that 2020-22 COVID masked-up funk show, we lost control of our world. Our structure and routine was compromised. We got a lot more nutty. We had to re-evaluate.

Making a list can re-engage, provide order, rein in rumination, and have a sense of feeling productive. Even if the list has only meaning to us.

Psychologists and all-knowing spouses can give more drawn-out answers as to why we attempt these exercises. We can also default to things like when NPR had a nifty little story by Linton Weeks a few years back: “The 10 reasons why we love making lists.” It was at a time when “Tonight’s Top 10 Reasons Why … ” lists that David Letterman’s late-night staff kept creating in mocking fashion — and rightly so — gave us comic relief.

It’s useful to go back and review.

The No. 1 thing on this NPR list: Lists give order to chaos.

“People are attracted to lists because we live in an era of overstimulation, especially in terms of information,” says David Wallechinsky, a co-author of the fabulous Book of Lists, first published in 1977 and followed by subsequent editions. “And lists help us in organizing what is otherwise overwhelming.”

It also helps give us, in our opinion, a structured mental activity in times of isolation.

Another reason: They have meaning. Like the Steven Spielberg classic Schindler’s List is based on the true story of a German businessman who used a list of names to save more than 1,000 Jews from the concentration camps. It is ranked eighth on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 top American films of the past 100 years.

One more reason: They relieve stress and focus the mind. Sociologist Scott Schaffer told The Oregonian newspaper, “Lists really get to the heart of what it is we need to do to get through another day on this planet.”

Another day, another list.

Inhale. Exhale.

By the way, we still are in search of a place to scream. Because, too often, in our daily routine of trying to pretend all is well and good, we find ourselves screaming at inappropriate things. Inside. Loudly. Trying not to let it come out and cause embarrassment.

For those still following this far, we’ve crafted our own Top 10 list places, occurrences or situations where we find it most apt to irrationally scream and shatter an otherwise tranquil moment.

It usually leads us to track down a heavy duty Michellada with a vegan taco and watch another favorite TV show. The list, maybe in no real order, goes:

No problem. Take your time. I’m just taking photos on my phone because I’m trying to stay calm.

In line at Jersey Mikes. Most often, when we’re just there hoping to get it done in five minutes, order the No. 7 on white with mayo and onions for our mother in law, and just before we get to the counter, two very sweet women wearing shirts that read “L.A. Seniors” are stuck. They’ve already been there a few long moments, dazed and confused at the whole process, trying to decipher the overhead menu, then asking the poor kid behind the counter to tell them how many calories each sandwich contains because they can’t read it. Nor can they hear the muffled response of the employee dutifully wearing a mask. They each decide to get the No. 55 Big Kahuna Chicken Cheese Steak. Giant size. And now, for a drink and chips …

In the ER trying to pass a kidney stone. Is it worse than childbirth? We’ll never know. But we do have knowledge that bringing a kidney stone into the world is just cruel and unusual punishment for eating too many french fries. Trying to stay calm when it feels as if you’ve just eaten a glass bottle isn’t part of the human factory settings.

In a crowded parking lot structure, when no spots are empty. But one person comes walking through the maze, arrives at their vehicle, gets in, puts it in reverse (we see the white tail lights), then sits there for 15 minutes checking their phone for news they missed while they were away.

At a four-way stop. We realize we’re all in these machines that could kill each other if treated impulsively. And no one wants their insurance rates to go up. But someone, please, take initiative and pretend you got their first, and you’re on somebody’s right, then gas it. Someone, give us the wave. We’ve been giving the wave the last 30 seconds and no one seems to understand “the wave” any more. (And please, wave back). Also, there is someone standing on the corner, presumably to cross, but deeply involved with a cellphone so there’s no way to read his/her mind on what the next move might be. As we’re trying to figure out this multi-choice test, go ahead and just walk through it all and see what happens.

In the presence of a gas-powered leaf blower. When does the state ban go into effect? Sure, it’s not fair to the worker. It’s a hardship. But it’s not even about the noise. When did we ask for have all that gas-fume smell choking us off when maybe a hand-rake would have done the job much nicer and cleaner. Here, hand us a rake. We’ll show you.

During a 3.0 earthquake. Maybe even a 2.8. Most have learned how to ride them out with dignity and some self respect, based on our years of experience. It’s really just the surprise timing of them. If we knew ahead — a short heads’ up — we’d be OK. We get the yips instead.

In an unnecessarily non-moving security line at LAX, because the person way up at the front thinks this is the time haggle over a water bottle. That is the moment we realize we’ve made another rookie mistake of not flying out of Burbank or Long Beach. Or Ontario. Or San Diego. Or just driving to Vegas.

In a drive-thru line at Arby’s. We’re better than this, but too damn hangry to wait for that McDonald’s a half-block head — the one that only gave us nine nuggets when we did the 10-piece order. No one wants to get “nuggeted” again. Fool us once, Ronald … But really, Arby’s? As “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart once said as he was making nightly jabs at the establishment: “Arby’s … Technically, it’s food.” Realistically, not.

At a gas pump. Before we even get to the spot to watch the digits registering dollars and cents change 10 times faster than the digits registering gallons and common sense, there is that spot in the Costco experience where a car ahead isn’t sure what those green and red lights above mean when a space is vacant or being use.

At a Dave and Busters waiting for two kids to stop messing around with the foosball table and let two adults have it. Because we’re adults, and they aren’t. Then realizing we don’t really really like foosball anyway. It brings to mind a line from the late comedian Mitch Hedberg: “I think foosball is a combination of soccer and shish kabobs.” And we really don’t like either. But maybe we could get hooked up with a human foosball game. They exist. C’mon, be the game.

For only $395 at

Now we feel we have more order, less chaos, and we can get through another day.

And list.

What are your favorite things to list, rank and file?

Part 2: Saturday, Oct. 15: A a date we should never forget. Where does it rank on the all time Top 100 moments in L.A. sports history?

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