5 Everyday Annoyances That Are Actually Worldwide Disasters

#2. Brief Power Outages

Konstantin Kirillov/Hemera/Getty Images

The Petty Complaint:

How long could society go without electricity if we really had to? After all, statistically you've probably had an hours-long outage just in the last year. And sure, even one hour is long enough to start mapping out the Facebook status update your fingers can't wait to type or start building the growing shit list of people you intend to blame for this disaster. But if we're honest, one whole day without power isn't THAT big of a deal. Light a few candles, cook something on the grill, read a book.

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Frankly, by killing the TV in a house full of candles, Allied Electric probably gets half the city laid.

And even two days, while annoying, wouldn't ruin anybody's life, right?

The Huge Problem:

So how much can one brief power outage cost? Try 7 billion goddamned dollars.

During the infamous Northeast blackout of 2003, much of the Northeast U.S. and Ontario were without power for anywhere between a couple hours and two days. It doesn't sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but even in blackouts that short, costs snowball quickly, and the results can range from mildly unfortunate to absolutely catastrophic.

Take Republic Steel, for example, which was just one of multiple steel companies that went full-on Michael Bay that day, all because the outage kept them from cooling the iron in one of their furnaces. The resulting explosion and fire caused the company to miss out on seven weeks' worth of production and they had to file for bankruptcy.

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
After a lifetime of action movies, it's kind of easy to forget that fiery explosions are actually a bad thing.

They're not alone, either. At least eight oil refineries were shut down, causing The Man to toss out the term "gas rationing." Over 30 chemical companies in Ontario's Chemical Valley were likewise affected, losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue. At least 70 auto plants were shut down, putting over 100,000 people out of work. Sixty grocery stores closed, and 174 banks. Oh, and any perishable food in the blackout area's refrigerators became involuntary compost, a cumulative loss of over $250 million that affected some 22,000 restaurants in New York alone.

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Plus it wiped out our Galaga high score.

So, yeah, that's what happens when modern society goes without electricity. For two days.

#1. Spam Email

Yong Hian Lim/iStock/Getty Images

The Petty Complaint:

It's an annoyingly unfortunate but necessary reality of living in the digital era: You have the one email account that you give to people you actually hope will contact you and a second account that you give to everyone else, like tossing T-bones at hobos to keep the spam hounds off your scent. But the spammers will never rest. They are going to find you, and they'll never be happy until you admit that your penis is entirely inadequate. You too, ladies.

Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images
BigrBonerz420@dickzilla.biz knows your secret shame.

The Huge Problem:

Those pesky automated emails aren't just annoying; they're a bona fide menace to society that zaps enormous globs of valuable time, money, and resources from our planet every single day.

The unnecessary hassle it adds to managing our email accounts is more than just a nuisance: 104 billion man-hours are spent reading and manually deleting spam every year, and the costs for American consumers and firms to defend their inboxes clocks in at at least $20 billion per year (perhaps even as high as $50 billion). Combine those effects -- the time we waste managing spam and the costs to fight those who spread it -- then extrapolate them across the world, and you're looking at a total of $130 billion per year in lost productivity.

Iromaya Images/Iromaya/Getty Images
"Luckily, we've recently begun corresponding with a Nigerian king who can help recoup some of that."

Wait, there's more! About 87 billion spam emails were sent out every day on average in the third quarter of 2012, and the total for all of 2010 was about 95 trillion ... yes, with a "T." Every single one of those messages had to be generated on a server somewhere in the world. Additional servers were necessary to send, receive, and eventually delete the messages. Just like the effort you put forth in opening them, realizing it's probably not a good idea to give your credit card number to a stranger who offered to cold sell you cock pills on the Internet, and pressing "delete," all those things require electricity.

Thanks to that unseen chain of events, each spam email is estimated to produce the same greenhouse gas emissions as driving a car 3 feet, and if there really are 95 freaking trillion of these things being sent out every year, spam has an annual carbon footprint equal to driving a car around the world 2 million times.

Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Which would be totally worth it if the pills had actually worked.

And let's not forget the damage caused by the shit that slips through. The only reason spammers exist is to steal money from gullible Internet denizens, and by all accounts, they're doing a fantastic job: Just one run-of-the-mill pharmaceutical scam can generate over $3 million in revenue per year, while a 2009 analysis of the absurd Nigerian 419 scams found that they stole over $9 billion that year from dumbasses in more than 150 countries.

Iromaya Images/Iromaya/Getty Images

Hell, that almost makes us want to change jobs. At least we wouldn't have to sit in traffic.


Follow Russell on Twitter.

Related Reading: Speaking of disasters with insanely huge impacts, a massive collision with the moon made all life on earth possible. And these tiny computer glitches caused big problems like Google accidentally blocking the entire Internet. And if you don't believe a poorly designed UI can cause horrific disasters, you'll be surprised by what lies behind that link.

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