Every time the Best of Payson comes out, the thought crosses my mind that it would be fun to do a Worst of Payson.
I have so far kept this notion at bay by reminding myself of several possible repercussions:
How many lawsuits would be filed by places like the local Burger Bomb when we declare it the Worst of Payson's first triple-crown winner Worst Fast Food, Worst Hamburger, and Worst Sandwich?
What happens when the cop who pulls me over for going 27 mph on Tyler Parkway is the very same cop we have just anointed Worst Law Enforcement Officer?
How do you break the news to Most Eligible Bachelor Mike Burkett that, in defiance of all odds, he is also the runaway winner of Least Eligible Bachelor honors?
There is this old saying about "biting the hand that feeds you." If I were to do a Worst of Payson, how would the rulers at our local newspaper who take great pride in the Best of Payson feel about their ace columnist making sport of their efforts?
So you see why I have refrained from creating a Worst of Payson competition. Until now.
You see, I had a brainstorm. If I asked a bunch of people from all walks of life what they would change first if they were made King of the Rim Country, but didn't allow them to use specific names of people or burger joints, nobody especially me gets hurt. And yet, for the first time anywhere, we would have a veritable cornucopia of the things that tick people off about the Rim country.
All I needed was a group who represented a cross section of the community, and, at the same time, was a captive audience. The only group that fit that description was the 44 students in the two classes I teach at EAC-Payson.
Let me tell you, they are as diverse a bunch of people as has ever been brought together under one roof, as you will see as you read through their pet peeves.
Their participation was, of course, purely voluntary, and I requested only their sex, age and occupation. Their names will remain forever unmentioned.
In the process of soliciting their responses, the first thing I learned is that people love to vent. My students bared their teeth and frantically scribbled the following which constitutes our first annual...
WORST OF PAYSON
By far, the most numerous complaints fell into a category I will call "Economic Development-Related," including the need to eliminate impact fees and bring more jobs to town, and the shortsightedness of people who don't want progress or change. Nine people cited one or more of the above as the first change(s) they'd make upon becoming king.
"Some people don't like growth. They want Payson to stay the same primitive town it was in the early days," said a 21-year-old male student.
"Attention Town of Payson and Chamber of Commerce: Begin immediately to recruit industry with jobs that pay a reasonable wage," wrote a 42-year-old insurance agent.
If she were king, a 47-year-old bank employee would "eliminate building codes that are not necessary to this environment and that increase the cost of owning a home in Payson."
What bothers a 44-year-old male maintenance worker is being told, "This is Payson. If you want to live here, you have to pay the price."
"Workers pay the price with lower wages," he said. "It doesn't seem fair that we also have to pay higher prices for everything."
Other responses were, as you might expect, all over the place. I have arranged them into two large categories, the first of which is ...
THINGS WE NEED TO GET RID OF IN THE RIM COUNTRY
Low teachers' salaries (35-year-old female housewife-student)
High gas prices and lame excuses for them (40-year-old female secretary)
The curbs and sidewalks on both sides of Airport Road ("Who walks there, anyway?" asked a 78-year-old female retiree.)
The parking lot at Wal-Mart ("Make the engineer who designed it drive around all day watching everyone else take his parking spot," said a 34-year-old female whose occupation would tell many of you who she is.)
People who talk during movies at Sawmill Theatre ("If I were Queen of Payson, I'd seal the mouth of anyone speaking a decibel above a whisper," said the same 34-year-old female.)
Ushers who come in during the film to say, "There's a phone call for Mrs. Jones." (Same 34-year-old female)
The second catch-all category I have titled...
THINGS WE NEED IN THE RIM COUNTRY
Turn-arrows that stay green long enough for you to get through the intersection (28-year-old female clerk/student)
A shopping mall ("With only Wal-Mart for selection, everybody ends up dressing alike," said a 35-year-old housewife/student.)
A dance room with hip hop music (17-year-old female secretary)
A community center for square dancing (78-year-old female retiree)
A new county jail that isn't so small, ugly and inhumane (51-year-old female student)
Movies like "Billy Elliot," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Traffic" so we don't have to go to the Valley to see these films (Same 34-year-old female)
In looking at our shortcomings, it seems to me that a goodly number could be resolved in one fell swoop. We take all the people who are dressed alike, plus the people who talk in movies, intrusive ushers, that parking lot engineer, the guys who change those gas price signs, everybody who likes hip hop music or square dancing, the cop who gives people grief over bright lights, and all 34-year-old females whatever their occupation and cram them into that little, inhumane jail. In the process of driving one another stark-raving mad, they would surely bring the jail down around them and a modern correctional institution would have to be built.
It's good to be king.