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Omaha Magazine

Otis Twelve: The Biggest Problem in the World

May 27, 2021 04:21PM ● By Otis Twelve
Otis Twelve column photo

There are a lot of things wrong with the world—that’s something that everybody agrees with, though no one seems to agree on what the biggest problem might be. 

Every individual seems to have their own particular concern, whether centered on controversial problems, such as, “There’s too much cilantro in this salsa,” or sources of instinctive human disgust such as, “There are too many T-shirts featuring the logos of teams I hate.”  

Some folks, like me, see these problems as more of a categorical consideration and identify the problem as cilantro in and of itself, and any T-shirt with any logo or pithy quip like, “Hedgehogs: Why Can’t They Just Share the Hedge.” Everyone feels a little tinge of anger when they suddenly realize they are reading a stranger’s chest. “I’m an Engineer.  I’m Always Right.”  Some chests are simply not worth staring at.

Everybody has their own list of global problems.  Every list is dictated in many real ways by where we come from, how comfortable we are with complaining out loud, and our height. (Hey, tall people don’t think putting the little glass jars of pimentos on the top shelf in the pickle aisle at the Piggly Wiggly is an important problem. If you are a short olive stuffer, believe me, product placement is a major obstacle to happiness.) There are those who think that being left-handed determines one’s opinion on these matters, but I doubt that, unless you work in the Cubs’ bullpen.

There are many who think that certain major global problems should be agreed to be such by consensus.  They say, “Surely we all agree that war is the biggest problem.” Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.”  Remember the old maxim, “One man’s war is another man’s stock option.”  I am not belittling war as a problem, I’m just pointing out that the famous composer of “War, What is it Good For?” Edwin Starr, may not have considered its economic value to our beloved class of speculators.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel to many places, so I think I actually have a global perspective on what the biggest global problem is.  For instance, if you are in the United States, finding a really good cup of coffee can be a big challenge.  I mean, little shops with overstuffed chairs, good pastries, and beans flown in daily from Costa Rica on artisanal airplanes are not around every corner.  But, as a traveler who has visited Italy, where great coffee flows from public fountains, I can tell you, bad coffee is a regional, not worldwide problem.

Many problems are local and not universal, such as excessively stiff overalls in the American Midwest, too much Spargel in Germany, useless street maps showing affordable noodle shops in London, all of Luxembourg, taxi drivers in Hong Kong who don’t speak Mandarin, obscenely rude iguanas in Nicaragua, stadium food in Russia, polka music in Switzerland, or mosquitos in the Yukon. Every place has its own biggest problem.

Forget all those minor transitory, regional, irritations. Take it from me, the international traveler who has been nearly everywhere (except for that cool nude beach you found in Thailand)…I’ve seen it all. I know. Truth: The biggest problem in the world is hotel pillows! 

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 6-10 a.m. Visit for more information.

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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