...and I know, the world has many very painful things in it... is listening to recordings of refusals to participate in a telephone survey that you have helped design. Especially when the people doing the refusing are all around the same age as your mother and father. The UWSC interviews really do a valiant job of trying to convince people to participate, but, since you know the cases are refusals, you know that all their striving is for naught.
Okay, so it's not really the absolute most painful thing in the world. It's not even the most painful thing I've done in the name of service to sociology. That would probably be making the index for the Stata book. It wasn't just that it was tedious, but it had to be done in this particular software package (Scientific Workplace) using a very particular set of steps that had to be done correctly each time or else the program wouldn't compile the file correctly at the end and there was the possibility of losing all of the index entries I had made. There wasn't anything to indicate whether you had made a mistake, either, so it was this strangely exquisitely painful combination of a highly tedious task with a highly attention-demanding one. I would have rather spent those twelve hours staring into the sun.
I suppose I would compare listening to some of these refusals to sticking a Band-Aid on your eyeball and then tearing it off very slowly.