Archive for January, 2009

blaming the economy for modern “conveniences”

i have just returned from a brilliant weekend skiing in the poconos. the skies were clear, i was in good company, and the lodge had a terrific hot chocolate drink. i am a skier but several of my friends decided to try out the scallowag sport of snowboarding and contrary to my expectations, not a single person died, not even slightly.

however, on our way home, it was a totally different experience and i blame our dreadful trip on modern technology. someone riding in my car had brought along their satnav unit and we decided that it would be a good idea to use it on our way home; it had gotten dark and most of the mountain roads were not well lit which made it difficult to see the road signs.

what a complete disaster it was. first of all, the satnav was programmed during its last journey to avoid toll roads which meant that unknown to us, we were being directed away from civilization and into a town that looked like the spawn of the blair witch project and a russian gulag. naturally, turning this feature off required several hundred pushes of buttons and an advanced degree in electrical engineering.

next, the satnav was delayed in giving turn instructions, which meant that i was constantly being caught off guard and slamming on my brakes to make left and right turns. on a normal road this is just a minor nuisance, but when you are traveling downhill on a gravel mountain road that is poorly lit, it can be lethal.

lastly, despite all these shortcomings in the device’s most basic of functions, it greatly bothered me that it did other things so well. for example, it knew the speed limit of every road i traveled on and was constantly upset at me for driving 60 mph on a 55 mph road. this also meant it knew the speed of my car, which is a redundant feature since every car i have ever driven in my entire life has come with something called a speedometer. in addition, it somehow knew my elevation above sea level, which is useful in an airplane, but very unncessary in a car. so then, as an agent of convenience and safety, i would much rather have a massive shark bite than a GPS device.

this brings me to my next point, which is that nothing made these days works as it is intended. my cell phone for example works as a great mp3 player, camera, planner, memo pad, and alarm clock. but it is constantly dropping calls, spraying static into my ear, and running out of electricity. for communicating with people, i would honestly be better off shouting loudly and hoping the person i need to speak with is within earshot.

the same goes for my computer which is constantly freezing and my coffee machine that likes to spray boiling hot grounds at my face. my car spends half its time at the shop having its airbags and electric windows replaced,  my microwave only wants to warm up the bowl and not the food in it, and the remote control to my television is impossibly complicated and has a thousand buttons all with hieroglyphics written on them.

i think i understand what is going on here. because several years ago, banks lent money they did not have to deadbeats in california who would could not pay back the loans, the economy is now in shambles. in these current times of bank failures, auto company bailouts, and the dropping value of the US dollar, i believe the goods we buy  are cleverly designed to create extra jobs and help us out of the economic slump. not only do the products have to be manufactured in a factory, but someone has to be hired to answer the phone when you call customer support when it breaks. the company also has to employee a technician to fix your broken appliance or device and then in order to ship your mended product back to you, they must ring up a delivery man. if all the things i owned never went wrong, think of all the people that would be jobless and living in squalor.

so remember this next time you are on hold listening to bad music and waiting for an indian man to help you fix your broken laptop. he may be a thousand miles away, have no proficiency at the english language, all the while genuinely not caring about your computer, but just like you buying your rubbish laptop, he is doing his part to help the world economy.

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January 28, 2009 at 2:46 am 4 comments

At the dinner table:

Dad: You know, I was thinking today about all my accomplishments. I have two kids, two cars, two houses… but only one wife! (hearty laughter)
Mom: (no laughter, raises an eyebrow.)

January 8, 2009 at 9:48 pm 3 comments


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