Commentary

Please Work!

Here, reprinted in its tiny little entirety, is a story that moved over the AP wire at 10:51 AM (ET) on April 14th:

AP (AP) - - Please work!

Now, if we deconstruct this in the manner of Eats, Shoots & Leaves we might see this as plea by a journalist for a new job, not an unreasonable assumption based on the massive number of layoffs in that sector in the past few years. But to me, it is an iconic post modern, electronic-age perhaps Luddite distressed cry for help. Who among us has not sat in front of a piece of technology promoted as a device that would make our lives somehow better, but was either too complicated to get to work correctly or simply won't work and said we all, "Please work." Amended of course by a series of purple invectives directed at whoever 1) made the device; 2) wrote the instructions, 3) sold us the item or 4) said to us: "You can't live without one."

It was enlightening to learn in the context of the Toyota recall(s) that electronics have replaced most of the wires and pulleys that connect the shin bone to the thigh bone in the engines of our cars, conjuring up images of the blue screen of death appearing on our GPS display as we power down in the middle lane of a 70 mph interstate.

Our homes have become Christmas trees of red and green and blue power indicators and a junkyard of remotes, three of which are required to turn on everything necessary to watch a DVD (and don't harangue me about universal remotes -- they are harder to set up than a backyard universal gym that is shipped in 1,347 parts.) "Step one: Set aside 7 hours..."

To accommodate this wild proliferation of must-have electronics, every outlet in your home now is festooned with surge protector strips often strung in a series conjuring images of you and your family standing out on the frozen front lawn in your PJs while the fire department tries vainly to save what's left of your house. Everything we have come to rely on to run our lives is subject to power or system failures to such a degree than in a crisis either you probably can't recall your own home phone number and certainly no longer have anyone else's memorized. "No, I can't TELL you my address where my house is on fire, because I can't get my iPhone to power up." Then there are the constant recriminations over who took whose charger out of whose room.

Somebody is going to make a fortune making i-Anything chargers that come in a package of five, each a different color.

I have found that cursing loudly has about the same impact on a faltering device as does banging it on the kitchen countertop and runs far less of a risk of your wife asking angrily who put scratches in the Corian? When all else fails and you have exhausted your vocabulary of profanity (generally when you are reduced to repeated the f-bomb over and over) it is time to humble yourself and ask your thirteen-year-old to help you. About 75% of the time you are soon back in business, chastened by rolling eyes and smirks, but better off than with a still-dead device.

If you are really feeling masochistic, you can call a technical help line, but unless you are conversant in Kanadda, Dogri, Ladacki or Kashmiri, or don't mind holding while you are put at the back of the queue for a higher-level technician, you are pretty much wasting an hour you could spend tearing your hair out and giving the finger to the home page of the offending manufacturer.

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