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Tuesday, May 28, 2013


So for my birthday, Nancy and Spencer got me a fancy Garmin GPS watch that will calculate distance, speed, and tell time.  I believe it will also tell me the weather in case I can't tell I'm being rained on.  Evidently Spencer got tired, every time we went running together, of my asking her every fifty paces, "How far have we gone now?  How far have we gone now?"

Spencer has her own GPS watch, you see, one of the drawbacks to having information is that other people expect you to share it.  Imagine how dreary life must have been for the first person to ever own a pocket watch, being asked every five minutes what time it was.  Of course, I figure my asking Spencer twenty times a minute how far we've gone is karmic payback for all the road trips she went on as a child with her endless repetitions of, "Are we there yet?  How soon will we be there?"  Although, actually, as I think about it, she rarely said that, instead it was more like, "Watch where you're going!  Do you want to get us killed?"

Anyway, all of the preceding was just preamble to talk about the packaging my Garmin came in, which, if you think about it, was kind of like the packaging for this blog, and is pretty meta and should make you think I'm a lot smarter than I appear and maybe treat me with respect for a change.

Garmins, and various other hi-tech devices I could name, come in devilishly complex packaging devised, I believe, by embittered unemployed NASA engineers who believe they're smarter than the rest of us, and want to make sure we believe it also.  The Garmin sits invitingly behind a little plastic window, a clear plastic decal with a simulated time on its face to show you how it will appear if you ever free it from its cardboard and plastic prison.  There are tabs that seem to slide from the sides of the box into the lid, but no amount of prying will get them to undo.  At last, however, you cajole the box open, and emits a little avalanche of instructions, CD Roms, power cords, and adapters.  Do not attempt to fit this assorted crap back in the box the way it came.  It cannot be done.  Stuff it in there as best you can and put it in the top of the closet where hopefully your wife won't notice it.

I should mention that when I opened the Garmin, Nancy informed me in no uncertain terms that this was a "nice" present, and I should "take care of it," not to break or misplace it.  In other words, the Garmin is not so much a present as it is a test to determine my fitness to manage myself as an adult.  It was like that damn hamster Mother got me as a child to teach me "responsibility."  If the Garmin is a test of whether I deserve to call myself an adult, the box is a test of whether I deserve to have a Garmin, and clearly I have flunked the first test.  I believe this is actually the point behind hi-tech packaging, to so demoralize the consumer that he'll be ashamed to call Customer Service when the thing breaks down.  (Don't believe me?  Think of the last time you called Customer Service, and try telling me all those automated instructions to "Press One for English" and "If this is correct, say yes" aren't just another technique - more packaging, if you will - to convince you that you don't belong in this century and hang up in despair.)

I compare all this to the packaging at McDonalds, a much-maligned corporation at which I myself have sometimes taken the cheap shot.  The Big Mac comes in a little Styrofoam box which requires but a simple pinch of the lid to pop open like the mouth of a cooperative toad, and inside - a burger!  No test here, no challenge to your wits to see if you're worthy of a Big Mac.  "You're welcome," the Styrofoam Mouth seems to say.  "I've been waiting for you, and you're worthy of this."

Compare that to the tangled crumpled mess that remains of my Garmin box, hidden in the top of the closet where Nancy won't see - I now perceive writing this blog may not have been the wisest course of action to maintain my secret, but no matter.

When I am cremated, I wish my remains to be scattered in a beautiful wilderness somewhere.  But first I want them packaged in a Garmin box.  I'll do the same for my will and all the bearer bonds and loose diamonds I currently have in my safety deposit box.

I want my heirs to dispose of me properly and I want them to enjoy the hard-won fruits of my labors.  But first I want them to prove themselves worthy by the struggle to open my container.

I wonder if there's a way to install a Customer Service Line.

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