Friday, June 09, 2006

whining on a Friday

Sometimes I look at an invention and can’t imagine how we did without it.

Okay, that’s not true. What I really do is look at an invention and think “Wow, it sure is better to have that invention” but that’s not as cool or dramatic as not being able to live without it. Or whatever.

But my point is that the list of things I’m really glad to have includes:
  • Velcro
  • Ziploc bags
  • Tupperware
  • Breast implants (just kidding)
  • The plastic thing that lets you adjust backpack straps easily instead of having a buckle
  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • Microwave ovens
  • Thongs peeking over low-cut jeans
  • Everything about dentistry
  • CDs/DVDs
  • Contacts
  • Lasik surgery

I notice I don’t think that about things not invented in my lifetime, like:

  • The wheel
  • Zippers
  • telephones
  • voting
  • rubber
  • plastic (except when a rubber/plastic version of something – shoes, glasses – is way better than the original kind)

But you know what? That wasn’t really my point either. My main point is that sometimes I look at stuff and think: someday there will be an invention (or maybe just a policy change) that makes us go “How did we ever live with the inconvenience?”

The one that tweaked me yesterday (for the 1000th time) was the garbage receptacle found in fast food restaurants, and other places that should know better. You know, the ones that have an opening in the front covered by heavy swinging door hinged at the top.

They keep the garbage covered (no flies, no smell) and I imagine they’re easy to maintain. Other than that, they are the work of Satan.

They’re highly difficult to use. I’m pretty sure they were the winning entry in the Most Worthless Trash Receptacle Thing competition.

To put anything in, you have to push open the door with one hand and put the trash in with the other. So it takes two hands to throw away a paper cup, and it’s still difficult because pushing on the top two inches of the door gives you absolutely no leverage.

You *can* push the door open with the actual garbage, but you run the risk of the door swinging back onto your fingers. Also, when you push the door with your hand, remember that half the people before you have used the push-with-the-garbage method, and you’re touching where their half-eaten Chicken McGreaseLumps were smeared a couple of minutes ago.

If you try to dump a whole tray in, the door knocks the empty food & drink containers onto the floor – all very inefficient and unsatisfying.

Other things in the “why are we still doing it this way?” category include:

The little plastic bags in hotel wastebaskets that are too short for the basket – so if you throw in, say, a crumpled post-it note, the entire bag falls to the bottom of the can with a little swishing sound.

Stoplights that don’t have sensors. It’s so efficient to sit for 5 minutes at an empty intersection as the light cycles, knowing that the flip side of having a less corrupt police force (ie, one that pays some attention to the Rule of Law) is having cops who think it makes sense to ticket someone for blowing a light at an empty intersection at 1am.

The feature in Microsoft Excel where if you try to select a couple of rows beyond what’s being displayed, the scrolling takes off like a bat out of hell and you end up selecting something like sixty five thousand records. Come to think of it, the “why are we still doing it this way” question could be applied to a number of things that Micro$oft has done, but then they also give us compatibility across a wide range of applications, plus the whole subject is only interesting to about zero of the people who read this blog.

I'm sure you can add your own (much better) examples to this list…


At Fri Jun 09, 04:18:00 PM PDT, Blogger Alan said...

Stop lights that do have sensors can be a pain as well. I drive a major arterial to work around 4:30 AM when traffic is minimal. There are three side streets on the way that have on-demand sensors in their right-turn only lane. By the time the light turns green for the side street, the car has already made it's free-right-on-red and is well on its way down the arterial. So now I'm stuck like a doofus waiting for my light to turn back to green. Arrrgh!

At Fri Jun 09, 04:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger Alan said...

That Excel scroll drives me crazy too!

At Fri Jun 09, 06:41:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

The feature in Microsoft Excel where if you try to select a couple of rows beyond what’s being displayed, the scrolling takes off like a bat out of hell and you end up selecting something like sixty five thousand records.


At Fri Jun 09, 11:19:00 PM PDT, Anonymous si said...

agree with the fastfood trash receptacles, too-short bags in trash cans in hotels, AND excel run-away-scrolling (i always thought it just me being lame -- this post is actually making me feel better! thanks! :-))

you mentioned cd's in your "glad" list but what about their packaging? it drives me nuts to have to open them with a scalpel of some sort (or that "special cd opener" that i can never find when i need it) because that sticky-tape-thing won't come off!! and, newspaper ink? surely by now they could come up with something that won't transfer onto your hands/white clothes... oh, and pasta packaging that makes *some* want to tear a hole in it instead of having to go get the scissors. ;-)

"ppbad" was my word verification.

At Sat Jun 10, 08:12:00 AM PDT, Blogger unca said...

I suppose that pop top soft drink/beer cans could be added to the list. On the other hand, there was somethinf kind of satisfying about using the triangular opener to get to poke a hole in the top.

At Sat Jun 10, 08:16:00 AM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Oh, by the way.. Velcro was actually invented in 1948. I wonder why it only seemed to catch on relatively later.

At Sat Jun 10, 11:41:00 PM PDT, Blogger Left Coast Sister said...

I second all of yours and would add (much to my local environmentalists chagrin) disposable diapers. Former tree-hugger or no, I have never been fond of rinsing excrement out of cloth. I would also add (to further the local environmentalists' chagrin) the car. The Volvo specifically.

At Sun Jun 18, 08:56:00 PM PDT, Blogger Dawnelle said...

Hey Bryan,

Perhaps Canada has one up on the US? Up here, those delightful garbage cans are now all switching over to the newer, better version which includes a handle that curves upwards from the door. Pull down on handle, door opens inward, dump garbage in. No more touching the remains of someone else's supper! New addition to the "thank goodness someone invented it" list! :)

At Wed Jun 21, 12:10:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Jim said...

Hi Bryan!
I found your blog by a google for "let the play say the thing".

Nice work, I enjoy your sense of...well, stuff.

I just wanted to add to the list of Microsoft things that make you go 'Hmmn..': Why is it that MS Word, which has been written to ONLY run on a multi-threaded, multi-process, multi-processor-capable operating system, needs to stop responding to keystrokes in order to do a periodic 'autosave', which itself is only necessary and desirable due to the historical tendency of MS Word and Windows both to crash/lockup/flakeout if one is ever rash enough to actually try to USE them. Just my morbid curiosity at work.

Excellent blog, thanks for sharing!


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