Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Devil's Work

There are definitely some inventions that the world would be a better place without. Things that are a constant source of irritation; whose only purpose seems to be to make our lives awkward, stressful or simply downright unpleasant.
Some of these things surround us in our everyday lives, and some we even bring into our own homes in the mistaken belief that our lives will be somehow enriched. We only need to flick through the Betterware catalogue for evidence of this.

Now I'm not going to go on here about the annoyances caused by other people's actions - that would take an eternity to write, resulting in a series of books that would occupy more bookshelf space than the whole Harry Potter collection.
Instead I want to point an accusatory finger at inanimate objects that were probably intended to either make life easier or entertain us, but instead serve only to make our lives a misery.
In my previous post 'Supporting Role' I mentioned the padded bra, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Let's take answerphones as an example. Someone probably phoned a work colleague and had to leave a message for his secretary to pass on rather than keep calling back, and thought it would be wonderful if everyone who didn't have the benefit of a secretary could have a similar service. As a result we have a device that gets you all flustered when you're connected to it so you either end up leaving an unintelligible message littered with 'erms' and 'ums', or doing as I always do and just hang up. If you're silly enough to own such a thing, all you do is rack up a huge phone bill calling back the people that left bizarre messages full of 'erms' and 'ums'.

This brings me nicely to the mobile phone (or cellphone if you're American), which has become an almost essential part of modern life, giving people the opportunity to keep in touch, and with the advent of the smartphone to have the world at their fingertips wherever they may be. The downside of this is always being contactable (unless you switch it off), patchy reception, mystical abbreviations in text messages (the younger the sender the weirder the message), unwanted texts and cold-callers, and the emergence of a new breed of idiot who wants to deliberately bend a new iPhone.
 Indeed, much of the technology we use every day has a down side. Our computers, smartphones, tablets etc have gradually changed the way many of us live our lives. We don't go out shopping so much because we can buy everything we need from the comfort of our sofa. Social media has made us less sociable than ever, and when you do meet up with people they still spend half their time with their phone in their hand checking for Facebook updates.

There's Dyson vacuum cleaners that cost a fortune but are about as reliable as a secondhand Lada, and blu-ray players that take so long to start up that you could have chucked a tape in an old VHS machine and watched the film before the blu-ray has got beyond the menus.
Anything involving Bluetooth is a waste of time because even if you do ever get it to communicate with another device the transfer rate is so slow it would be quicker to write the pages of ones and zeros by hand and send them by second class mail.

The kitchen is always a target for gizmos that promise to take the hard work out of your culinary endeavours, and we've all been sucked into buying these things at some time or other.
I've lost track of all the garlic presses that have made it take ten times longer to deal with the garlic than just chopping it finely with a sharp knife.
And what about the poorly designed mug trees that fall over if you dare to remove a mug and upset the balance?
Then we have microwave ovens that heat the bowl to roughly the same temperature as the core of a nuclear reactor while your soup remains stubbornly tepid, toasters that are impossible to clean properly, and food processors that claim to do twenty jobs but only do two of them effectively and the additional washing up takes longer than it would have taken to do the job without it.

Our cars are not exempt from this problem either. If I want to start the engine before putting on my seat belt I do not want the car to make horrible beeping noises at me until I comply with its desires, and if I wish to put my bag on the passenger seat I don't want the car to have a hissy fit because it thinks there's an unbelted passenger sitting there. I got so pissed off with this I went under the seats and disconnected all the sensors to make it shut up.
I don't want a car to decide when I need to switch on the lights or the wipers, I don't want my seat heated so that I think I've wet myself, and I don't want a big red light telling me I'm two weeks overdue an oil change. Yet the car manufacturers seem to think we need all these things because we're obviously too stupid to work it out for ourselves, so unless you go for one of the few bargain basement grot-boxes you get saddled with all this unwanted crap by default. In many cases it's just technology for the sake of it.
Personally all I want is a throttle pedal connected to a carburettor by a mechanical cable, a bunch of switches for the essential electrical stuff, a decent stereo and a comfy seat. An old Jaguar XJ12 would do very nicely thank-you, not a modern sensory deprivation chamber sponsored by Microsoft.

I'm going on a bit here, but I still feel I've barely scratched the surface. I'm sure other people have their own list of items from Satan's workshop that they feel they'd be happier without, and I'd enjoy hearing about them.
In the meantime, I still need to find a way to effectively clean my julienne peeler without shredding either the dishcloth or my hand.