Extricating Barbie & other end-of-year meanderings

Random musings in the wake of 12 million holiday calories and a trashcan overflowing with wrapping paper and ribbons:

  • Ever wonder how much of the world's manufacturing capacity and resources is devoted to theft-proofing things we buy? Just one example: Your basic Barbie doll is not only sealed in a plastic cocoon that requires a chainsaw to penetrate, but is also glued to the box and fastened with at least a dozen heavy-duty twist-ties, which are themselves hot-glued to the box.

  • Are you as amazed as I at how cheap anything electronic has become? You can now buy a plain paper fax machine for $49.95; a few years ago it would've set you back $2,000. A 4-head VCR, not so long ago $300, now $49.95. Computers that five years ago were $3,000, now $750 or less, with far more power and features. At Wal-Mart recently, I bought a new wall-mount phone for the kitchen. Speakerphone, 13-memory speed dial. $9.95!! If Wal-Mart can make a profit importing it from China or wherever and selling it for $9.95, can you imagine what the original manufacturing cost was?

  • The foregoing does NOT apply to anything electronic in automobiles. If you ever have to replace one of those circuit boards, better get a bank loan first.

  • Small appliance repairmen: another cottage industry that's becoming obsolete. There's no reason anymore to have repairmen who can fix TVs, VCRs, and electronic appliances. Everything's so cheap, if it breaks just throw it away, get another.

  • Do you know of a store that has an “itch care aisle?” An extremely irritating TV commercial advises that the product can be found in the “itch care aisle.” Gimme a break.

  • Remember when you took your Christmas/birthday/vacation photos, sealed the rolls of film in a mailing envelope and sent 'em away, waiting anxiously the week or two required to get prints back? Now, you shoot it with your digital camera or videocam and see it instantly. Who'd have ever thought film would become an anachronism and an empire like Kodak would struggle to stay afloat?

  • Do people who design hotel rooms ever actually STAY in them? Based on my experience over many years, I seriously doubt it, else so many of those rooms would not be so user-unfriendly.

  • Do people who design automobiles ever actually DRIVE them for two or three years or more? Obviously not; same reason as above.

  • How do laws of probability become suspended as one approaches a traffic light, making it red far more often than green?

  • Why are we taken aback nowadays when the rare youngster responds, “Yes, sir,” “Yes, ma'am” (or even bothers to respond at all when spoken to)? Civility and manners seem to be less and less a part of child-rearing. In a Charleston, S.C., restaurant recently, the 20-ish college student waiter politely responded with “Yes, sir”s and “Yes, ma'am”s. How refreshing.

  • Finally: Where has the year gone? I hope 2003 will be a good one for you (and that it won't go quite so fast!).

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