Sunday, December 30, 2007

I have spent the past several days, since Christmas, opening my presents and assembling the contents. One of the great things about childhood and believing in Santa Claus is that you would wake up, on Christmas morning, with the gifts already opened and assembled. They were ready to play with. Santa had done all the work of assembly and didn’t bother to wrap them in impenetrable packages. It’s easier to break into a safe at Ft. Knox than open some packages and the instructions for assembly are written in multiple languages in little manuals not even understood by the Almighty himself. It’s easier to read and interpret the Rosetta Stone than the instructions in those little manuals. I rarely make it past the instructions on how to insert the batteries and the several pages of warnings before I give up in despair.

The goal of the packaging industry is to make the product totally inaccessible. I didn’t know, until a few years ago, that there are engineers who design these impregnable products for containing our purchases. There is actually a course of study in colleges for a packaging degree. It’s even harder than most other engineering courses. These folks have to be well versed in every field of science including chemistry and physics. They must be able to create materials that have the tensile strength of steel and are impervious to the knife or scissors. Even the human teeth are unable to penetrate most packaging materials. People my age are usually toothless, not from decay, but by loss from efforts to use the mouth and teeth as an opening tool.

It has taken me a week to open and assemble a new phone for my partner. The device was encased in one of those packages made of clear hard plastic. I could see the enticing instrument very clearly, but getting to it was another matter. The package has a seam that looks like it could be easily separated for a quick opening. But no, this seam is glued shut with a chemical from Krypton that makes superglue look like water. The plastic covering is made of a hard plastic with the molecular structure so compact it would survive a nuclear blast. Once penetrated, there is no way the store would take the product back because of the damage inflicted from the opening.

I got the phone so that I could program a lot of frequently called numbers into the device for easy dialing (Ha, Ha). A little window on the phone contains the date, time and displays the number of the person calling along with numerous bits of meaningless data. The instruction manual is written in multiple languages and I have to turn the book in several directions before I finally find English. With the help of my son-in-law, an experienced computer programmer, I was finally able to insert several numbers. There are more buttons on the phone than on the control panel of a jet airplane. The communication system for the Apollo astronauts now looks like a child’s toy compared to our gadget. We now have to get one of our grandchildren to place our calls. They are the only ones who understand how the thing works.

I will be spending the next several days on the porch opening the other gifts. I hope to have my new, postage stamp size, digital camera working by spring, if I can get it out of the box. Just finding the compartment for the batteries and prying it open is a great challenge, so it may even be next Christmas before I get through all the instructions and take my first picture..


Blogger jeff ludwick said...

Amazing, isn't it? I got my wife new phones because we couldn't figure out how to get the batteries out of the old one or where to get new ones even if we did. My cell phone is even worse. Not long ago my granddaughter heard it beeping constantly and after examining it for a moment she told me I had over 40 voice messages and twice that many "text messages" which she displayed for me. Most were in a language akin to ebonics or a secret code. very few vowels or puncuation. I fear that I should get an early start on my porch to capture what small amount of sanity I have left. And the election antics are just getting started........

11:02 AM  

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