Wednesday, May 4

Letter from America

A friend visiting the USA mentioned to me that Americans – with their absolute consumer-friendly consciousness – have become a nation of big babies.  What started with the lawsuit-inspired ‘warning labels’ onslaught (affixed to everything from champagne bottles – “don’t hold up to eye” to stepladders – no longer even produced as a result of the legal ramifications of selling something that people might – duhhhh – place in quicksand)*, Americans, it would seem, can’t seem to think let alone do anything for themselves anymore.  Landing in LAX, debarking announcements included, “Don’t give money to those soliciting on the premises.”  As if.
And so the lines have been blurred between providing awesome new consumer improvements like, “Automated check-in here,” and bizarre features that only serve to remind you how pathetic we have truly become.
The car I’m driving no longer needs to be actually unlocked.  Touch the handle and the doors magically open.  Push a button to start your engine.  As a driver of a 14 yr. old jalopy whose only features are electric windows (which don't work so well, I might add), every time I get in I forget what I’m supposed to be doing there.  Blame it on muscle memory.  The cars beep when your favorite program is starting on the radio, light up when you get too close to the curb, and will even drive you into a parallel parking spot.  In the Dodge I'm driving, the radio goes slightly softer when you slow down.  
But then you find the ice maker on your fridge door has a ‘lock’ feature so kiddies don’t make all the ice spill out onto the ground.  The bus driver reminded us all to ‘hold onto the handles’ when using the facilities lest you end up peeing all over the toilet and yourself should the bus suddenly round a curve.  Parents aren’t allowed to pick up their own children early from sports events.  You’re no longer allowed to sit in your car while pumping gas (and this in Michigan winters) – Costco even has guards posted there to make sure you’re compliant – why they just don’t pump your gas for you, is beyond me.  Cup holders in cars now bear the ominous threat, “Not for hot liquids.” And every time I sit in a car with heated seats, I always kinda feel as if I've wet my pants.
I can’t tell if we’re getting to the point where things are going to be so totally awesome – like having a tiny robot run around your house vacuuming all the while – or where people will have to be pointed in the right direction and given a list of three steps (and no more than three) to carry out in order to conclude their transaction.  Anyone who’s ever watched someone check into an airline or check out of a grocery store might know what I mean.

*To get your fill of the American penchant for wacky warning labels, listen in as my Detroit area friend Bob Dorigo Jones discusses absurd litigation, or, pick up his book,  Remove Child Before Folding, The 101 Stupidest, Silliest and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever.


Anonymous said...

We're dumbing ourselves down, if you ask me! There's a great movie that represents this perfectly "Idiocracy", check it out!

Anonymous said...

Blame it on the Lawyers...starting to happen here too!

HarmCo said...

And of all the places I noticed a real excess of warning-labels, restrictions, rules, admonitions, and precautions - it was Six Flags Great America, in about '99. In that case I was told it was a result of the recent spate of gun-violence at the park; also I had been many years away from any amusement park so there was a bit of a time warp effect. I wonder if there's a theory to be calcified around the points you've made being being related to an increasingly randomly violent society... (in addition to the point about litigiousness, and to the increasingly short attention span I for one am honing, interfacing with all these databases, and relying upon all these servers to trade messages).

Charlene said...

...and so the sentient voice from the self serve at the supermarket cautions with a monotone warning to remove the item from the bag. With the aid of human help who releases my bag-from-another-store (complete with other-store logo)and asks; "Have you paid for this already?" Daah!?! How come I don't get to make a sarcastic retort?

mmtmrb said...