Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Look, we don’t want to be whiners or hopeless Luddites, but the modern world is clearly headed in the wrong direction. We’re not talking about hip-hop, computers, or reality TV, all of which we endorse with the zeal of a cocker spaniel at a ha’ smoke1 cook-off on the first day of spring. (In fact, we’re currently developing a TV show in which rappers without their own sitcoms or “Law & Order” spin-off characters compete with teenage boys to find the most depraved online porn. As soon as we sign Andy Dick as host, NBC will start sniffing around the project, you just watch.)

Rather, we see corruption, bad taste, and laziness in the nooks and crannies of everyday life, which we can now bear only by starting each morning with a heaping bowl of honey-nut Frosted Flakes swimming in a pool of triple cappuccino and brandy. The worst offenders—the things that make us seriously reconsider our commitment to boosting the American economy by opening a nationally franchised chain of do-it-yourself massage parlors—are listed below.

Stickers on Fruit
Look, we have put up with that sticky strip they put on CD cases so that opening each one is the equivalent of stealing one of the president’s nuts. We tolerate the music industry’s equivalent of the chastity belt only because it allows us to bathe in the scrumptious pleasure-pop of today with the assurance that it is carefully protected virgin material. The tiny stickers on every single one of our crisp Rome apples and tender-to-the-touch white peaches, however, represent only the anal-retentive freakishness of today’s inventory-obsessive culture. We prefer not to imagine the Death-to-the-Boss-inducing tedium of the job of placing these tiny stickers on the fruit. Plus, we’ve eaten between six and seven dozen in the last year alone. Cough.

Cup-Holder Multiplication
The boom in Hot Liquid Velocity-Management Prophylactic Devices must be up there with the W.M.D.-like proliferation of boutique antacids. Time was, you did what you wanted to do and you took your chances. You smoked your Luckies unfiltered and you welcomed lung cancer like an old college friend ready to buy you a beer; you picked up a Laotian hooker and you took the clap like a man; you drank a piping hot beverage in a moving vehicle and you got burned. Today, on the other hand, it is the inalienable right of all to sip-and-go, and thus every passenger in our cars has several options in cup-holding technology, with varying sizes and methods of beverage suspension available from every location. But despite the incredible energy put into this by global automakers, we won’t see it as an improvement till we can make super-strong licorice espresso from a stainless-steel top-of-the-line Pasquini built into the glove compartment. You install a small bean-grinder where the side-impact airbags go and you’ve got yourself an engineering marvel. But the cup-holders alone are the kind of cheapo half-measure we’d as soon see dumped.

Adults Named “Courtney”
We get to work a month or so ago and there’s a new employee named “Courtney.” She looks about 14, which is fine with us. Then she tells us she’s married. And we’re picturing some poor guy who had to tell his mother than he was engaged to a girl named “Courtney.” America, you’re creating a whole generation of guys whose mothers think they are child-molesters, and that’s just not healthy. We propose that all babies dubbed “Courtney” be given a default adult name (we’re currently favoring “Maxine”) that kicks in at 17.

Supermarkets That Don’t Let You Take Your Cart to the Car
A man’s gotta eat, and so we purchase comestibles at our local market, which kindly provides us with a classic metal shopping cart so we do not have to dash to the check-out with armfuls of food, leaving them unguarded while we go back for more. What gives, then, when the local Safeway or Grand Union fences in the store such that we cannot cart our 100-pack of chicken wings and 60-oz. jug o’ BBQ sauce all the way to our car? Apparently we are supposed to leave our cart of paid-for food at the curb and then drive the car around for curbside loading, at which point tip-hungry Safeway employees offer to help us by putting their paws all over our boxes of frozen waffles. To us, this is like Jet Blue agreeing to fly you to New York but dropping you in a small suburb of Weehawken and suggesting you either swim the Hudson or hop a Jersey cab for the last few miles.

Automatically Flushing Toilets
The loss of autonomy re: when one flushes one’s toilet helps nobody, and we certainly don’t believe it saves water, as we seem to set off the auto-flushing several times during each draining of the vein, usually when we’re doing that little waving move that’s kind of the peeing equivalent of wiping. Never mind the loss of control over how long one flushes (which is relevant when you’re buying chicken wings in bulk like we are), but not even being able to decide if has got to be some subtle C.I.A. mind control. Ditto hand washing, as we find ourselves waving our soapy palms in front of the faucet like we were an obstetrician waiting for junior to emerge or possibly Jason Varitek waiting for one of Wakefield’s knuckleballs to flutter into our hands. We’ve recently encountered the “waterless” toilet, especially in civic buildings, about which we have to ask: What exactly is in the pink cake under the drain, and how much do you think Saddam would’ve paid to get a baker’s dozen of them? If water must be saved, we favor those big-ass urinals shaped like the troughs that pigs eat out of that look like they could fit a statue of the Virgin or Dean Martin. Now that’s what we call peein’.

1 A “ha’ smoke” is a hot-dog kind of thing that is sold on the streets of D.C. They’re thicker than hot dogs and kind of spicier. And the great thing about the ha’ smoke is that it’s really called a “half smoke” (like, half sausage, half hot dog?), but they are pronounced “ha’ smoke” and so that’s how it’s spelled now. We find all this incredibly amusing and love to say things like “Hey, how ’bout a ha’ smoke?” and then giggle.

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