I have decided to move with the times and add enhanced features to my columns.
I made this decision after careful thought about what I would like for lunch and decided that if I put off writing my column much longer, I’d run dangerously close to beating my own record for procrastination. Some things are best left for the next generation.
Enhanced features have been on my mind lately, though, as I keep reading articles about new and improved products that will supposedly not only make life easier, but will also make me personally more “with it” and “cool” (if those are even the appropriate phrases anymore).
Each new product that has an advanced feature always leaves me wondering: “Who thought this would be a good idea?” and, “How can I get that job, which is obviously not above my rather modest level of intelligence?”
For example, I recently bought an ink pen that, according to the product description, doubles as a stylus for a touch-screen phone. Pretty exciting stuff, and I’m sure I would have found a good use for it. But it did not have the one thing I really need in a pen: a homing beacon.
I lose pens like cats lose hair — everywhere all the time. This has led me to buy cheap, disposable pens because they are basically a one-use item for me. And yet, the promise of enhanced features lured me into buying a single pen for what amounted to a two-month pen allowance.
While nearly every product, from canned food to shampoo, suffers from enhanced features, car manufacturers are among the most guilty. For example, the Nissan Cube now comes with an optional “shag dash topper” for your driving convenience. Basically this is a piece of carpet stuck atop the dashboard. Handy, I suppose, for collecting semi-used pieces of hard candy and gum.
While we’re on the topic of food in vehicles, The Ford Flex advertises a backseat refrigerator, and the Fiat 500L apparently boasts an on-board espresso machine.
These are nice features, and certainly more useful than the enhanced feature advertised for the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe: a headliner bespeckled with fiber optic lights that simulate a starlit sky.
Like my pen, these supposed improvements don’t really address any real need I have for a new function in a vehicle, like an on-board toilet for extended road trips across town.
In fact, all these new features just make it less likely that A.) I can afford the car in question, and B.) I would ever dare use the car if I did buy one, for fear of breaking it.
I labor under the impression that I can fix most car problems myself. Like a lotto ticket buyer, on rare occasions I get close enough to the jackpot that I believe I actually have a chance of success.
Of course, my car is a 1985 Toyota station wagon I got for free from a close friend who was embarrassed to have me park my old car in his driveway. There are still a few things on a 28-year-old car that I can fiddle with until it works for a few more months.
I also have an old truck I picked up in trade. It, too, is just simple enough for me to not actually damage it when I try to “play mechanic,” as my wife calls it.
I only get into real trouble when I try to perform basic maintenance on my wife’s car. A few weeks ago my dearest drained the car battery while attempting to charge her cell phone. (Note: Could someone please make seat belts that won’t release until all vehicle electronics are shut off?)
I, of course, valiantly rushed to the rescue and crosswired the jumper cables — it was dark, OK? — resulting in half a dozen blown fuses. This simple mistake took three days and countless Internet searches to fix.
I finally had to disassemble the entire fuse box to expose two screws that held the main power fuse. This requires hands roughly 1.53 times smaller than my current pair.
My wife’s car has a few enhanced features though, like an mp3 player plug-in, which are supposed to make up for a fuse box designed by netherworld residents of bad moral standing.
Despite the lack of features that actually make sense, manufacturers keep enticing us consumers with newfangled features that actually just make life a little bit worse. The Ford Flex refrigerator, for example, will only make it that much easier for kids to make a huge mess. And you can bet some kid, in a fit of inventive necessity, will use the thing as a toilet.
Oh, and speaking of toilets, just wait until we have a bunch of Fiat drivers, all hopped up on caffeine, racing around looking for the next bathroom.
But we keep buying into the hype, and not just with consumer products. Each election cycle our politicians keep shilling “New and Improved Legislation, Guaranteed to Solve Your Problems, Real and Imagined.”
I wonder if that’s why we use the word “recall” for both politics and products?
Oh well, I’ve adopted the old adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” So here it is, my column, “Now Fortified with Vitamins and Minerals (provided you take multivitamin pills while you read it) and Guaranteed to Make You Smarter (so long as you don’t actually read it).”
And I’ve added a scratch-and-sniff feature. Some columns will have strawberry scent, some will feature piña colada.
Please write email@example.com and let me know which you received. I’m starting to put together my campaign fundraising contact list.