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Spills [29 Apr 2005|01:51am]

On tankers full of coffee.

There's been something wrong with me since I got home from work today. I'm not sure what it is. It has to do with not eating properly, though, and also with being disproportionately obsessed with minutiae. I had a light breakfast ----just a bagel and a banana, and a whole bunch of coffee from Au Bon Pain, because I woke up late. Why does coffee come in cups that huge? I will never say the words "large coffee" again. Every time I think to say them, I should imagine myself saying, "Exxon Valdez of coffee," and that should make the urge go away, while simultaneously reminding me both of a horrible tragedy resulting from massive overconsumption and a possibly racist advertising campaign for a particularly horrid brand of coffee powder.

In fairness to me, let's also reflect for a moment on the fact that the large coffee I got at ABP yesterday was a different size from the large coffee I got from ABP today. So I was caught off guard. There may have been a communication problem. I'm a mumbler.

Our space-age economy cannot produce cups to be that huge and still be safe to hold and stable enough to stand on a desk or other trustworthy surface. So they have to put one cup inside of another cup. If they don't do that, the cup is too flimsy and will squish in your hand like that mouse in that book. In this way, the cup-design industry (I believe cup design is an area of focus at my alma mater, Michigan State, which has an all-star Packaging department) is kind of like the oil tanker industry, which turns to double-hulls when a single hull just ain't enough.

I've always had a tremendous disrespect for simple products intended to do simple things that don't work right. This long-standing beef is a personality flaw that comes from my years spent working in the customer service economy, where one has a plethora of opportunities to encounter simple products intended to do simple things that don't work right. Cups are a good example. A cup has a simple purpose. Hold liquid. Yes, there should be some conveniences that make drinking from the container easy, but those are just conveniences. The baseline purpose is, Hold liquid. Just like with a car, the baseline purpose is, Go. No matter what else the product instance may do---in the case of the cup, maybe it displays a logo or a witty bit of Feng Shui; in the case of the car, maybe it has a sweet stereo---if it doesn't do its basic duty, it is an unmitigated failure.

Cups that squish when you pick them up, cups that leak, cups where the lid doesn't fit on right so something dribbles out onto your shirt, cups which fall over because the bottom is not flat---these could serve as illustrations in a child's dictionary for the term Failure. As a customer, you may be under the impression in these cases that you just got the bad cup. As someone who has worked the other side of the counter, let me assure you that you are not alone; there are very frequently whole runs of bad cups, and in fact these runs may go on for years. Because unlike cars, which nearly always do Go when they are first produced and only later lose that faculty, cups very often don't Hold Liquid even at their freshest moment of conception. Nobody tests your cup before you get it, because if they did, that would be gross. But because they don't, your cups sucks. I've considered marketing my skills as a coffee-cup tester outside of the local Dunkin' Donuts in the morning. I bet if I showed up with a nice starched white shirt on and a sign that said, Coffee Cup Integrity Checkpoint, I could probably turn a few tricks.

While walking with my double-cupped coffee and plain cinnamon-raisin bagel to work, I saw a man almost get run over by a taxi. It's not easy to almost get run over by a taxi in downtown Boston at that time of the morning, because there are people milling around everywhere, and basically the cars don't get to go anywhere for a while. The man responded appropriately with the international gesture for, "You wanna piece of me, cabbie?" and the near-crisis was safely diffused.

Later that day, I rode the wrong bus home. I knew I was doing it, but I did it anyway. Sometimes you have to follow those urges, because that's how people in those Time Life books avoid dying in plane crashes. Anyway, this bus was labeled 501. I looked up at the sign listing the routes at the stop and noted that there in fact was no 501 on the list. I got on the bus. We were headed the right general direction, got on the highway and off of the highway at the right places. But, the bus turned the wrong way after exiting the highway, so I rang the bell and got off at the next stop. At that stop, I looked up at the sign and noticed that there was no 501 listed there either. I may never see that bus again.

Fourteen and a half hours later, I believe that I have finally finished that coffee from this morning. Actually, if that coffee were liquor, I would just now be finishing it, if I had been working at the rate of one shot per hour. I would also be having a lot more fun right now. Instead, I now have this Dogfish Head Raison d'Etre beer to help take the edge off. It's not a bad beer. I'm dubious of the description, "A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins and a sense of purpose." I just realized what a weirdo I am. Who in their right mind buys a beer where the selling point is beet sugar and green raisins? From a brewery named "Dogfish Head", no less. Surely this product was conceived by that gross kid from your second grade class all grown up and drunk. Anyway, it's a little thick and a little sweet, not too far removed from Newcastle. (Does Newcastle only have one kind of beer? I always just say Newcastle, but maybe I need to use the fully qualified Newcastle Nut Brown Ale.) And thankfully, the bottle fulfills its fundamental purpose, without an accompanying exoskelebottle.

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