Renaissance Column

OCTOBER 1998 | VOL. 2, NO. 5



Great Moments in American History


Kevin Ridolfi: Cyber Sex
Anthony Marciano: Clinton Dug his own Grave


CRIS COHEN, is staff humor columnist for Renaissance Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and four online humor magazines




The Sounds of Technology


Recently my wife, Michele, and I made the mistake of putting food into the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal wasn't made to handle food or, for that matter, anything heavier than mist. In fact nine out of 10 times, a garbage disposal will explode when exposed to a volatile substance, such as juice.

The garbage disposal wasn't invented to break apart food. It was invented to make loud, disgusting noises, like a German shepherd that has learned to gargle or the person who ends up sitting behind you in the movie theater. Scientists have worked long and hard perfecting the garbage disposal sound, striving to create something that would even offend farm animals. And they've done a wonderful job. The engineers for the major appliance manufacturers really don't get their due when it comes to evaluating mechanical objects that sound like they are clearing phlegm.

Making offensive sounds is the reason that people have garbage disposals, as well as certain co-workers. Garbage disposals fit under the category of "Appliances created just to make noise." This list includes many household products as well as numerous cars from the Jaguar company. One of their earlier company slogans was "Jaguar: For God's sakes don't try to drive the thing."

Other appliances that were created just to make noise were various kinds of electric can openers. These perfected the art of the dull whirring noise, often heard coming from elevators and the announcers in perfume advertisements. Michele and I used to have a black electric can opener that was one of the safest appliances we owned. It didn't cut the cans at all. This was the kind of can opener that you could give to small children to play with, encouraging them to stick it in their mouths or to take turns throwing it at household pets.

A lot of can opener blades have to be that dull to meet the numerous safety guidelines. These are the same regulations that are responsible for the large warning labels on boxes of steak knives that remind the consumer not to repeatedly stab himself in the chest with the product or not to go in swimming right after eating. One of the two. No one really knows what will happen to you if you do go in swimming right after you eat, but many people are willing to bet that it has something to do with losing a limb.

Sometimes the warning labels on appliances don't have any words at all, but just cute, little drawings showing the many ways that the product can kill you. Thus almost anything you buy nowadays comes with some paper work that looks like an illustrated Stephen King novel. Many people even believe that Stephen King gets most of his story ideas from appliance warning labels, such as his classic book "The Man Who Changed the Light Bulb While the Lamp Was Still Plugged In."

Of course the most well known warning label is the one that tells you not to take the toaster into the bathtub with you. This was created in response to the millions of senseless injuries caused every year by people who, while bathing, got the overwhelming urge for heated wheat bread. This same warning is also seen on numerous hair dryers, particularly those that have the words "professional series" printed on them. Most of these "professional series" hair dryers are usually sold in supermarkets, next to the deli section. The manufacturers put the words "professional series" on the hair dryers to let you know that their products are of the highest quality and to make you think that professional hair cutters actually buy all of their equipment at the same place they get sliced ham.

I once owned a hair dryer that had a warning label telling you to keep it away not only from bathtubs but from water altogether. Unfortunately the world is 75 percent water, with 73 percent located in most people's bathrooms. Of course, I had nothing to worry about since this was also one of those appliances created just to make noise.

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