Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 26, 2013

GROUNDS FOR INSANITY: If only appliances came with a few friendly messages

By RHONDA SCHROCK
COLUMNIST

— When it happens, it’s a crisis. No, I mean it. Look up the word “crisis” in any dictionary, and there’ll be a picture of a microwave oven, black smoke rising, sitting amidst a shower of sparks.

At our house, a microwave is a must. It is (say it with me now) our friend. Here, I use it frequently in cooking and baking and for critical tasks, such as reheating pizza. Mr. Schrock, he cooks his morning oatmeal, and Little Bit has popped enough popcorn to feed an African village. Before he could read, he knew which button said “popcorn,” and he used it.

Our modern appliances are a wonder. Who knew that a microwave could be friendly? Who? Imagine, please, my surprise at what it told me the first time I used it. “Enjoy your meal,” it said in bright green letters on the scrolling display when the timer went off for my egg rolls.



Finding a warm, fuzzy message from my new oven got me thinking. What was next? A cheerful little recording whenever one lay down on a mattress, saying, “Here’s to some flop-free sleep?” A readout on the new-generation dryers along the lines of, “Best wishes for finding the socks?”

Not, I thought darkly, that the last one wouldn’t cheer me up, for no matter how hard I tried, I came up short. Every single time. It could drive a mom to distraction, this one thing, and a chirpy type of message from the device apparently eating them wouldn’t, I thought, help my mood.

Manufacturers need to be careful, or all that good cheer would have the opposite effect. Imagine this message showing up on your range display as you were cooking the family’s dinner: “If you burn it like an idiot, there’s takeout. Call Peter Piper’s Pizza instead.” No. That wouldn’t help a frazzled cook with a child clinging to one leg while someone else used her apron as a Kleenex.



On the flip side, the right messages could put sales through the roof. For instance, those who made mirrors had missed it by a mile. All those full-length ones that you saw out in public? The kind women hung by their closets? Engrave one small sentence at the top, and company sales charts would burst into flames.

“Objects in mirror are smaller than they appear.” See what I mean? It’s genius. How the marketing gurus have missed this so far is beyond me. But if a smallish American housewife living by a cornfield can figure it out, her inventiveness should be rewarded. So once they’re ready to cut me a check, I’ll tell my idea. Until then, my lips are sealed.

The folks who manufacture bathroom scales could use my help, too. Every woman in the known universe would buy a unit that offered encouragement every time she stepped up.

“Have you lost some weight?” That one’s just obvious. “You feel lighter today.” Ding, ding. There’s a winner. Then this: “That walking is working.” These are just several ideas off the top of my curly head, and I’ve not even broken a sweat.

Cheerful words of encouragement like these would sell scales. Shoot, there are some men who would use ’em. That’s why, once I’m ready, I’ll draft a proposal with this idea and send it to Mr. Enos Slobodnick, MBA, the marketing expert at the Acme Scale Co. I’ll sign it Rhonda Schrock, CS, expert in common sense.



I realize that this information could fall into the wrong hands and be used to deadly effect. Let’s say that a techie in Hoboken, N.J., heard about it and thought it would be funny (funny!) to play a joke on America’s women. And let’s say that instead of programming Model H63D2 with empowering, uplifting messages that made us all feel better about our thighs, he took a different approach.

Imagine the surprise for the unsuspecting citizen who’s heard about this marvel from her friends. Eager, she steps one foot on, then the other. And hears this: “Took the second doughnut, didn’t you?” Shocked, she steps off and tries again. “Whoa. You should go back to the salads.”

The howls of outrage that would follow could be heard on the eastern seaboard. That, and the sound of a brand-new Model H63D2 being flung across the room and then shattering. After that, it’s curtains for the techie in Hoboken who will spend the rest of his life running from women armed with skillets.



Yes, technology’s wonderful and, for the most part, quite helpful. So far, there’ve been no discouraging messages like, “Good luck with that,” on my curling iron. Or, “It’s about time,” on my diet sodas. Well, there was that one message on a blow dryer in a public restroom that said, “And now a word from your congressman,” but that was hand-lettered by a stinker. Doesn’t count.

Otherwise, we’re back to happily heating leftovers. Little is happily popping popcorn, and we’re cheerfully avoiding our scales. And those mirrors.