Things weren’t going swimmingly. In fact, you could say it was an unmitigated disaster. That might sound overly dramatic though, so let’s just say things were somewhat less optimal and keep it quiet. Nobody needs to know. In fact, forget I even mentioned it. Forget this even. No really… stop reading. Why are you still here? Didn’t I tell you to stop reading? Ughh… this is getting complicated. *points at shiny thing off to the left*
You still here?
Ok… let me explain, seeing as you’re one of those ‘inquisitive’ types.
It started with one of those natural urges. Not that type, just the type that gets you through the day, and by that I mean tea. Mug in hand I venture into the kitchen to prepare myself a lovely cup of beverage heaven. Well that was the plan, but life somehow conspires to cause me abject misery when I attempt life’s most mundane tasks.
The kitchen makes me nervous. It’s full of complicated devices that as a child my mother would steer me clear of. Kettle? Boiling hot water, could scar you for life so leave well alone. Fridge? Very cold, could get stuck inside it, been known to kill kittens. Fork? Lethal in the wrong hands, you could have someone’s eye out with that. Microwave? Can make anything explode in a mysterious voyeuristic manner.
So.. stepping into the kitchen has already caused me to palpitate and nervously convulse.
Tea then.. that’s the plan. Now one of the Red Gate kettles is a bit of a feisty beast. It has an air of chic smugness, but it belies a woeful secret. For all its fancy appearance, it’s thwart with failings. For starters, its little water gauge on the side is permanently misted up, so you never really know how full it is. And that unfortunately brings us to the lid. Now I’m forced to open the lid to see how full it really thinks it is. The lid. The bloomin’ lid. Easy off, painful on. Some narcissistic designer saw fit to bestow upon this Red Gate kettle, a lid of pure evil. It takes seemingly minutes to pop it on, but it’ll gleefully pop off at the most inappropriate moment, thus exposing its boiling fury. This often occurs at the moment of pouring, almost as if it has saved up its vengence for when you least expect it. Now if it was one of those joyful pourers, this might be ok, but it’s one of those designs that seems to spatter boiling water in every direction but towards your mug. Don’t they test these things?
Now the fridge is pretty harmless, you might think. And to be honest, it is pretty safe, but again, the design has somehow gone wrong. I’ve learnt that the best way to open the fridge is to actually put your fingers between the door and the carcase and gently prise the opening apart. Now logic might tell you to use the ‘designed’ handle on the front – all big, chrome and shiny. But alas, something went wrong. If I pull on the handle, I’m almost more likely to pull the fridge over than to actually open it – such is the suction of the seal. And it’s not just me. I can watch nigh on all Red Gate employees behave in the same way. Can you see what’s wrong here?
And then… the final insult in my beverage attaining quest…. the milk carton.
Now here is the worst designed product – probably on the planet. A design that has at its heart, a deep seated desire to never relenquish its bounty. It’s hard to describe this, so bear with me. It has a little green screw off lid. It screws off easily. Milk shall surely be imminently mine. But no. Some person thought it appropriate to design level 2 of the milk opening game to be nigh on impossible. It’s a bit like learning to fold a pice of paper in half, and then as your next challenge, out-fold the world’s second highest ranking origami champion. Unless you can inadvertently distract him to flop his creation into a flame, you’re onto a bit of a loser.
This carton has a plastic ‘handle’ by which you are meant to delicately grab and then prise off, to reveal a bounty of milk. I’ve opened a lot of these now (being somewhat addicted to tea) and I can probably claim a 20% success rate. 80% of the time the plastic ‘handle’ snaps and I’m left faced with a sealed plastic carton of frustration. Who designed this?
So out comes the fork. This is a dangerous addition to the task, but now, necessary. Mum warned me of the dangers of the fork, but I feel I’m ready. The first stab has to be relatively precise. Miss the target and you’re gonna get sprayed. Hit the target and you’re but part way there.
In a most deft attack, I manage to pierce the plastic and start the battle with the carton. The carton buckles under the force – I’m still yanking on the fork – nothing gives, and after a 4 minute struggle I see an opening crack in the plastic that makes me feel that some headway has been made. A fellow employee douses my sweaty brow and provides encouraging words of support.
By now a crowd has formed, and they are party to what is the witness of a birth of a new carton of milk. It is joyous. The milk is liberated.
And so the tea is made.
Now this is typical. Our lives are surrounded by products that actually fail to live up to our needs. An over zealous milk carton designer has forgotten that we actually need to be able to get to the product. A DVD case is wrapped in inescapable plastic. A computer dumbly responds to a routine task. And don’t even get me started on the microwave.
What happened? Isn’t technology meant to free us from effort? How come effort has suddenly become the result of technology? Aren’t we meant to be in control of or our tools?
And I guess this is why I exist. How to make technology work for us, and not have us work to use the technology.
And I’ve found a home at Red Gate. And we’ve bought a new kettle. And tea is bountiful.