October 22nd, 2007

The Epiphany of the Iron

I've got a hot date this afternoon, so when I got up this morning I ironed my pants. I'm still learning this "Take Care Of Your Appearance" thing, but I understand the principles.

The iron has a flat smooth surface on the bottom, and got hot and spat steam appropriately, and has a pointy bit at one end. The curved sides, however, are the wrong shape. There are *thousands* of these irons on sale at all the various Big Box stores, and while I could return it if I wanted and get a refund, I doubt I could find an iron there to buy that had the proper curve to the sides.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite family trips was to go to the Museum of Science and Technology. I went to lots of 'em, in different cities. All of 'em had a blacksmithery display, which at age 6 didn't hold much interest for me, though I got a lot more interested in it a decade or so later. All such exhibits at all museums would have a part of the display involving a rack-full of different kinds and shapes of pliers and tongs. All of 'em were subtly different, and as a kid I had no idea what the differences *meant*. Largely I *still* don't, though I can now *see* the differences clearly.

But those trivial differences made a *world* of difference to the blacksmith, who had names for each different kind. And said smith would no doubt be completely baffled by a set of Wal-Mart pliers, which are exactly the wrong shape to do *anything* well. But *are* astonishingly cheap.

Is that the epitaph we wish to have on the tombstone of popular culture? "Couldn't do anything well, but did it astonishingly cheaply?"