Monday, 24 August 2009

Gizmos and gadgets. And the geeks who love ’em

I got terribly excited the other night when I saw, on a home-shopping TV ad, a gizmo that you can buy that grows tomato plants upside-down. Without sparing a single thought for why, I immediately SMSd my friend Johann to tell him about it.

He was as excited as I. ‘Where can I get one?’ he SMSd back, his enthusiasm practically melting the phone.

Thing is, my excitement was purely for Johann: I have barely enough time and space for ‘real’ gadgets (egg whisks, soup ladles, fridges, those kinds of things) without forking out money and finding room for the fly-by-nights.

And fly-by-nights they most certainly are. My brother-in-law once remarked lugubriously, in passing, ‘All you get from Verimark is disappointment’ (and I’m not pinpointing Verimark here specifically; Glomail, Homemark, they’re all as bad as each other).

How right he is. I once – ONCE – bought a product from Verimark. It was a word-finder, and it cost a pretty penny, but it was for a writer-friend who was in the throes of producing a tome and I thought it would be a pleasant alternative for him to a paper Thesaurus. Hah! He was as pleased as punch when he opened it, but much less happy when it wouldn’t work. We took out and replaced the batteries. Nada. We re-read the instruction manual. Nothing we did would make the damned thing respond.

I took it back. (This required a lot of driving, as I don’t live near any Verimark stores.) It was replaced. The second one didn’t work either – but it didn’t work differently from the first one. The first one wouldn’t even turn on; the second one switched on fine, but then refused to recognise anything we typed into it.

We ditched it, and I put it down to a lesson learnt.

Not my dear Johann. He’s a total whore for home-shopping channels. Not even when he tried Brendan McCarthy’s ‘miraculous’ seven-day fruit/veg detox diet (during which, even if you start out looking like a bug that lives under a rock - and Brendan does, if you can believe the mind-numbingly repetitive TV ad – you end up with sculpted tanned abs and wearing a pair of sexy swimming trunks), and, on day four, while attempting to drink his broccoli juice, his body simply went into revolt and he hewied instead.

He regretfully gave away the R1 000-worth of produce he’d bought in preparation for his New Self, and shelved the equally expensive juicer – but did that stop him TV-shop whoring? Not a bloody bit of it.

Next he bought Memory Foam Slippers. These are slippers that you can walk on – in fact, an elephant can walk on them, and does, in the ad – and the next time you put your feet into them – WOW! the ‘memory foam’ has exactly the same shape as it did when you first bought them three days before! And not only that – they are apparently so attractive that you can wear them anywhere! (If you’re a homeless person, recently released from a psychiatric ward, or maybe me.)

Johann was so stoked about these new-age Stokies (remember those? Salt Rock takkies?) that he actually took them off in my living room and invited one of my guests to stick her hand into them to ‘feel’ the memory foam. To my gobsmacked astonishment, she did. ‘Very firm,’ she said, smiling uncertainly.

Johann’s not wearing them any more. I wonder why.

My late sainted mother was every bit as bad as Johann when it came to stuff you could buy to make your life easier and/or more exciting. My mom once bought an extendible fork. One of them. One extendible fork. It looked like an ordinary fork, but if you pulled on its tines-end, it would extend into a metre-long eating utensil. For what? What in god’s name might you need an extendible fork for??

My mom also bought a rock you could put into a pot of boiling eggs that would change colour when the eggs reached your desired softness/hardness. So we often had eggs boiled blue for breakfast.

She bought a gadget that kept food piping hot using only two tea candles. So lots of lukewarm meals, too.

She bought another gizmo that would take the top off the most recalcitrant jar. My father still had to run the bottle under hot water, tap the lid against a hard surface, then strain to open the jar until his eyes popped out.

She bought super-hero oven gloves that you could slip on and then remove from the oven a roasting pan that had reached a thousand degrees Centrigrade (if, for example, you were smelting gold at home). Pity you couldn’t feel a single thing through the gloves, so were never sure if you actually had a grip on the oven tray, with obviously tragic results.

Yet despite these endlessly repetitive cycles of attempt and failure, some people (my mom and Johann prime among them) refuse to accept that home-shopping via TV is a complete waste of time and money.

My 18-year-old daughter was in the room when I SMSd Johann excitedly about the upside-down tomato-growing thing.

‘What would you need one of those for?’ she asked.

‘Well, what if you live in a flat and don’t have space to grow tomatoes?’ I responded, having been temporarily brainwashed by the TV ad.

‘A window box?’ she said.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Meggie said...

This cracked me up. Just the tonic I needed. My Grandmother was the gadget buyer in our house. After she had died, there was this huge pile of mystery items that seemed to have no use in this life, or the next, obviously.
Do you have the backless 'snuggie' over there? You can do anything whilst using one. Including flash your bum or freeze it off!

Johann said...

Lukily I never told you about the absolutely-no-effort stair climber contraption (get fit while watching tv or even while doing the ironing!), or the rehargeable electric carpet sweeper (called a stick shark!), or the amazing leather repair kit, or the . . .
Anyway, my memory foam slippers are just a bit forgetful. I love them anyway.

tonypark said...

Johann, I hope you got some free steak knives as well.