Lowest common denominator might be an important mathematical concept, but as a human intelligence leveler, it’s kind of gross. Warning labels on products are one thing—if telling a person not to eat bleach is going to save that person’s life, then I guess we need to do that. But do we need to explain EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE as if EVERYONE is a bleach-eater?
For instance, voicemail: how long have we had that? Decades? And before that, we had answering machines. And before that we had secretaries and answering services and post-it notes and “While You Were Out” pads and scraps of paper ripped from a page in the back of the TV Guide (remember when we still read the TV Guide?!) that you could write a name and number on and stick to the refrigerator door with a magnet. Essentially, there are no longer any living humans who know how to use a telephone but are also at a loss for what to do when there’s no answer.
So how come we have to wait for some computer asshole to explain it, step-by-step, EVERY TIME?
The person you are trying to reach is not available to answer the call.
Yeah, I know, lady. Zip it and get to the beep, already.
Please leave a message after the tone…
Who still needs this? As a people, we’re on top of this, right? I mean, we’re not afraid someone might panic and hurt themselves, like, “Oh, shit! I think Andy’s dead! His phone just rings and rings, and then nothing! Do you think something terrible has happened?! OR, what if this is all a dream? WHAT IF I’M THE DEAD ONE??! Someone help! AN-DEEEEEEE!!!”
When you are finished with your message, hang up…
Are you fucking kidding me?
Or press 1 for more options…
Really? How many more options do I need? I mean, it’s the twenty-first-fucking-century, man. We’ve got pretty much all of our bases covered. Dogs and monkeys have flown to the moon. Women give birth to fourteen babies at a time. We’ve got text, email, and GPS tracking with us everywhere we go, always! What fucking MORE OPTIONS could you possibly offer me? Text my phone number? Why?! So we can pretend we have BEEPERS? No, thanks. I’m all set.
I’m just saying, no one is going to die from not knowing how voicemail works.
You know what else isn’t hard to figure out? Eating food. And yet, we’re still explaining it to folks. I once had a copywriting assignment for a 3” sticker, explaining that a particular sandwich was microwavable. But they didn’t just want a simple “Heat me!” blurb.
We need it to specifically tell them to use the microwave.
As opposed to just holding it up to the sun?
We need something that literally tells them to take the sandwich TO the microwave, put it inside, heat it, then eat it.
Because they may see the sandwich, the microwave, the sticker that says “Microwave me!” and still be confused?
Seriously? Is there someone alive who thinks, “I’ll just throw this sandwich in the general direction of that heat-box and it’ll warm itself up. Wait, what? I have to physically move from here to the counter? Using my arms and legs?!! I have to put it INSIDE the oven to heat it? This is SO confusing! If only there was a User’s Manual or a diagram or something. What am I, some sort of Einstein over here? I don’t have a degree in physics! I don’t know how heat works! I thought maybe I could just pick the microwave up, bring it over to this aisle and SHOW IT to my sandwich—just threaten the shit out of my food until it gets hot. Why can’t I do that? I thought this was a CONVENIENCE store!!!!”
To answer my own question, no—there is no one alive who thinks that. And if someone really is that stupid, DOES HE EVEN DESERVE TO EAT OUR FOOD? I mean, shouldn’t we conserve resources for someone who can convert that food into productive energy? Why am I creating the Encyclopedia of Heating a Sandwich over here, when this goober is wasting oxygen, willy-nilly? I can’t figure the math on how a person that needs to be told to walk over to a microwave in order to use it isn’t too dumb to figure out chewing and swallowing without explicit instructions.
Oh, that’s probably a good idea. Do you think we could fit that on the sticker?
Look, I’ve worked retail—I know people, in general, can be extra lazy and stupid when they want to be. But pandering to that absence of brainpower is such a chore. Imagine if we just DIDN’T DO THAT. Imagine if we forced people to pick up the pace and evolve, already. I’m willing to bet that phone calls would somehow still be returned, that sandwiches would still be warmed, and that shows like According to Jim would never, ever get aired. If we spent less time explaining how shampoo and airplane seat belts work we’d have more time for napping and not watching reruns of According to Jim. If we could just all agree that wet bridges are slippery, that black socks shouldn’t be washed with white shirts, that we won’t leave poop where we walk and that Jim Belushi is terrible, we would have so much more time at our disposal—time to solve real problems like hunger and the deficit and where to bury Jim Belushi’s murdered corpse.
Maybe it’s unfair for me to discriminate against those who are not as quick, but it’s not like I’m especially gifted. Even at my stupidest, I’ve never once needed to be told how to cook canned peas (TAKE THEM OUT OF THE CAN FIRST, I’M PRETTY SURE). Dummies have a whole series of books (haha! books!) dedicated to their needs. Let’s stop giving them EVERYTHING.
Instead, let’s take back Dummy Territory and replace it with some information that’s actually helpful. Like, instead of heating instructions, that sandwich sticker could just say, “RETHINK BANGS (it may not be the best look for you).” Maybe instead of “Wash with like colors,” that tag on your shirt could explain the benefits of a Money Market savings account. Or perhaps that lady voicemail robot could warn you that “Greg is going to tell EVERYONE how far you let him get tonight.”
You know, real useful shit.
It’s just a suggestion. I’m happy to discuss it further if you want to give me a call. If I don’t answer, you know what to do (tell Greg to keep his fucking mouth shut).