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Front Page » May 7, 2002 » Opinion » Why do things seem so complicated?
Published 4,489 days ago

Why do things seem so complicated?


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

Have you ever noticed that some people try to make everything more complicated than it needs to be. I mean it's an old thought, one almost all of us have had about someone or something.

And all of us have our pet peeves about it. Some of us hate doing our taxes, because we all think there must be an easier way than filling out two extra forms just because you want a deduction for your dogs appendectomy.

Or what about getting another social security card. I lost mine and called the social security office and they told me they would send me a form to fill out. "The form" was multiple pages long and they told me it would be six weeks before I would get the card. I'd better hang onto my job. Just think if I was out of work and didn't have that card; no one would hire me because without it no one dares give you a job. Nowadays you could probably not even pass through the bread line without a social security card.

The other day I was trying to put a brakelight switch in my 35 year old Mustang. People will always tell you how old cars are so much easier to work on than new ones. In some ways that is true, but in many ways it is not. It took me a whole day to install it and by the time I was done I had scratches and bruises all over my arms and hands, had broken two new switches (one was by accident the other wasn't as it was hurled against the garage wall) and I had bumped my head on the steering wheel column enough that I will probably suffer an aneurism tomorrow. What ever idiot designed that particular device in 1967 must have had three hands that were the size of a three year olds and had x-ray vision to see through the dashboard as well.

People often say the most complicated things aren't machines, but human beings. Well heck, if you think about it that must be the reason things like that brake light switch are so hard to work on. You know. The day the guy who designed that thing put it on the drawing board his wife and he must have had an argument or his kid wrecked his car. He just wanted to get back at me because of his frustration.

But for me some of the most complicated items in life are the things that should be really the most simple. Example: toilet paper dispensers. Now how complicated can that be? Well when considering the state of mind most of us are in when we have to use them they should be the built at the height of simplicity. Yet they are not; they are designed to keep you from using too much toilet paper; wasting a precious resource that someone else may need, except for the fact that they won't be able to get it off the roll either.

I was down at the San Rafael Swell on Sunday. A new restroom area has been constructed near the Wedge Overlook. It is clean and neat and for a pit toilet it smells pretty good.

For a change I quite enjoyed being in that little eight by eight cubicle; that was until I tried to get some tissue off the roll. It was set up to hold six rolls, a testament to how long it is between visits by maintenance personnel. The top three rolls were empty, so I had to resort to the bottom rolls.

I am never sure in this type of situation whether the problem lays in the dispenser or the toilet paper. I think the companies that build the two conspire to make it tough to use their products. I sometimes think they must hide cameras in this rooms, like a perverted Candid Camera scheme, to see people's frustrations.

In this case it was both the paper and the dispenser. The rolls had been placed on a flat bar as wide as the cardboard roller. Therefore the rolls wouldn't turn. The paper on the rolls was so thin that I could have used it to measure the most minute of tolerances in a racing engine.

There are only two ways to deal with this situation. Either you peel off the thin paper and push your hand behind and unroll a sheet at a time or you bring your own.

Of course by the time I discovered this torturous device, it was too late to bring my own.

But this isn't the only kind of dispenser that makes me crazy. They almost all do. What about the type that when you pull on the roll it winds so freely that a thousand feet of thin, cheap tissue ends up as a pile on the floor. These are true perpetual motion machines, something we ought to explore as a new energy source.

Then there are the double roll dispensers; you know the kind you find in schools and service stations. As you attempt to roll the lower roll to get some tissue off, the upper roll travels in the opposite direction and then drops down in the machine locking up both rolls so you find yourself clawing at the tissue, trying to make a handful of the little pieces of thin fiber you manage to hack off.

Then there is the giant rolls and dispensers. The paper is still thin, but the rolls are three feet across and must weigh 25 pounds each. Of course the paper rips after each sheet because of the great weight it has to pull, so it takes you five minutes just to get enough to...well you know what I mean.

Then there is the kind of tissue that drops down through a set of teeth that cut it off. These machines were probably invented to be put in the restrooms where they held the inquisition. They work pretty well but I almost always rip part of my hand off on the cutters.

All of these devices make you really think about sanitation. If you have to grapple and fight and claw and wrestle with these devices, and everyone else has to do the same thing, what bacteria lies on the surfaces of these machines?

Only the shadow knows.

But my most favorite of all toilet paper dispensers is the common spring loaded paper dispenser. A little like the old pole lamps of the sixties with their spring loaded bars, these usually provide a free wheeling roll of toilet paper. Unfortunately the springs also get weak and if you yank on them too hard, or sometimes not even very hard at all the spring loaded device and the roll come flying off and inevitably do one of two things; (1) the toilet paper roll shoots across the room and lands on the floor rolling through the water the person before you splashed in front of the basin, or (2) the roll drops into the toilet . It is a mortifying experience to see a whole roll of toilet paper floating there, with you knowing it must come out of that white porcelain bowl before you flush. And often, it is the last roll left too, adding injury to insult.

Complication seems to be a way of life with us. Maybe we should just go back to using Sears Catalogues.

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May 7, 2002
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