(Reprinted from post dated 05/06/2006, from my old Blogger blog here:)

I had to get a new blow dryer the other day because the one I had up and died on me. It simply ceased to function right in mid blow. Don’t know why. I’d only had it for 16 years. So early Sunday morning, after the end of my shift, I hop in the trusty Crayola and go puttering down to Walgreen’s to do a little one-stop shopping. I had to go there anyway to get a couple of prescriptions refilled, and replenish my supplies of several key toiletry items. I figured while I was there, I might as well pick up a new blow dryer. So, while I’m waiting for the pharmacist to refill my prescriptions, I wander around the almost empty store until I find where they keep them.

Right away, it’s obvious that blow dryer packaging is designed by men. There’s a big picture of the dryer right in the center of the box, and all around the picture is this big bold type telling how many watts it has and how many features it has. Evidently, these days, it’s not enough to have a blow dryer that just blows hot air. Now you have to have FEATURES. None of the array of products I see before me has less than four. Fortunately, my exhaustive pre-purchase market research has determined that the features most essential to my needs are (1) the capability to be plugged into the plug in my bathroom wall and (2) the ability to blow hot air when turned on. So, with those criteria firmly in mind, I made my selection.

I get this marvel of modern technology home, open up the box and discover it comes with a “product manual,” which is a long piece of paper that has been folded up like a road map. I take it out and read: “El cable de tamaño professional se retrae al oprimir un botón.” So then I turn it over to the English language version. (Silly me, I should know that in today’s global economy, product manuals must be incomprehensible in several languages.) After reading the first page, it is patently evident to me that the “product manual” was also written by men, because right away I discover that in addition to having a retractable cord, my new purchase has an “Ionizing Functionto “generate a cloud of negatively charged ions that can neutralize the generally positive charge on flyaway frizzy hair, eliminate static electricity and contribute to shine.” — Oh, good. About 90% of the airheads who are actually going to buy this product aren’t going to bother to read this “product manual” in the first place, and 85% of them wouldn’t be able to make sense out of all this testosterone-laced technospeak if they did.

Evidently, the authors of the “product manual” envision their target audience like this: The scene is in the locker room of an upscale men’s gym. A ruggedly handsome man with bulging muscles is expertly styling his thick, manly hair with a blow dryer. He has a towel around his waist, revealing a set of rock-solid six-pack abs. His less well-endowed friend Dave comes up and says —

Dave: “Say, Tom, is that a new blow dryer?”
Tom: “Why, yes, Dave. It’s the new Ion Shine RTM Styler by Conair with 1875 watts of drying power, patented Cord-Keeper technology and a built in ALCI. Its space-age ionizing technology tames flyaway, frizzy hair by neutralizing its generally positive charge, and the unique “Cool Shot” feature closes hair shafts and locks in style.”
Dave: “Sweet!”
Tom: “And, with its retractable cord and folding handle, it can be tucked away neatly and easily in your gym bag.”
Dave: (visibly impressed) “Now that’s handy, Tom,”
Tom: “Sure is, Dave. Especially for busy folks on the go like us.” . . .

So now I’m thinking, “Good thing my new blow dryer has that ‘Cool Shot’ feature to close my hair shafts. I certainly wouldn’t want to go walking around in public with my hair shafts hanging wide open and flapping in the breeze.” Once I’ve finally hacked my way through the überverbiage and made sense out of it, I discover that this latest must-have feature is a setting that just blows air without heating it. Big Deal. My old blow dryer had the exact same feature. It was a switch on the side that said “Hot/Cold.” I didn’t have to have it explained to me by a product manual either. I turned the dryer on, played with the switch a few seconds, and figured it out for myself. DUH!

Then I get to the IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS: “Never use while sleeping.” I think of the comedian Bill Engvald’s remark, “Oh, darn, I’ve been sleep styling again!” and snicker. “Do not use while bathing,” — Well, looks like there’ll be no more multitasking in the bathroom for me! “This appliance should not be used by, on, or near children or individuals with certain disabilities.” You betcha. Like people who don’t have the sense God gave a doorknob. “Do not allow small children to handle the retractive power cord as this may cause the cord to ‘whip’ and cause injury.” Too right there, mate. It has this honking great gizmo with buttons stuck on the plug end of it that’s liable to come flying up and and beat their little brains out. Which brings me to the reason I’m subjecting my poor little grey cells to this hyperspeak in the first place. I’m trying to find out what that thing with the buttons is. After wading my way through over four pages of technorrhea, I finally find it: “This hair dryer is equipped with an Appliance Leakage Circuit Interrupter (ALCI), a safety feature that renders it inoperable under some abnormal conditions, such as immersion in water.” Oh, joy. That contraption with the buttons is one of those major technical innovations (read: inconveniences) which have been foisted upon us by some overzealous, overreactive, paternalistic, Federal Government product safety agency in order to protect people from their own stupidity. Yep, that’s what it is, all right. Then it tells me how to test the ALCI to see if it is functioning properly, and instructs me to test it each time before I use the dryer. (Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen.)

So I stuff the thing in the bathroom drawer and go muttering off into the kitchen to feed the cats. And it occurs to me as I’m dishing up the kibbles, not only is humankind hastening the extinction of numerous other species on this embattled Earth, it’s doing its own species in as well by short-circuiting the evolutionary process (something I have suspected for a long time now), and I have finally discovered the insidious process by which this is happening. Needless to say, the Federal Government is at the bottom of it.

As Darwin pointed out, the better an organism is adapted to survive in its environment, the more likely it is to live long enough to procreate the species, a process he referred to as “survival of the fittest.” Simply put, those who are too weak, too slow, too susceptible to disease, or too stupid to live, don’t — that is, not in the natural world. They are weeded out and eliminated from the gene pool, leaving the healthier, more intelligent, better adapted members of the species to breed. But the human species no longer lives in a natural world. With our clever human brains, we have eliminated one by one those evolutionary forces which shaped our species by inventing farming, domesticating animals, developing medicine, perfecting technology and finally, coming up with the government product safety commissions.

Think about it. That’s why there are so many stupid people in the world — because these government product safety commissions keep insisting that manufacturers paste warning labels all over everything and build all these safety features into their products in an effort to protect people from their own stupidity. I mean, just read the product warnings — all those things they tell you not to do. You know very well that the reason they’re telling you not to do them is because sometime, somewhere, some yahoo with the intelligence of a postage stamp did just that, and then they (or their next of kin) sued the daylights out of the manufacturer for putting out an unsafe product and raised a big stink with the government about it. If the federal government had any sense (now there’s an oxymoron!) they’d tell these idiots, “If you (or your late relative, as the case may be,) don’t have sense enough to know not to get into a running shower with an electrical appliance, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.” And then just throw the suit out of court. After all, if they couldn’t legislate morality, as the Volstead Act so aptly demonstrated, what makes all them government honchos think they can legislate intelligence? Let’s face it. Anybody who tries to blow dry their hair while sitting in a bathtub is too stupid to live. And if they fry their gizzards in the attempt, well, there you have it. But no, the federal government has to go around short circuiting the natural selection process by preventing these numb-skulls from being weeded out. And now they’re starting to accumulate. And breed.