Friday, August 8, 2008

Elie Wiesel was right

At dinner last night, my daughter asked me a troubling question: "How often are the Olympics held?"

Of course, when I was a kid, this was a no-brainer -- every four years, during election years. But now? I guess you could say every two years, since technically they do hold some kind of Olympiad every two years - Winter, Summer, Winter, Summer, etc... But since they hold the Winter Olympics every four years and the Summer Olympics every four years... well, very few Olympians compete in both (Eric Heiden? Who else?), it seems like 'every four years' is still the best answer.

Okay, but that's not what was most troubling. What got me was, when in Hell did they switch over, and why didn't we all speak out about it at the time? What was wrong with waiting every four years? Is the TV ratings monster that much bigger if they get to throw a Winter Olympics at us every four years in the off-year? (I know the answer, by the way -- Lillehammer, Norway, 1994 -- that's not the point. The point is, there should have been a massive outcry, and there wasn't. And I want to know why.)

So as I sat there, trying to explain it to Lily, it occurred to me that this is a phenomenon that comes up quite a bit: some relatively trivial, often sports-related, change is made to the status quo, and most of us, having adult lives of our own to lead and our own passions and concerns to muddle through, simply don't have the time or inclination to battle every little thing that upsets our apple cart. Thus: in baseball alone, three divisions, interleague play, the upcoming use of television replays to overrule umpires, etc., etc. I'm sure there are literally hundreds of examples of Little Unnecessary Changes that are Made to Things that are Perfectly Fine to Begin With. (Anyone wanna buy And yet very few of us bother to speak out about such things, because it's so damn trivial, and who has the time, and wouldn't you look kind of silly leading the charge against, say, having a pro football division called the NFC North?

So after dinner, Lily had a birthday present she wanted me to open -- because, guess what, it was wrapped in one of those idiotic plastic things that are sealed industrial-tight to prevent someone from injecting anthrax into it. And I realized, here's another one. About a decade ago, they started packaging things this way -- and at the risk of turning into Andy Rooney, what the hell was wrong with a cardboard box with cellophane around it? Children's toys are the absolute worst, especially dolls, with these little plastic ties around the head, through the piece of cardboard on the back, through a little plastic doohickey, then all twisted around and taped to the underside of the cardboard -- and that's just the doll's head -- then there are the same things for the arms, the legs, the gowns, the purses, all the damn little accessories, to the point that it takes ten minutes to open a gift now, and the Dads of America have to be working like maniacs with the scissors just to keep up.

And that's when I cut myself, with the damn scissors, trying to cut alongside the sealed plastic edge of the packaging the digital camera came in.

Today, I wear a Barbie band-aid on my palm, a symbol of my failure to speak out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

can't agree with you more. didn't realize till I was riding in the taxi the other day and doing the taxi Olympic quiz with Maya that the Olympics had turned into every two years ....!! and the packaging, try a knife : )