I’m sure most of you have a drawer for you electronic spaghetti. The charging cables the world today requires us to have. The old Nokia for that ancient relation who hasn’t upgraded; the old and the new iPhone chargers; the Samsung/Blackberry slim fit that doesn’t work with the TomTom but looks like it should without your glasses; the old radio cables; the multi-coloured ones for attaching things to the DVD; the fiddly bits that came in that box that promised every sort of charging attachment for the car but which are useless because someone has lost the doofie that goes into the cigarette lighter (why do we still call it that when 90% of people now use it to recharge their mobile what-have-yous?); and the myriad camera battery chargers for the digital cameras rendered obsolete by modern smart phones but which you just can’t throw away.
Someone would make a fortune if they found a way of storing so much copper cum optic fibre neatly, wouldn’t they? Someone would make an even bigger fortune and earn the gratitude of Nations if they insisted all manufacturers of electronic gizmos had to have the same attachments and whose cables had to work with whatever plug they were joined into.
All debates about the UK remaining the EU and the worth of the European Commission would be rendered redundant if they introduced regulations to that effect, leaving aside the righteous glow we might all feel by the implicit ‘fuck you, Apple, and why don’t you start paying some taxes while you’re about it, eh?’ that might then follow.
It is one of the banes of the modern world, this need to be different in areas where no one but themselves wants them to, because they can. The relevant authorities love to impose uniformity on all sorts of things. Like passport photos, for instance. No smiling, no fringes, no glasses for pity’s sake. They sorted out ATMs so you could use your bankcard in any of them; ditto pricing of mobile call charges for using other networks. But when it comes to say, European shoe sizes, well it’s anyone’s guess once you move outside your own little corner of the globe. Of course for years there’s been the fight between metric and imperial which has been the bane of the schoolchild’s life and still everyone just has to be different. Or temperature; why can’t we just accept one standard?
All these differences that just make your average consumer scream inwardly in frustration in this globalised world were brought into sharp focus for me recently by two events. Driving in New Zealand and self publishing my book.
The world is split, in terms of driving between those who drive on the left and those who drive on the wrong. NZ follows the natural laws of motoring by adopting the drive on the left form of civilisation, and for a Brit abroad that is a real pleasure. But then they go and ruin it by having cars where the indicator stick and the windscreen wiper sticks are reversed. Why? When I was in the US last year, driving on the wrong fighting a constant battle to stop myself opening the door when I wanted to change gear, they had the sticks the correct way round. The consequence of my NZ experience was I had to retrain my brain which at my sclerotic age isn’t so easy. Indeed, having managed a measure of success I now find, a month after returning to the UK I’m still getting it wrong in my own car. Bloody hell!
In terms of publishing and the new(ish) world of self publishing one of the challenges is formatting. And once you delve into the options you are lost in yet another virtual cable drawer of knotted wires and little bits that don’t seem to go anywhere. .mobi. .epub, pdf all different requirements. Then there’s the format for a paperback and there’s the gutter and the bleed and the size of the book. Does your brain let alone your patience a real disservice. Why?
Back to the EU. One of the urban myths that had my old dad fuming was the subject of the straight cucumber – apparently some jobsworth sitting in Brussels or Strasbourg had decreed that you couldn’t sell a cucumber and call it such if it bent beyond so many degrees. Errant bollocks of course but the idea you should impose uniformity on the size and shape of fruit and vegetables is with us, if the banks of similarly sized apples in the supermarkets is anything to go by. Nobble free spuds are standard; and the days when religions were founded on carrots shaped like Jehovah are long gone. That’s the power of the Big Food Retailers, imposing their will on the downtrodden farming community. It’s done for their convenience as much as ours; and more to the point it is done in our name, whether we agree or not.
But I remember the battles fought by beer drinkers over real ale – CAMRA showed what could be done. The equivalent for bread, when it looked like we would forever more have to suffer a diet of A5 MDF multi-fibre slices has led to so many more decent bakeries. Dare I say it but even Starbucks need a little praise (even if they too should pay some bloody taxes, thank you very much) for breaking the Nescafé/Maxwell House hegemony and reintroducing us to decently brewed coffee (though thank heavens others moved into the market to provided an even better offering).
So I don’t want uniformity in everything – like coffee shops for instance – but I do where it frankly doesn’t matter. In matter involving taste and subjectivity, I want infinite choice; in matters of practicality I want none. If I had the time to actually do something that doesn’t involve sitting at my laptop I might start a campaign – Cable Uniformity Needed Today. Not sure the name works though.
This rant is brought to you on behalf of JusJoJan. Please click on the link to find other January Jottings.