Handy little gizmos for the yuppy set

David Holahan

July 23, 1993|By David Holahan

HOW MANY yuppies does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Just one, assuming he or she has ordered the revolutionary "bulb changer," which safely removes and installs virtually every style of incandescent orb. As an additional bonus, this $8 wonder (plus shipping & handling) "increases the life of many bulbs by eliminating contact with skin oils."

I had picked up the catalog to get a respite from worldly worries: war in Europe, famine in Africa, turmoil in the Middle East. But here were page after glossy page of solutions to domestic problems I had never noticed or hardly given a moment's thought to. Skin oils? My skin oils? How deleterious were they to hearth and home? How many light bulbs had I sent to an early grave with bare-handed insouciance?

As guilty as I felt, there was something very reassuring about this trendy advertising journal, with its laser-like focus on a wide-ranging domestic agenda. It didn't just put America first; it prioritized things closer to home, like my vacuum cleaner plug.

Who could dispute this bold policy analysis: "Everyone who uses electrical equipment has experienced the frustrating, time consuming and sometimes costly experience of having a plug accidentally pulled from the outlet."?

I'd experienced that many times. If you don't have central vac or an illegal alien maid, you know the problem, too. With vacuum wand in hand, you're straining to reach the last enclave of milk-bloated Apple Cinnamon Crisps festering in the kitchen corner. The electrical cord and your arms stretch to the max when suddenly, "boink!" goes the plug. You're left disconnected, alone, powerless.

From the floor, those cereal nubbins seem to mock you, you pitiful, helpless giant consumer. Your first instinct is to scoop them up with your bare hands. Please don't. By now your extremities are awash with pernicious skin oils. Do you want to expose your hardwood floors to this toxic torture? Already you have maimed your appliance plug, hideously twisting its metal prongs.

If you must use your hands, reach for your checkbook. For $3.95 (plus etc., etc.) you can solve this hitherto intractable problem by ordering "cord-a-lock," a no-nonsense plastic gizmo that holds plugs securely in place. No waffling. No vibrations. Plug abuse is history. One less headache in the world.

The catalog was chock-full of similar solutions, like the "magnetic wristband" ($13.75): "Tired of always losing screws, nuts, bolts, tools, nails, etc. when doing small jobs around the house?" No more -- assuming you can locate your all-metal magnetic wristband when the home improvement bug bites.

And who wouldn't spring for $8.50 to acquire the "hose grabber"? "It allows hands-free watering, perfect for deep soaking lawns, gardens, etc."

With your hands blithely unoccupied, you can order more and better domestic products, like the "water jet aerator spikes" ($22.95): "The best way to properly water trees, lawns, etc." Presumably this is even better than the primitive "hose grabber."

What a country and what a catalog. If there was ever any lingering doubt about who won the Cold War, this settles it. We have opened a "widget gap" with the rest of civilization that is getting bigger every day.

What other nation on earth could dream up, manufacture (most of the doodads are actually made in the U.S.A.) and market so many aides to domestic bliss? This generously illustrated booklet has 96 pages of do- hickeys, some 450 items all told. How many Russians, or even Germans, have such easy access to an "automotive light socket cleaning brush"? Or the "hardened steel padlock protector"? In this advanced stage of home ownership, even our padlocks need protection.

The world may go to hell in a handbasket, but that's no reason you and I have to settle for oily light bulbs or improperly watered lawns. Consumer goods are the new frontier, and we are going bravely where no homeowner has gone before.

Like a bag of potato chips, this catalog makes it difficult to consume just one item. Can you buy the "floor squeak stopper" and pass on the "reusable air filter: whistles when dirty" (tune not specified)?

Does it get any better than this? I mean, are we the last best hope or what? Come to think of it, how did Abraham Lincoln split all those rails without the "incredible splitting axe with built-in splitting levers"?

David Holahan writes from East Haddam, Connecticut.

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