This story, like so many that end in tears, begins with an unreasoning fit of acquisitive lust.
You see, when it comes to electronics of any sort I tend to go hog-wild, whether it’s audio, video, computers, you name it. Thus when I recently bought a super-duper all-singing, all-dancing, 27 inch iMac with all the fixings, even once I’d goosed the memory, processors etc. with the highest-priced options Apple could offer – to the point that it cost me well over four grand – I was still not wholly satisfied. It’s lovely, of course, but I wanted more super-duper, and its solitary display, though large, is hardly sufficient, is it? Even two monitors, really, are a disappointment these days. The only thing for it was to take advantage of the iMac’s capacity to output high resolution signals to two other monitors, making for three in total, a nice feature that you’d really have to be some sort of rube not to exploit; besides, when you know what’s possible you just feel like a toothless hillbilly if you settle for less. Thus I slaved my older 27 inch iMac to it, and also a smaller 24 inch monitor, and ended up with this:
Still not enough, though. Worried that my secondary 27 inch display, actually an earlier iMac model, might wear out soon – sometimes, I think because it overheats, it shuts itself off – I decided to buy yet another 27 inch monitor, this one a top-of-the-line Dell model, Apple having discontinued its old line of Thunderbolt displays, the dummies. As I waited for delivery, it occurred to me that since my second Apple display glitches very rarely, I could, rather than swap it out, replace the smaller unit instead and have three 27 inch monitors. How fabulous would that be? Three huge displays are empirically better than two, right? I could sit there with computer screens stretching in both directions beyond the limits of peripheral vision. Then I’d finally be getting somewhere, by God. With that sort of screen acreage glowing at me from all directions, I’d have finally created that “working at Missile Defence Command” effect that I’ve always coveted. My only qualm, mulling this over, was that the system couldn’t support four of the massive, shimmering things, though perhaps there’s a way – you can bet I’ll be looking into that.
These days everything you want is brought to you like room service. Just surf, click, and wait. If you pay extra you can even get it inside of 24 hours, but c’mon, be reasonable, there’s no call to go and work yourself into a lather – a calm and not at all crazed consumer like me can wait a week, for the love of Pete. No sweat. Anyway, it turned out to be only four days from final click to physical delivery, and thus I stepped out onto the porch to grab the mail today, and there it was! Just sitting there! Vulnerable and obvious, yet the porch pirates hadn’t got to it! Hooray!
Because a 27 inch monitor is big, and packaging is always bigger than the thing inside, my new toy was destined to come in a commensurately large cardboard box, duh, which of course it did – I understood this in the abstract, certainly I did. Yet still I was unprepared. The scale of the thing. It wasn’t just “big”. It came in a great huge Amazon box, with that stupid grinning logo on the ends, big enough to hold something you’d get at Ikea, like a dining room table named Vadholma, or Jokkmokk. You’d think I’d ordered a frigging fridge. I failed in my first attempt to get it into the house, fighting with my frankly antisocial and recalcitrant screen door. Once I plonked it down in the living room, I eagerly cut the tape and opened it up to find – shit! – another box! An entirely separate, almost equally huge Dell-branded box. More tape to cut; now I was already becoming impatient.
My mood darkened further when I pried the lid open to be confronted with an almost breathtaking welter of cardboard, a veritable chest of drawers made of sheets of thick corrugated material folded into the various shapes needed to compartmentalize all the doodads, and also nestle the monitor. All those folds! Like jumbo origami! It was so diabolically complex that I reckoned it could only have been the product of computer-assisted design.
I now regret that I didn’t take pictures. I found a few on line which give you some idea of what I was up against, though my monitor’s packaging was even more elaborate – they’ve upped their game, believe me, but anyway look at these:
These images just don’t convey the reality. Honestly, the corrugated infrastructure I had to contend with was far more elaborate, a thing of wonder, really. It was all fashioned from just a few very large sheets of cardboard, tabbed and folded every which way to form interior chambers, compartments, nooks, and crannies, top, bottom, and middle, all different sizes. Devising and then executing the design must have absorbed far more time and resources than the mundane electronics it all held in place, and God knows what sort of machine accomplished the production line realization of this cellulose Fort Knox – I refuse to believe that any poor Asian factory wage slave could have done it, or that even the most heartless capitalist overlord would impose such a task upon mere flesh and blood, supposing it was plausibly within human capacity. It’d be counterproductive. The poor buggers would go barking mad inside of a week, and productivity goes straight to a Hell when they start running around the factory floor buck naked, screaming bloody murder.
Whoa. That’s a metric buttload of cardboard. I looked at all this formidable packaging for a couple of seconds, suddenly unsure whether I was up for the challenge. Then, mustering up as much determination as I can these days, I dug in.
The tolerances inside the box were so fine that it was hard to find spaces where I could jam my fingers, and it took me about five minutes just to defeat friction and yank the well-wrapped and foam-protected screen out of the cardboard labyrinth. The other bits, like cables, power chords, stand etc., were secured so well within their own stiff and customized cardboard sub-containers that it was another ludicrously protracted effort to extract them all. Is the tensile strength of cardboard improving these days? Is there some new formula? Have they blended in Kevlar fibres or something? I mean, Land o’Goshen it was an ungodly chore. Freeing up the myriad little flaps and tabs and popping the endless little lids was almost more than I could manage. By the end, swear to God, my fingers were sore, and my back was acting up, though I guess that doesn’t really mean anything – lately, if I so much as hoist a mug of coffee, my frickin’ back acts up.
Stupid, I’ll-conceived column of vertebrae. Every time it aches I think of the ridonkulous religious bastards who claim the human form must be the product of “intelligent design”. Seriously? I’d like to have a word or two with the supposedly intelligent fuck-wit who designed the human spine, by Christ. Intelligent? Negligent, more like it, and that’s being charitable. A less even-tempered guy might jump straight to “malicious”.
Where was I? Oh yeah, anyway, at this point, I didn’t really care about the frigging monitor any more, and even supposing I was still keen, I couldn’t enjoy putting it together and setting it up, not right away, because now came the real challenge: I had to first dispose of all the packaging. Oh, you think that’s easy? I suppose you think you can just chuck it all in the recycle bin, no big whoop? Is that what you think? Do you? Well, NO YOU CAN’T. The crap won’t fit into anything available for such purpose in a non-industrial setting. In its partly-unfolded state there was enough cardboard to cover the entire living room floor, massive sheets of the stuff, with a footprint that was way bigger than, say, the space available in the Apollo Command Module. But that wasn’t the worst part, no, because all of these yet to be disciplined sheets were still festooned with the various tight little multi-folded compartments. Getting it all apart, and flattening it all out, soon devolved into a monumental pain in the large muscle groups.
As if designed as a test of will, each of those little chambers and compartments was incredibly robust. I first had at them with a serrated knife, but that was taking too damned long, and made a mess, so after a while I just began ripping at them with my bare hands. Dismantling some of them took everything I had – I was like a bear trying to pry open the clenched shell of a giant clam, straining, sweating, and cussing a blue streak. As I fought with the mess there in my living room, I thought Jesus, how did I get here? How did this happen? Why was I in mortal combat with the myriad parts of a goddam carton? Struggling, the rage boiling up within me, I glanced at the clock that’s part of the thermostat – naturally, the LCD thermostat screen has an integral digital clock, what, you think this is the 1950s? – and saw that it was now 90 minutes since I’d hauled the cursed box in from the cold. 90 minutes. An hour and a half to accomplish all the the many tasks and sub-tasks ancillary to opening a goddam box. I was nowhere near through, either. Once everything was finally taken apart, laid flat, and cut into manageable chunks, I had to organize the whole mess into a neat pile of cardboard fragments, secured by string – and then there were the two monster-sized boxes that composed the insanely over-protective cardboard exoskeleton to deal with, the manufacture of which had probably absorbed the pulp boiled down from three and a half cords of prime timber.
Finally, after about another half hour, I’m standing out in the cold trying to cram it all into my blue bin, which is nearly the size of a mailbox and ought to hold more than it does. Another frigging struggle. I was cursing the day my mother met my father, shoving in bundles of the obstinate, awkwardly-shaped corrugated bastards, pounding on the ends, despite the sharp edges, trying to jam them all down as far as I could. I finally got it all squared away, suffering just a couple of stinging paper cuts, but dammit, the bullshit suit of corrugated armour filled the entire bin! Completely! They just came round to empty it yesterday, we’ve got two whole weeks of recycling yet to generate, and it’s already stuffed to the brim with the absurdly voluminous detritus of this Box From Hell.
When it was at last all over, I was exhausted. I didn’t really want the stinking monitor any more, but it was sitting upstairs, grinning like a polecat, and after all that strife it would have been silly to succumb to my first impulse, and throw it out on to the street. No joke – I’ve done it before. My first Blu-Ray player, a beautiful, expensive, piano-black Samsung model, suffered that very fate when it refused to work after I got it home. It scrolled a message on its display saying it needed a firmware update. A firmware update! How? How was I supposed to do that? Those things weren’t wi-fi enabled back when the first models came out. How in hell was I supposed to get new firmware into it? What, I had to send away to Korea or something? Screw that. I had a better idea. I pushed the drawer-open button, and when it rolled out I grabbed it and yanked it right out of the chassis, like I was ripping the tongue out of a donkey’s dumbass head. I then took it outside, dropped it on the sidewalk from shoulder height, and left it there. Stinking piece of crap. Right out of the box, and it wouldn’t work. By design. Firmware update, my ass.
The next one I bought, a Sony, did exactly the same thing. “Firmware update required”. Can you believe it?
Now here was the same sort of techno-aggravation, for the love of God. All I’d wanted was a snazzy new monitor. That’s all. That shouldn’t turn into trial by combat, should it? I didn’t see it coming. It was just supposed to be an ordinary thing in a carton. How was I to know I was in for the most daunting physical challenge I’ve had to confront since I was a tradesman, so much younger, stronger, and with so many more tools at my disposal, over 30 years ago? Too bad I forgot all the old lessons. Back then, we knew how to deal with frigging boxes. We used to have these wicked, razor-sharp box cutters in the crew kit, not the usual kind but big industrial jobs fit for a Mongol scabbard. That’s what I remembered, when it was over. I should have bought something like that for the house. I should have prepared better, because I knew, I knew what it could come to. Or at least I used to know. Somehow, I forgot. Like a moron I forgot, and I paid the price.
Breathing heavily, I fought with my animal impulse. No, I told myself, destroying the offending object wasn’t the way to go. It wouldn’t be mature, adult behaviour – nothing satisfying ever is, is it? I had to settle down. Relax. Forget the battle with the cardboard and go look at my shiny new thing. All would be well. So I grumbled my way back to the third floor, affixed the screen to the stand, and hauled it in to the home office to hook it up.
Then, it went the way it always goes.
Despite all the doo-hickeys in all the cardboard chambers, it hadn’t come with the wires I needed. The three inter-connects that were included in the packaging, each of which had different types of connector on either end, thus embracing six different possibilities, still didn’t have what I needed. I may as well have left them all securely stowed – I probably could have saved about 15 minutes of aggravation. After about another half-hour of online research, I figured out that what I needed was something called a “USB-C to HDMI” adaptor. Back to Amazon. Twenty more bucks – who cared at this point? Fine. Add to f*%#ing shopping cart. Fleece me like the stupid sheep that I am, you rapacious, predatory capitalist bastards.
It’s just a wire. Three feet of cord. When it gets here, its packaging can’t possibly be all that daunting, right? That’s right, right?