Friday, 11 July 2008

Chairs At Home

There's an odd piece in the Sun today about high-tec deckchairs. Or, to be more precise, sun loungers. The so-called techchair is bristling with gadgetry, powered by solar panels built into the lounger's fabric.

It sports speakers in the frame, headphones, an LCD screen, a nifty sliding laptop rest, a WiFi and Bluetooth antenna, firewire, USB and network ports, docking ports for cameras, MP3 players and video players, and by the user / sitter's feet, a GPS / TXT display. In short, this PC World-devised contraption supports, or hosts, or encourages the use of just about every infuriating gizmo known to man.

Neat, I suppose, if you like that kind of thing, but I am forced to ask - WHY? Don't we spend enough time surrounded by technology? Don't we see enough blinking status lights, hear enough self-satisfied beeps as yet another must-have piece of kit confirms that it's ready and waiting to beep at us again?

I certainly do, and I have no intention of using the techchair, or anything remotely like it. The last thing I need, when I've finally made a little time to relax by the pool, is an electric - well, ok, electronic - chair bedecked with gadgets to first beguile and then badger me. Call me old-fashioned, but a nice, simple deckchair, without any sort of docking ports, or power requirements is exactly what I need.

In fact, after several weeks of increasingly less gentle "reminders" from Mrs S, I finally remembered to purchase just such a simple folding garden / picnic chair from one of those DIY / garden centre superstores yesterday. Now, I freely admit that I'm not a garden chair virgin. I've owned any number of these things over the years, and long ago mastered the art of folding, unfolding and - perish the thought - actually sitting on the things.

Apart from noticeable decreases in size, build quality and comfort over the years, I can discern no significant differences between this chair and its most ancient predecessors - except that it comes with no less than three bright red warning / danger stickers affixed to the frame, and a whole list of things you're supposed to do / not do with it slipped inside the wrapping.

The stickers suggest that you shouldn't put your fingers here, or here, or here whilst folding / unfolding the chair if you expect to keep them - not, I would have thought, something that really needed to be said, in view of their locations, and certainly not something even the most hard of thinking chair operator would need telling twice.

The helpful notice goes into a little more detail, giving clear instructions on how to safely fold and unfold your brand new chair, whilst retaining possession of all your digits. It goes on to insist that the chair should only be used on level ground, and that one should never sit on the arms of the chair, amongst other self-evident proclamations.

Is all this guff really necessary for a simple folding garden chair? Are people really so incurably stupid as to genuinely not know how to work the damn things? Or are the stores just so terrified of litigation from someone claiming to be terminally dim that they try to cover every angle?

Either way, it's a very sad sign of the times, and I dread to think what kind of warnings would need to be plastered all over the techchair before any unsuspecting member of the public could be allowed to sit down and plug themselves in.

Billy Seggars.

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