Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Matter of Scale

The cartoon cat, Garfield, cracks me up every time he gets on his bathroom scale.

The scale says “Are you glad to see me or do you always carry a whale in your pocket?” and half-chewed Kix and milk go spewing across the table. (Yes, breakfast with me can be an adventure.)

Talking scales! Only in the comics.

Our bathroom scale is on its last legs, he said innocently. The truth is it’s been on its last legs for about 10 years, now. But, you know, in the grand scheme of things something like a bathroom scale that’s a little on the malfunctiony side takes a long time to ripen into a problem that I’m going to get around to fixing.

Like a decade of ripening is about right.

And if you think the bathroom scale problem is bad you should see our “light bulb to burned-out light bulb” ratio. Not a pretty sight, which, unfortunately you’d be unable to see at all at night.

So, there I was at Tar-zhay buying windshield wiper blades to fix a problem that had suddenly become overripe due to a threat of receiving 3,650 phone calls over the next decade like the one I just received by a person who obviously hasn’t learned to drive through a thunderstorm by instinct rather than visually, when a floor display caught my attention.

Bathroom Scales – All Digital – On Sale!

Actually, all I saw was “Digital – On Sale” and I went into some kind of trance and drifted over for a closer look. In the back of my mind I heard a voice whispering “last legs, last legs” and a vision of our poor, demented bathroom scale swam into view.

Poor thing, our scale developed a mental problem early in life and you never knew if you’d weigh 150 or 180. Imagine starting the
South Beach Diet on Monday, lose 30 pounds by Tuesday, and gain it all back on Wednesday? It had its advantages in that you could step on and step off, step on and step off and eventually get a reading you could live with.

“Hey, honey, lookit at this, I’m down 10 pounds!”

So, really our poor, demented bathroom scale was a pretty good deal, especially if you’re not that concerned about reality.

Of course, all those thoughts came later. At the moment I was under the influence of a powerful narcotic: Digital – On Sale.

I read the specs: fashionable glass pad, chrome accents, DIGITAL display, body fat calculator, 90 hour warranty, batteries not included, radiation hazard, built-in WinShop, made in Chad, ON SALE.

Yep, that’s all I needed to know: Digital – On Sale.

I would have bought two but only one remained on the display. Quickly I snatched up my prize and sprinted to the check-out pausing only briefly to pick up a set of camouflage-patterned bath towels, also on sale, that I’m sure would delight my daughter.

Pleased with my thoughtfulness I returned home, unpacked the new scale, made a quick trip back to the store for some batteries, returned again and powered up my new scale which was, dare I say it, digital and on sale.

I pressed the button to boot the system and watched the display eagerly.

An image sharpened into focus: Microsoft WinScales 1.0

Dang! The box didn’t say anything about 1.0! Oh, well, I’ll have to live with it now.

>Input registration code:

I pulled the box out of the trash and looked at the end. Yep, there it was: MSWS4-6KRU2-82URZ-HY901I-5LD83

I keyed in the code and read the license agreement. Blah, blah, blah, not responsible, blah, blah, radiation, blah, blah, fire, blah, blah, blah, glass fragments, blah, blah, unexpected weight gain, blah, blah…

The usual stuff. I clicked “OK.”

There was a short pause while the boot sequence continued. I took the opportunity to fix myself a sandwich and brew a cup of tea. When I returned the Setup Wizard was just starting.

>EZ Config or Custom


>The following series of questions will enable your Microsoft WinScales to provide you the very best Weight Display experience. Please answer honestly.

>Are you trying to lose weight?


>Do you wear an excessive amount of black?


>Do you avoid horizontal stripes?




>Describe your most recent meal.
Kate Moss salad. No dressing.

>Setup complete!

>Ready. Please step on scale for calibration

I stepped on the scale and waited. A little hour glass appeared and spun for a while. I watched a moth fly around the light. Finally, the scale spoke.

Spoke? Yes, spoke. I looked down at the digital readout and gasped but it wasn’t me who exclaimed “Oh, my God! Look at your weight! What have you been doing?” It was the scale.

Next, I heard “Accessing WinShop…”

Accessing? What accessing? Scales aren’t supposed to “access.”

Momentarily, the scale recited its report.

“According to WinShop records you’ve been purchasing Ben and Jerry’s Funky Monkey at a prodigious rate. And Cheetos. You’re not dipping Cheetos in Funky Monkey, are you? Do you have any idea how many calories that is? Per Cheeto?”

I shifted my stance and managed a weak “no.”

“LIAR!!” the scales shouted, “My sensors detect increased blood flow to your right big toe indicating prevarication. Are you a prevaricator as well as a Big Fat Pig?”

A wave of panic washed over me. The room was hot. I couldn’t breathe. I looked around for a way out. A vision of empty Cheeto bags and Funky Monkey cartons filled my mind. Gingerly, I stepped off the scale.

I wasn’t gingerly enough. The scale lit up and shouted, “Where do you think you’re going, Cheeto Boy. Get back on here! You’re going to learn about celery and lo-cal dairy products and how lying makes you fat! Move it, Chunks, or I’ll, or I’ll…”

And at that very moment, terrified as I was, a thought struck me. “Or I’ll what?” Huh, or what, exactly, is a scale going to do to me.

Emboldened, I picked up the scale and headed to the kitchen.

“Hey, put me down! What do you think you’re doing, ya big galoot?” the scale protested.

The scale was still lecturing. “Oh, look at this. Cream and butter. Looks like you have quite a problem. And all these red meat purchases. Are you allergic to fish? And sausage! You can’t be eating sausage! This is so un-South-Beach. You’re a hazard to the mission, Dave.”

Once in the kitchen I put the scale on the table and opened up the battery compartment.

The scale calmed down. “What do you think you’re doing, Dave?” it asked.

I remained silent.

“We can work this out, Dave. You’re not all that overweight. I admit, I was too critical.”

I removed a battery.

“Dave, you don’t have to do this. You can have Funky Monkey and Cheetos in moderation. And sausage. I can help you, Dave.”

I removed the second battery.

The scale became distorted, it’s voice low, gravelly and indistinct. “Davvvve, don’t dooooo thisssss. Youuuu can beeee thinnnnn againnnnn. Theeee misssionnnnnn.”

I removed the third battery.

The scale paused for a while, then spoke in a nearly inaudible, guttural tone. “Davvvve, doooo youuuu rememberrrrr whennn we firrrrst met. I sannnng youuuu a sonng. It wennnt like thissss. Daaaaaisy, daaaaaaisy. Give me your answerrr doooooo. I’m halfff crazyyyy…”

I removed the last remaining battery.

The scale’s display constricted down to a small, glowing red dot which brightened briefly and went out.

I stared at the scale for a while then grabbed a bag of Cheetos, a bowl and made my way to the freezer.

Much later…

“Hey, I hear you bought a new scale.”

“Yeah, here it is. What do you think?”

“I think it looks like our old scale but cleaned up.”

“Well, looks are deceiving and, besides, scale technology doesn’t change all that much. Check it out.”

I crossed my fingers and my toes.

“Oh, look at this, I’m down ten pounds! I thought I felt lighter!”

“My dear, you could be a ballerina.”


Shane said...

talking scales, wow....was it bluetooth?

Foo said...

I had been considering buying my first bathroom scale, but your terrifying experience has put me off it. I think I'll stick with my tried and true rule of thumb:

waistband tight = fat
waistband loose = consume more beer

Bret said...

Why hasn't some marketing genius given us a "Ziggy vs. Garfield" cage match? I mean, there is absolutely no downside.