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Originally published at Crap and Garbage in Violent Opposition.  Adapted and edited for inclusion here.



Have you seen those refrigerators that have television screens in the door? I've seen them at Best Buy and so on, and while the initial striking thought is, How cool, the second thought is always, Who the hell would want one of those? Who thought this up, and then thought it was a good enough idea to actually make one, and convinced other people to sell it?

Now, having a television set above the stove makes a certain amount of sense. When one is cooking, one spends most of the time in one position (facing the stove) while stirring, frying, or stir-frying. One could watch television while doing this. One could even watch a cooking video while doing this, and you could make sure everything was done right in real-time; now there's a good idea. But how much time does one spend looking at the refrigerator?

Well, I can only speak for myself, and my answer is, Not much. I probably don't even look at it per se, but only subconsciously assure myself that Yes, the refrigerator is still there, where it was yesterday.  It doesn't get a lot of play, attention-wise.  I would notice it if it was missing.  But I don't check it every half hour to see if it has been stolen.

In fact, generally, the routine is to grab the handle, grab what I want, possibly spend a couple of moments hunting for what I want, then close the door, and the refrigerator returns to being a faithful friend awaiting my next need.

I probably spend more time looking inside the refrigerator, trying to find where I'd hidden the green onions or wondering what the heck that is inside that bowl. So, a television set inside the refrigerator would get more watching time. But haven't we all been conditioned NOT to leave the refrigerator open? It wastes electricity, and spoilage is just standing there waiting to instantly turn a nice cut of meat into a deadly bacteria factory. It takes mere seconds, man, close the door!

Plus, you'd get a crick in the neck, I'm sure.

Now, maybe you're thinking this: If some freeloader comes over and wants to drink all my beers, I can put a fantastical video on the refrigerator TV, and he'll be distracted by the video from the beer.

Eh...I suppose that might work. If you're lucky enough to be visited by extraordinarily stupid freeloaders. Another scenario: you've only got enough money for a TV or a refrigerator, but not both. Or, you have a small apartment, and combining some appliances is a space-saver for you. All of these are legitimate although kind of stupid reasons.

No, I think the real reason someone would buy a refrigerator with a television screen on it is because that initial How cool thought just takes hold and will not let go. That person is buying this thing not because it's useful or attractive, but simply because it says How cool to everyone. Imagine you're at a party at some guy's house and he asks you if you want something; you reply in the affirmative, he strides to his TV Refrigerator and gets the item. You, watching, think How cool.

I'm sure after reading this essay, though, the many impracticalities of the device occur to you as your host hands you whatever it was he offered you. But you keep silent. Because he gives a good party. And you want to be invited to the next one. Don't you?

There must be hundreds if not thousands of things available for sale whose sole defining virtue is that they say, How cool. People buy them, because they want that coolness transferred to them. Wow, I thought he was kind of dull, but after seeing his refrigerator, I realize now that he is kind of cool. But this refrigerator-television combo has got to be the most obviously useless. I suppose it's not actually harmful, like smoking cigarettes, which is about the only thing in its favor.

People buy lots of things--cars, clothes, recordings, and what-not--just so they can appear cool.  But all of those things have a built-in excuse: they are actually useful and/or entertaining in their own right.   While one might suspect that Mr. X bought a certain model of car solely for the cool factor, he can legitimately say that he needed a new car.  And the argument is over, pretty much.  

I don't think these refrigerators have that kind of an out.  They're too blatant in their aim.  Also, if you have a lot of refrigerator magnets, wouldn't they interfere with the signal?

February 26, 2005

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