Saturday, September 11, 2010

Important Information

Have you ever noticed when you're feverishly opening the box containing your brand new XRS 2900 PS5-Pro Game System and a booklet falls out entitled "Important Information," you tend to immediately chuck it away with the rest of the superfluous packaging?  You already know what's in there; cautions about not taking the XRS 2900 PS5-Pro into the bathtub with you, warnings about the dangers of eye-wrist-neck-kidney-and-elbow strain, and all sorts of legal weasels about how the manufacturer won't be held responsible for any misadventure that should befall you should you disregard any of the aforesaid caveats, or anything whatever that happens to you whether you disregarded aforesaid caveats or not. It's all just designed to paper over their butts in case you feel litigious after you electrocute yourself in the bathtub.

But beyond that, there's something stultifying about the words "Important Information" themselves, regardless of whether they appear on the cover of a booklet or a junk mail envelope or at the beginning of a DVD. They are right up there with other lies. It's never important. And it's barely information. So overused are these words that they have actually conditioned our eyes to glaze over whenever we see them--or hear them.

Like when you're watching TV and a commercial begins with the hairy-voiced announcer intoning, "Important Information about your life insurance..." Click.

Of course the advertisers think it's important--or at least their lawyers do. It's the same as when they brag about their commitment to excellence, or their customer service, or their quality you can depend on; it's just them saying so. And what else would they say? That they have indifferent customer service you can depend on? Or "dull blather that won't make any difference to your enjoyment of our product"?

The scary thing is that if there were ever an announcement of an event that were, indeed, important information--say the impending impact of the moon into the Pacific--we wouldn't pay attention, because we'd assume it was just another non-important announcement about not taking your XRS 2900 PS5-Pro into the bath with you, or that you may be paying too much for life insurance.

I think that if the manufacturers really wanted you to read the cautionary manual they'd entitle it something like:

Grisly Death & Hideous Disfigurement

Details within.

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