In support of spontaneous combustion . . .

Marketplace Staff Aug 22, 2006
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In support of spontaneous combustion . . .

Marketplace Staff Aug 22, 2006
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

LISA NAPOLI: Things can’t get much worse for Dell Computers. Its shares sank more than 7 percent last week on a 51 percent decline in quarterly profits. And it disclosed a federal accounting probe. Then there’s the matter of the unprecedented recall of notebook PC batteries that have a tendency to make laptops burst into flames. Commentator Jeff Steinbrink weighs in.


JEFF STEINBRINK: It can’t be good news that some Dell computers are bursting into flames. That’s not the sort of performance you want in a laptop, particularly when it’s in your lap.

But let’s not be too quick to throw cold water on the notion that a little spontaneous combustion might be just what a few familiar household objects deserve.

Of course I’d be annoyed if my PowerBook caught fire, especially if my alarm clock, which I’d dearly love to see go up in flames, just kept ticking coolly away when it did.

Why don’t we ever hear about alarm clocks melting down? Or calculators. When it’s tax time and you’re trying to hammer some sense into, say, your spending habits, tell me you wouldn’t get a little spark of satisfaction out of watching your calculator blow itself to smithereens.

Suppose your cell phone heated up if you used it while you were driving. You could get away with a couple minutes of conversation — a quick cry for help in a real emergency, for instance — but try yip-yapping with one of your homeboys just to kill time and you’d get burned.

Or suppose that on any given night your fourth or fifth Mojito would spontaneously bubble out of its cute little glass and shoot like a geyser to the ceiling. Better your drink gets lit than you do.

Or how about a credit card that gets warmer as it piles on debt? Behave yourself and it simmers in a pleasant, toasty way in your wallet. Cashiers will take it from you with a knowing smile. Go seriously into the red and it begins to smolder. Cashiers will handle you with tongs. Go deeper and it literally burns a hole in your pocket.

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few members of congress’s pants catch fire now and then. But that’s a lot to hope for, spontaneous-combustion-wise. I’ll settle for my alarm clock being devoured by a tongue of flame.

Let’s get the lab coats at Dell working on that.

NAPOLI: Jeff Steinbrink teaches creative writing and American Literature at Franklin & Marshall College. In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli. Enjoy your day.

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