What Were They Thinking

Today, in one of the century’s most stunning what-were-they-thinking moments, Apple decided to name its new e-reader the iPad, despite the fact that they probably want women to buy it.  Bad move.  I’ll spare you the many possible jokes about feminine hygiene product- related names Apple could have given this thing (just google “ipad” and “stupid name”).

Instead, I would like to discuss the obvious, but endlessly interesting question:  what were they thinking?  I don’t know what they were thinking, because I can’t read the minds of people who don’t appear to have them,  but I’m pretty sure I know what they were saying:  “Great name, Steve.”  “Yeah, great name.”  “Fabulous name, Steve-oh.”   I guess it’s obvious that the naming people were all men.  And like men everywhere, none of them wanted to talk about .. . well, you know, the time when women (a) often don’t want to have sex and (b) become people men think are crazy.  The thing is, I am certain these Apple people are familiar with the maxi-pad, the mini-pad, the scented maxi pad, the unscented maxi pad, and the maxi pad with wings, because they often have to go to the drug store for their wives/girlfriends/daughters to get those PADS.  Nevertheless, they let this  name be attached to a product that pretty much nobody can ask for without feeling at least slightly contemptuous of the people who named it.   I also feel sorry for the people who have to sell it.

It turns out that they don’t conduct market research at Apple, like we always thought they did.  They  do things because they’re too embarrassed to tell Steve Jobs that he’s a numbskull.  Maybe Steve will suggest they lower the price to $4.99 and they’ll all be too embarrassed to tell him he’s being a moron.  The only upside I can think of to this is that everyone in America will find it ridiculous — republican, democrat, independent.  It will unite us, although it will probably  not get a health care bill passed.

Still, really, who among us has not had a “what was I thinking?” moment?  And because I know Steve Jobs is obsessively googling “why are they mocking the name of my new tablet computer, the one I could have called iTab if I wasn’t such an idiot”, I’d like to now describe one of mine.  It might make him feel better.  But probably not, because his mistake is in the New York Times, and other news outlets people actually read, and it will soon be something Jon Stewart talks about and my mistake is one that is buried in a grainy photograph in the Washington High School yearbook from 1976, which isn’t being broadcast or delivered to people I don’t know.  I’ve been considering this all day, and have decided that each decade (okay, each year, but who’s counting) of my life has, within it, at least one of these moments.  But I’ll start with the 1970s:

During my first year in high school I was that girl who, like Reese Witherspoon in Election, ran for everything, raised her hand even when all the teacher did was yawn, and had recently discovered irony and sarcasm but had not yet discovered that many other people had too.  I was also skinny, wore glasses, had a weird sense of humor, and my fashion sense was as undeveloped as I was.  The only reason I was the president of our class that first year was because nobody ran against me.  And why did they not run against me?  No, dear reader, it was not because they were scared I’d win.  After all, the year before, I had managed to lose the slam dunk Class Treasurer contest even though I ran on a slate with my friend Debi, who was a goddess and, therefore, likely to get me swept into her new administration just because I appeared to be breathing the same air she was.  Also my opponent was someone who, though a nice guy, was often teased for being so very smart.  Even more than I ever was.   Anyway, I thought I had a lock on it.  Plus, we had good signs, because my friend Debi’s sister, Faith, painted them and Faith was a legend in the cheerleading community in part because of her ability to knock out spirit signs (you know, the ones that read GO PATRIOTS!) in enormous quantities.  So, I think my point was that if I lost THAT election, there was no election I wasn’t capable of losing. Nobody was afraid of me.

What were they afraid of?  Well, being class president wasn’t a very demanding job, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the work load that scared them off.  In fact, the only thing you really had to do was organize the student ID card sale, and even that was organized by someone more efficient than me.  But what you did have to do was this:  If your class lost the contest to see who sold the most of these cards, then you had to submit to being made into an ice cream sundae at an assembly full of jeering students.  And that is why this election was uncontested.  What was I thinking?  Who knows?  I remember I wore to the event a construction worker hat (god, I just remembered:  I actually wore that hat to school regularly because I thought it made an ironic statement) and overalls.  But what I remember most, other than the odd feeling of having strawberry ice cream, nuts, and whipped cream dumped on my head (I was in a wheelbarrow with the guy from the other class that lost while this occurred), was my dad’s reaction when I asked him to come pick me up.  My parents never, ever picked me up or took me anywhere.  So I never asked them to pick me up.   But because I felt I could not walk home with chocolate sauce running down my neck, I called my dad up and said I’d had a little accident with my clothes.  He actually agreed to come, possibly because I was a little hysterical by them, in part because the ice cream was melting throughout my overalls.  When  I got into his car he looked me up and down and said, “Well, that probably wasn’t such a good idea.”

I’ve experienced, on facebook, a sudden influx of people I went to high school with.  I’m hoping this memory has faded.

Tune in next time for the 90s moment.

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18 thoughts on “What Were They Thinking

  1. That I didn’t raise an eyebrow for even a nanosecond over the iPod name must be a sign that either a) a very busy day that allowed me about 2 min to read all news, not just the Apple announcement, or that b) I’m truly post-menopausal. Now I can’t wait to watch Stewart. Surely he will joke about this; after all, there weren’t any “strategery” type gaffaws in the State of the Union address.

    If we had attended the same school and you showed up in a hardhat, I would have thought you stole it from my dad who insisted on wearing one when we were taking driver’s ed.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that the iPad is a ridiculous name.

    Now, please explain to me the US of love of food-related public humiliation … I mean what is with the ice-cream sundae? And with throwing pies in people’s faces?

    Seriously, if your 90s moment involves food and humiliation, then I will have to cry.

  3. Ohhhh, Lily. How do we ever survive high school? Any of us! I am going to be thinking all day at the image of you in a hard hat having to have chocolate sauce and whipped cream dumped on your head. Love your father’s sense of understatement.

  4. Well, I can safely say that I didn’t even register the name had any kind of association with feminine hygiene products. And then the puerile humour started and I thought ‘Really?’
    And then I wondered if Apple had made a mistake and realised that Steve Jobs is just too obsessive to make that sort of mistake. So now what I think is that the lame joke will be run off it’s legs by the end of today, and at the end of the week the iPad will still be standing, having gained an awful lot of additional coverage via the ‘What were they thinking’ articles, the trending topics on Twitter and so on. And by the end of the year, the iPad will have redefined the vocabulary in the small part of the world that discusses such things.

    You wore a hardhat to school? Excellent! But the public humiliation of being covered in ice cream is unfathomable. I have always been so glad that I didn’t go to an American high school.

  5. I’m such a man since that association totally passed me by until you pointed it out! In our school, humiliation definitely wasn’t food related. As a boy, I would not have minded having ice-cream thrown at me (unless everyone laughed, which is of course why it sucks).

  6. Must admit, my immediate response was to the dull, uninspiring, clunky sound of it. iPad. It’s like a big bag of cotton wool dropping. Amazing the difference a syllable makes if you consider ‘iPod’.

    No-one ever elected me for anything at school. But at the age of 29, I was elected student rep in a CONTESTED election on my Masters course. Tragically, I think it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

  7. I have to admit that until I read all the reactions on FB, I actually thought iPad was a cute name. I didn’t make the connection at all (one of my x chromosomes must have been written by someone with bad handwriting, so that it resembles a y). But your high school story is horrible. I’d say the person who came up with that ice cream sundae “tradition” should be the one asking, “What was I thinking?” As if high school isn’t bad enough without that sort of added humiliation.

  8. Lily, As much of a dork as you say you were, I would have offered you a ride home had I been your classmate. My mom – who has serious OCD – would have probably covered you in towels before letting you in the car. She might have even taken you to our house first so you could shower before bringing you to your parents. After which I’m sure she would have told me never to run for office, ever.

    As for iPad…it’s well known that Apple has too many men on their payroll.

  9. “It turns out that they don’t conduct market research at Apple, like we always thought they did. They do things because they’re too embarrassed to tell Steve Jobs that he’s a numbskull. Maybe Steve will suggest they lower the price to $4.99 and they’ll all be too embarrassed to tell him he’s being a moron. The only upside I can think of to this is that everyone in America will find it ridiculous — republican, democrat, independent. It will unite us, although it will probably not get a health care bill passed.”

    ROFL. Comedy Gold! BL, if Apple brings the iPad down to $4.99, I’ll give up my self-indulgent Linux fixation and buy wholesale into the Apple way of life. You’re right, they should’ve seen the obvious iPad jokes coming from a mile away.

  10. Okay, I may be dating myself here, but I always thought of those items as “Sanitary napkins” because that is what they were referred to on the Kotex box when I was first joining the ranks of “real women”. Apparently the first name you learn for something is the one that sticks, because even though by the time I FINALLY reached menopause they were being called “pads”. Anyway, I never thought about the “pad” association because the name was attached to an electronic device and somehow my mind has never really connected electronic devices with menstruation even tangentially. I also missed all the jokes because I don’t watch all that much tv, mostly limiting myself to “Jeopardy” and I wasn’t reading about the iPad because I will never have one unless someone gives it to me and even then I probably wouldn’t use it much.

    (Jim and I are about the only people in America who have a cell phone for which the minutes have run out and we didn’t even notice until t-mobile sent us an Email telling us this had happened.)

    Anyway, this sort of association of words is what has made it virtually impossible for me to go out and look at all my crocuses and cry out joyously “Oh, you are all so gay today!” even though their unabashed greeting of the spring sun is gaiety itself. And I’m getting tired of it. When did the word “gay” become an insult? Because here in the lovely Bible Belt it certainly is an insult used by high schoolers to each other. And that is how they humiliate each other around here, I guess. When I was in school we were humiliated by being called names and treated like we were lepers or untouchables, and it was all sub rosa humiliation. No institutionally ratified humiliations like big ice cream sundaes was allowed. Actually, our school was so rural and so poor we would have had a hard time coming up with enough ice cream and whipped cream to make a decent human sized sundae, so I guess name calling and the caste system was enough for everybody. At least the ingredients were free.

    So, I’m looking forward to the 90s tale, looks like you’ve been as attentive to the internet as I have been lately.

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