Give Flies a Chance

I was recently giving a seminar where people learn how to measure the quality of the measurement systems that they use to measure the quality of their products. When one finds oneself giving a seminar on such a circular topic, one has to divert the attention of the class with a lot of extraneous diversions. This is when it useful to be a humorist.

So I was regaling the class with one my camping misadventures with nature — the incident between my wife and the skunks — when one of my students asked me if I had ever used an electric fly swatter.

I was utterly astonished. “An electric fly swatter?” I asked. “Yes, you just wave it around in the air and it zaps any nearby bugs into a fatal cardiac state,” was the reply.

I think that technology has gone too far. I will accept my word processing program drawing squiggly lines under my spelling and grammar mistakes, but I draw the line at taking advice from an animated paper clip. I will warrant that transferring classic Three Stooges movies from grainy celluloid reels to crystal clear digital DVD images is desirable, even laudable, but I draw the line at colorizing Moe poking Curly in the eyeballs. I draw a similar line when it comes to the electric fly swatter.

But I am willing to be open-minded. Whenever I encounter some suspicious new technological development, I feel that I have a responsibility as an ethical research analyst to perform some ethical research analysis on the subject at hand before I trash it. So I turned to the most reliable resource available to mankind and Googled “Electric Fly Swatter.”

I was instantly rewarded with approximately 3,410 hits. Satisfied that there is indeed such an article as the electric fly swatter, I closed my research file on the subject.

You may be wondering why I am so upset about this latest contrivance of convenience. Call me old-fashioned, but manually swatting flies satisfies my inner hunter. It also strokes my ego when my wife runs hysterically into my office with arms flailing about, beseeching me to kill the fly in our kitchen. Modern man once again beckoned to the rescue of his fair damsel in distress.

The hunt is on. I enter our armoury (the laundry room) where a vast array of household weaponry (mops, brooms, and a fly swatter) is arrayed. I cock the weapon of choice (I raise the swatter over my head) and begin stalking my prey. The prey is usually pretty wily, choosing to alight on delicate objects like our fine collectibles. I gently wave it off the fine collectible and move around the house in a comical manner trying to keep pace with the quarry. I wait patiently for the fly to land on an appropriate surface — the kitchen counter, a table top, a cupboard door, the cat — for me to … get ready … take aim … and … SMACK! Mission accomplished. Then the dog finishes the job by eating up the dead fly off of the floor.

Wasn’t that exciting? Now where is the thrill of the hunt in waving one of these tennis racket-sized electric fly swatters around the air? Nowhere, that’s where. And to be honest, the prospect of three teenage boys running around our house waving these things around has our fine collectibles looking to check themselves into a fine museum. As if there weren’t enough flies that enter our house in the summer through the doors that are opened and closed approximately one zillion times a day by our sons as they go about whatever business it is that they go about, they would probably start purposely letting even more flies in for the thrill of the zap.

So I think that I will just zap this latest technological marvel in the bud and ban them from entering our household. I am certain that our dog and cat will thank me.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and is the principal behind the services of Statistics Courses. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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