Thursday, January 25, 2007

Secondhand car salesman

I don't know who invented the delightful reference to a secondhand car salesman that sums up doubts about somebody's credibility. We first heard it used long ago to express skepticism concerning the US president Nixon. A journalist simply asked the rhetorical question: "Would you buy a secondhand car from Richard Nixon?" [This eloquent metaphor doesn't necessarily cast aspersions upon the used automobile profession, because the private individual who's not revealing the whole truth about the vehicle he's trying to sell could well be simply its present owner.]

This morning, while making espresso coffee in my splendid De Longhi machine [no members of my family or friends work for that company] and using a sponge to wipe a few spots of steamed milk off its stainless steel exterior, I started to think about a curious news article that appeared yesterday on the Internet. Somebody stated that many pathogenic bacteria in the kitchen could be eliminated by simply "burning" them in your ordinary microwave oven. The article included the following alarming kitchen statistics:

It has been estimated that a kitchen sponge may contain 10,000 bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, per square inch.

Now, that's surely shuddering information for anybody who's smart enough to know what it means. Unfortunately for me, I would be totally incapable of recognizing the evil presence of a bustling throng of ten thousand bacteria gathered together for a crime evening of muddy misbehavior on a spongy square inch of my kitchen premises. I'm sure they're worse than WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq, but I would first need to know that they're really there, and out to get me, before I would think about calling GIs into my Gamone kitchen. But I said to myself, while waiting for my espresso to drop down into the cup:

"Who the hell could benefit from sending out this weird message about using your microwave oven as a sterilizer?"

It doesn't take much imagination to find a plausible answer. The manufacturers of microwave ovens, of course! You might claim that I'm addicted to conspiratorial theories [and I wouldn't deny that this is partly true], but there has to be some obvious or less obvious reason why the world's kitchen-dweller would suddenly be invited to bake their sponges [I'm talking about cleaners, not cakes] in the microwave oven. Naturally, we should not exclude the possibility that this affair may have been promoted by a sudden altruistic urge from enlightened health-bestowing experts who wish well upon their fellow men... but, these days, I no longer really believe in "explanations" of that kind.

[Incidentally, while we're talking about microwave ovens, I recall the delightful Dilbert strip in which the pointy-haired boss got his suit drenched in the rain, and his office colleagues persuaded him to dry it out in the microwave oven... with the consequences that you can imagine!]

Intrigued by the strange idea of throwing kitchen sponges into a microwave oven (like dirty clothes into a washing machine), I started to wonder what might happen if the stuff to be sterilized included a metallic sponge or a grubby wad of stainless steel "wool" of the kind that we often use on our dirty kitchen utensils. To put it differently, I had the impression that it might not be a sound idea to buy a secondhand automobile from the guy who gave us the ingenious idea of using a microwave oven as a sterilizer.

After opening up ritually my morning news on Google [no members of my family or friends work for that company], I was relieved to discover that "corrections" have indeed been posted concerning the original microwave article. I'm reminded of French TV publicity for a glue product that shows a guy suspended from the ceiling after the soles of his shoes have been smeared with the magic glue. The ad people had to insert warnings for kids: "Above all, don't be tempted to perform this glue experiment with a schoolmate!"

Talking about the credibility of stuff you find on the Internet, I'm drawn inevitably into reflections upon current crap from George W Bulsh... As you might have guessed, I can't wait for that guy to get impeached or eliminated from the world scene in one way or another (along with his Anglo-Saxon lapdog buddies Blair and Howard), because he's frankly dangerous as long as he remains at large. In expressing that opinion, I'm merely paraphrasing the judgment made by a certain Republican senator named Chuck Hagel:

"We have totally destroyed our standing and reputation and influence in the Middle East, by what we're doing. And the more we sink down into this bog, the harder it is to get out of and the more enemies we make."

This courageous defector pleaded with Senate colleagues who are not brave enough to take a hard stand on Iraq: "Why are you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes."

Not quite, Senator Hagel. Not shoes. Secondhand automobiles.

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