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Helpful hints from my new Chinese pedometer

Lost in Translation


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Yesterday, wife Brenda came home with a tiny pedometer, a "free gift" from our health insurance provider. Our insurance provider, of course, is giving us a nudge toward lifelong fitness. The pedometer, just like the government, is here to help.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking a good, long walk. Since the weather turned a little cooler, I've been trying to work in a 30-minute walk every day. According to the listed features of the stepping meter — as somebody in China decided to call Brenda's pedometer — the little gizmo can "count up from 1 step to 99,999 steps." That many steps would cover about 57 miles if my math is right, and it's probably not. Best I can figure, a dedicated walking man could hoof it down to Mt. Pleasant in about 18 hours. That would kill me, and the insurance company wouldn't have to worry about me any more.

The insurance folk, it seems, want to make sure that we Jowerses use our stepping meter correctly. The LCD Stepping Meter Operation Manual, which comprises one sheet of paper about the size of an index card, offers these helpful hints. The annotations are mine.


1. This stepping meter can only count correctly under the flat plant.

OK, which plant is the flat one? I want to do this right.

2. Under the following condition, the stepping meter can't count correctly.

i. Moonwalk, wearing sandal.

I guess the backward moonwalking would take the stepping meter count below zero, and sandal-wearing moonwalkers would lose their sandals to boot. Good call, Chinese quality-control guy.

ii. When walking in the tricky condition.

The tricky condition. I sense a new dance craze!

iii. Vibration without walking.

If you're standing still and vibrating, consult your physician.

Then there's this:

Disposal of Batteries

1. Batteries must not belong to domestic waste.

Hey, Domestic Waste! Drop those batteries! They don't belong to you!

2. As a Consumer you are obliged to give back all used batteries. You can hand in old batteries to the public as assembly points in your municipality or everywhere you can buy batteries of the relevant sort.

I have to give back all used batteries? To the public? Even giant Prius batteries and the millions of batteries that aren't mine?

There's a party-game opportunity here. Folks who usually play charades might just want to start up a new game called Chirades. Participants could watch their friends get their stepping meters to count under the flat plant, moonwalk out of their sandals, walk in the tricky condition (sure to be a fan favorite) and stand still while vibrating.

Whether or not Chirades catches on, remember that it's the Chinese that sent us the lead-laden toys and the corrosive drywall. Who knows what's next.

Meanwhile, back in Michigan, the good folks at M-LAW (Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch) have announced the winners of their annual Wacky Warning Label Contest. Here are the winners, with a few other warnings added.

1. This year's Grand Prize Winner is "Never operate your speakerphone while driving," a warning attached to the Jabra "Drive 'N' Talk" speakerphone. Courtney Pike of Bay City, Mi., won the $1,000 grand prize and a copy of contest host Bob Dorigo Jones' book, Remove Child Before Folding: 101 Stupidest, Silliest and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever.

2. A Bluetooth headset comes with this warning: "When worn over ears, will impair your ability to hear other sounds."

3. The Razor Motorized Go-Cart offers this: "Product moves when used."

4. A robotic massage chair hammers out this warning: "Do not use massage chair without clothing. Never force any body part into the backrest area while rollers are moving."

5. Piglet Blast vitamin supplement: "Keep out of the reach of children. For animal use only."

6. A personal favorite from "DANGER: ADD YOUR OWN WARNING MESSAGE."

7. On a pack of Marlboro Lights: "You should not assume that lower tar cigarettes are safer or better for you."

8. Warning from a washing machine: "DO NOT put any person in this washer."

9. Trouble with kids' swimming goggles: "Children wearing goggles are at risk of injury, from colliding with other children or having goggles snapped back in the face."

10. Label on a toilet plunger: "Do not use near power lines."

11. From Bowl Fresh Toilet Bowl Cleaner: "Safe to use around pets and children, although it is not recommended that either be permitted to drink from toilet."

12. Endust for Electronics Duster says: "The product is not defined as flammable ... but the product can be ignited under certain circumstances."



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