THE BLOG
01/22/2014 03:15 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2014

Doing More Dumb Stuff

I have no doubt that tradition is a good thing... to a point. But why does it have to be so difficult for humans to shed old habits when new and better ways appear? A while back, I read an article about how the rocket that took Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon could be directly tied to the chariots that carried wheat to Rome. It sounds silly but those ancient axle widths were standardized to match the roads that later determined the gauge of railroad tracks. As a result, the diameter of the Saturn V had to be specifically designed to fit through the tunnels that lay between the factory and the launch pad.

Interestingly enough, you're bound to just such an anachronism... one that impedes your work and play on a daily basis. You may not be aware of it but when typewriters were first invented they were complicated mechanical devices with keys that became tangled if you typed too fast. The solution was to invent the QWERTY keyboard that you now use. The letters of the alphabet, believe it or not, were arranged purposely to slow you down. Since then, we've progressed to high-speed computers with no moving parts but that hopelessly antiquated keyboard remains. Of course there have been newer designs where the letters are arranged in such a way as to allow even the slowest typist to whiz along. The problem is that the QWERTY layout is so firmly established worldwide that manufactures are reluctant to produce a more efficient pattern. As with the metric system, people tend to resist learning a new way of doing things even when it's clearly to their benefit. So here's my idea: create a keyboard with a switch that allows different users to go back and forth between the old and the new layouts. Kids will master the new moves while fossils will stick with the old and, since we're talking digital technology, I'm sure that such a keyboard can be wired up in a matter of minutes by any geek within range of a Radio Shack. Incidentally, should any royalties be involved, remember where you read this.

And why oh why do we have to make airplane cabin crews look foolish by insisting that they show people how to use a seat belt? Can't we merely assume that everyone on the plane has also been in a car at some point during the last half century? And in case of emergency, do you really think I'm going to respect and ultimately bet my life on someone who previously made a major production of slipping tab A into slot B? If they assume passengers are so dim it's necessary to demonstrate '50s technology, why not also dress the cabin crew as clowns to suggest it's going to be a fun flight? Hey, let's all follow the fright wig and floppy shoes to the nearest exit.

Along the same lines, why are both pilots and attendants dressed in uniforms so inappropriate to the task? Do you really want a guy flying fifteen hours in lace-up cordovans, dress pants plus belt and a suit jacket all topped off with a big hat? Now I know this is going to sound really weird but why not put a pilot in a flight suit? Can you imagine a guy taking off from an aircraft carrier wearing a dark blue, double-breasted from Brooks Brothers with a big hat? And do you really want someone in a tight skirt and heels trying to wrestle a lady with a baby out of a burning wreck? I know it's all an illusion to convince customers that traveling through a 60-below-zero-near-vacuum at 600 mph is a lot like Dancing with the Stars but to me such absurd costuming borders on the criminal when lives (especially mine) are at stake. Personally, I'd have no problem with crews dressed specifically for hours of comfort and just maybe a few seconds of sheer terror.

There's a saying about friends: The new are silver but the old are gold. That may be but don't assume it always applies equally to ways of doing things? And isn't it funny that whoever wrote: Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door... probably typed it on a QWERTY keyboard.