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The Column

The Special Plate Blues
6/1/03

There are many things I do not understand. Why people with umbrellas walk under awnings. Why the New York City subway system needs to remind us that escalators are for passengers only. How people can get jobs in the food service industry without speaking English. But I can accept those things. One I cannot accept is the thriving industry of collectors' plates.

I may be inclined to buy a picture of a memorable figure or event. This picture is not more appealing once given the ability to hold food. And limiting the number available does not make me want it more, since I didn't want it in the first place. Though I do appreciate the diminishing odds of receiving one of these crappy things as a present. I never question why they only make 1,000 of a particular plate. I question why they ever made any in the first place.

See, someone with an umbrella under an awning is annoying, especially if you're tall. Unless you enjoy being poked in the eye, the situation forces you to step out from under the awning and get wet. But the umbrella-holder should have been able to see you coming and move - especially since no one has yet to poke out their eye.

But collectors' plates are REALLY annoying. I will never buy one, but I am forced to endure the commercials. I will never be interested in one, yet I am forced to "ooohhh" and "aaahhh" when my friends show me theirs. And then I am forced to find new friends to replace those that own collectors' plates.

See, the "escalators are for passengers only" announcement is inane. Has this been a problem? What else has been taking the escalator?

"Excuse me sir, you can't be on this escalator."

"But I'm the train conductor!"

"I know. Escalators are for passengers only."

But collectors' plates are REALLY inane. Why put artwork on a plate? Why not a cereal bowl? Or more appropriately for Elvis fans, a gravy boat?

See, someone who can't speak English in a food service position in an English speaking country is ridiculous. I can just imagine their job interview.

"So, tell me a little bit about your background."

"..."

"Good, good. And where were you educated?"

"..."

"Excellent school. Are you willing to start right away?"

"..."

"You're hired!"

But collectors' plates are REALLY ridiculous. Okay, maybe not as ridiculous as trying to get a napkin from someone who thinks it's a straw, but they're still ridiculous. Collectors' plates are a case of supply creating demand. Because there's a limited supply, there's suddenly a demand. You mean to tell me there are only 1,000 of something that doubles as both a serving dish and a picture of Shirley Temple? I have one question - where do I send my two easy payments of $19.99?

As often happens when I criticize something (see week, every), I'm sure I will get some angry letters. I expect many to fully explain the history of collectors' plates and why they're an integral part of America's culture. In response I will explain that garish items like collectors' plates are the reason why other countries don't like American culture.

I want to know why the first collectors' plate was made. "Oh, I love this picture of Elvis. But I think it would look better were it partially smeared with mash potatoes. Or at least more realistic."

Though I can't understand why anyone would buy a collectors' plate, I can understand companies continually producing them. When a fool and his money have been parted, no one wants to give him a map to find his way back.

Though you could probably sell that map for two easy payments of $19.99.

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