My watch has been irritating me for a while now. ‘You have not walked ten thousand steps today,’ it says in a headmasterly sort of way.
My response to such things is usually to tell the watch – mind your own business, just tell me the time and leave my health care to the professionals. But this is not the way of gizmos today. Everything is geared towards your health. My car tells me when I am going too fast, my refrigerator tells me when I am running out of milk, my dishwasher tells me when I have been eating the wrong food and my wife tells me when I speak too much at parties. On second thoughts, ignore that last bit. I have a blood-and-bones wife; to marry a gizmo would be way ahead of our times.
Not so long ago, eight was the magic figure. Drink eight glasses of water, get eight hours of sleep, figure out what Julius Caesar meant when he said, “Eight to Brutus”, before falling dead.
I did some research. Turns out the 10,000 steps, apart from the attraction of all those zeroes, was a Japanese marketing idea in the 1960s when they developed a pedometer. The Japanese character for that figure looks like a man walking. How do I tell my watch all this? Stop throwing your weight around, I can say, this has nothing to do with my health, you are merely imitating a Japanese walking character.
I don’t need 10,000 steps. If I live a sedentary life – and I do – even 1,000 steps would be fine. And that’s exactly the number between my writing table and my dining table multiplied by eight, which is the number of to-and-fro trips I make every day. Your watch will tell you what that is in single trips.
But it’s not just steps. I am given the calories I use, the hours of “good sleep” I have, the amount of water I drink, the rate my heart beats at, the distance I walk (you can cheat here by using your feet cleverly while sitting in one place, but that’s another story).
This is bad enough. The watch also sets goals based presumably on the colour of my hair and the number of times I say ‘Oh heck’ every day. This is what I object to.
This was a gift, so I can’t throw it away. Somewhere among the statistics inside is probably the number of times I need to step on the watch and the energy I need to smash it to smithereens. When I find that figure, I shall share it with similar sufferers of a watch’s insistence on functioning beyond the call of good sense.
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