The WTH? Files

April 2, 2015

By Pat Detmer

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I’m in my mid-60s and am descending the gradual hill that leads into Crotchety Valley, where all sorts of negative thoughts spontaneously pop into my brain, things like “Why do it this way? It’s stupid!” and “When did THIS change? I don’t like it!” and “I didn’t even know that hair could grow there!” I’m well-known to embrace all manner of colorful expletives, but because this is a family newspaper I’ll refer to these collective thoughts as the “What the Heck?” — or WTH? — Files.

Lately I find myself having more and more of these WTH? moments, many of them caused by a world far too informed, too digitalized, too connected and overmarketed, where data is king and content his queen, and  bandwidth must be filled. Thus:


> WTH? A weather app on my phone informed me:

Temperature: 76

Feels like: 75

> WTH? I went shopping, found shoes that I liked, and went to the checkout.

Clerk: (Not making eye contact, tapping at a screen.) “Do you know your rewards number?”

Me: “No.”

Clerk: “Can I have your rewards card?”

Me: “I don’t have one.”

Clerk: (Frowning, as if this news has made my purchase incredibly complex, perhaps even impossible.) “Hmm. Ooo-kaaaay then. Give me your phone number and email address.”

Me: (Losing altitude on the steep and slippery slope to Crotchety Valley) “Could I possibly just buy these shoes???”

> WTH? I bought a new sports water bottle. There was a brochure inside: “Hydrate 4 Life – A simple guide to hydration wellness.” In other words, “How to drink water.” With illustrations! And they didn’t make “cups” by the way. They made “hydration products.”

> WTH? Charts and maps of measles outbreaks? When I was a kid and someone in the neighborhood contracted measles, mumps, or chicken pox, we were urged to play together and do our best to exchange bodily fluids so that we would fall ill en masse and get it over with.

> WTH? We get 150 TV channels, and half of them feature shows that glorify all the things my mother urged us to avoid: Whiny women who marry for money, time-wasting pipe dreams, bigamy, being an unwed teen mother, pawn shops, junkyards. I’m expecting the debut of a show about people who cross their eyes and have them stay that way.

> WTH? The Kardashians.


You can reach Pat Detmer, who hopes to star in her own reality TV show about digging for coal in abandoned Newcastle mines, at

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