So it turns out the funniest people in the world are software developers. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us gets to be in on the joke, and the punchline is always the same:
“And that idiot clicked ‘accept’ anyway.”
I know it’s true, because a sheriff’s deputy came to my place last week to repossess my nose. It turns out I failed to change my Instagram feed from freemium to premium within twelve months, as I agreed when I clicked on the user agreement. I lucked out, though, because another deputy showed up two minutes later with an identical warrant from Snap Chat, so I can keep my schnozz unsullied until they resolve their custody dispute in smell claims court.
As Jimmy Buffett would say, it’s my own damn fault. When I bought my first microcomputer software nearly 40 years ago, I read the software (CP/M!!) user agreement and marked the parts that I didn’t accept. Of course, the terms were non-negotiable and the computer wouldn’t work without the software, so I had to take the deal.
Since then, I’ve signed more than a thousand binding agreements with software companies, doctors, car rental agencies, and pretty much anyone else who shoves a 47-page disclaimer in my face. The language varies a bit, but the terms are depressingly similar:
I thought they were just kidding about that last part until the sheriff’s deputies showed up at the condo. I was wrong, and it’s only getting worse.
A few years ago, I walked into a shopping mall in Cape Town where they had a particularly onerous “user agreement” on the wall. Basically, it said the mall was blameless for anything and everything that could possibly happen inside the facility, whether accidental or intentional, and that I was agreeing to those terms simply by walking into the building. If the mall owner came by and cut off my head, it was just fine by me, and I acknowledged that by crossing their threshold.
“That would never fly in the States,” I thought, until I walked into a Chicago restaurant with a similar “user agreement” at the host stand.
Down the street from that restaurant, there’s a new spot where you can order your food at a kiosk instead of talking to a human being. There isn’t a user agreement, yet, but it’s only a matter of time before I’m agreeing that:
When I’m in a charitable mood, I want to forgive the coders for their insatiable need for absolution. It must be very difficult to spend your day on a computer, typing indecipherable crap that nobody will read and inserting inside jokes that nobody will comprehend. It’s a lot like blogging, but coders have cool pocket protectors.
Anyway, it’s the lawyers who produce the disclaimers, and they’re the ones responsible for churning out 5,000-word argle-bargle that could be condensed down to “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” If there’s any justice in the world, those lawyers will be the first to lose their noses, or other appendages, for violating Terms of Service.
On the upside, it’s likely to take years before the courts decide which company can repossess my nose and maybe the statute of limitations will expire—or I will—by then. In the meantime, I’m going to spend some extra time smelling the roses, just in case.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.