Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle What Bandwagon?

By Marion Winik

APRIL 5, 1999:  Like many women of myage group and economic stratum, I own a personal computer with a CD-ROM player, a coffeepot with a timer, a microwave oven, and a pair of fancy running shoes. What's different about mine is how much newer they are than everyone else's. I'm not quite sure why, but I seem to run a half-decade or more behind the rest of the culture. I'm never first, that's for sure -- and on matters like alpha-hydroxy face cream and the appeal of Garth Brooks, I seem to be just about last.

My friend Judy, who's getting her Ph.D. in marketing, says there's a name for people like me, people who take their own sweet time before embracing new trends and technologies.

"Oh, I've heard of it," I told her. "I'm a 'late adopter,' right?"

"No," she said gravely. "Market researchers actually care about late adopters. Their patterns are tracked and studied; their purchases count in the statistics. But you -- you're what they call a laggard. You're so late, the campaign's over, the product's obsoleted, and the company's probably been bought and sold twice. You're right in there with the people who get their laptops at the Salvation Army. They don't even count you."

Well, shucks. God knows I always wanted to escape the clutches of the capitalist megalith, and here I've gone and done it after all -- while driving around in my cute sport-utility vehicle wearing my pseudo-Doc Martens, humming one of my current favorites, like R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" or Prince's "Little Red Corvette." And guess what I got just this past Christmas? A Walkman! Aren't they groovy? (I'm afraid I'm a slang graveyard, like, totally.)

We laggards look to our loved ones to introduce us to new ideas. After grumping around my house drinking her leftover coffee cold for six or seven years, my mother wrapped up a microwave oven and stuck it under my Christmas tree. I was flummoxed at first, since I had made a pretty big deal about not owning one, as if it were a political statement and not just a kitchen appliance. Then I found out just how unbelievably handy they are for everything from corn on the cob to day-old pasta, how easy they are to keep clean, how many marvelous microwave-ready products at the supermarket make mealtime fun! I may be slow on the uptake, but I make up for it with enthusiasm. Talk to me about jogging! Or about that new coffeepot -- my "electric spouse"! I freakin' love it!

illustration by Jason Stout

Music appeals to different people for different reasons. Me, I like a song because I've heard it 50 or 60 times before. During my marriage to a cutting-edge music fan -- an "early adopter" if I ever saw one -- the dynamic between us was perfectly out of sync. He would get an album by a new band, one nobody ever heard of in a genre of music barely discovered, and play the pants off it for three to six months. The whole time I would bitch: God, turn that thing down. Then finally, after he'd moved on, the song would come on the radio and I'd say Wow! Listen to this! My favorite song! (There's a bright side here, actually -- by the time I got the urge to try fen-phen, it was off the market.)

If there are other people out there like me, I want to say this: Don't you think those electronic door locks that you can operate with a button on your key ring seem pretty cool? What about the World Wide Web? I'm thinking I might even try paddling out there to find these columns I write for Underwire sometime. Has anyone checked out the tampons with three different sizes in one box? I'll probably hit menopause before I get around to trying them. At which point, I'll probably be busy getting my nose pierced.

Regular Chronicle contributor and NPR commentator Marion Winik finally decided to bleach her hair platinum blonde.

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