coasters have two sides

"these coasters are defective!!! why did i buy these damn things?"
buyer’s remorse takes many forms, but one that’s common for me is the form-function problem. i buy something that has great form and a supposed function, only to find that function forgot to show up.
or did it?


i’ve got a nifty set of rubber coasters from Crate & Barrel. elaine and i bought them about a year ago; what can i say – they were orange and yellow and square and looked cool, and i thought to myself, "damn, those would look fine on that IKEA coffee table." [it almost hurts to write this...]
well, that’s all they did. they looked fine. they failed miserably as coasters.
a few minutes after setting a cold glass on one of the aforementioned orange squares, a small pool of condensation would gather. this pool would create a rather nice seal between coaster and the base of the glass, one strong enough that picking up the glass brought the coaster along for the ride. of course, the coaster wouldn’t stay for the ride. oh no – it would detach itself from the glass about two-thirds of the way to your mouth. this resulted in the partially wet coaster going splat! on the table (face down, per murphy’s law).
and so one of those orange coasters has been sitting on my desk for some time, wearing another cardboard coaster like a condom for condensation. the others sat forlorn on the coffee table, waiting for their day in the sun.
until saturday.
elaine was looking through the Crate & Barrel catalog (like a Victoria’s secret catalog, it’s not ours), and noticed some coasters with nifty little ridges to capture the moisture from whatever glass they held. she said, " hey, these are better than those crappy ones we bought."
and then a light bulb went on – our crappy coasters have two sides. they’re asymmetric, with one side totally flat, the other with raised dots, like a Lego designed to hold martini glasses. we had been resting our glasses on the flat side, not the Lego side. what if it was meant to be the other way around?
sure enough, it was. it’s like our coasters have a new lease on life, and we’ve rediscovered joy and can live in harmony with IKEA and Crate & barrel products again.
this got me to thinking about the question of form and function. is it odd that an object designed for a very specific purpose could be used in multiple ways to serve that same purpose, with one usage superior to others? not really, actually. a hammer, for instance, could be used in many ways to pound a nail, although hitting the nail with the right side of the hammer brings Miller time that much more quickly.
the difference here is that the two ways of achieving the same end were not so obviously distinct. most coasters will work equally well whether used on one side or the other. those coasters that require a little more effort usually have very obvious sides (this side up, this side down). for some reason, the "up" side of our C&B coasters was not so obvious.
why did i pick the wrong way of using these coasters? after all, you’d have to be a few beers short of a six-pack to misuse a coaster, right? the only thing that i could figure out was the the display at the store showed the coasters in the improper orientation, and i just followed along, like a lemming off the cliff.
but all is right with the world now, and i can drink my martinis without fear of the dreaded splat!. it’s all about the little things.

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