Picking the Products of the Year, or My Close Relationship with FedEx

I’m a product testing machine. Even the FedEx driver knows this. She smiles when she hands me a box, sometimes giving the package a playful jiggle-jiggle. In the warmer summer months, small children walk by and point at me, whispering “testing machine” in hushed tones (not really). I have so many boxes in my office, I can barely sit at my desk (that’s not even remotely true, but creates a funny word picture at least).

I’m amazed by how many products I’ve tested – somewhere around 8,000 in the last ten years. Gulp. You do the math on how much FedEx makes off me.

It wasn’t always like this. Back in the early aughts, I was not as prolific. A few days would go by and UPS would barely darken my doorstep. Now, when brown-shirted drivers arrive at my office, some of them give a doggie treat for my Border Collie mix. (If you must know, her name is Abby.) I am thinking of having them over for the holidays to drink the eggnog they delivered. We have bonded in a way only a journalist and a delivery person can.

How did this happen? Back in my corporate days, I developed a penchant for testing out anything new. Random stapler in the office supply cabinet, I’m on it. Fax machine set up in the break room, I’m there. Someone has a new laptop, I would weasel my way into their good graces and have a go. I have an insatiable need to test things out and see if they work. As a child, my parents would often find me in the bowels of our local Target store, staring up in dazed wonder at the Lincoln Logs. Given free rein to seek out new products on the Internet, I frequently find them and ask to test them. (I curse you, Uncrate, for you have turned me into a monster.)

Since this is the time of year when I start looking back at the many, many FedEx and UPS deliveries of 2012, my almost daily ritual ripping open packages and smiling at my wife as I remove the bubble wrap and reveal a brand new Linksys router or some handy-dandy Bluetooth earbuds, it’s only fitting that I pick my favorites of the year. Yes, obvious plug alert. If that link were any more obvious, it would blink red and make a funny fart noise.

Picking my favorite gear is a bit like picking my favorite children. It is kind of hard to do. I recall setting up that Samsung monitor late at night, steaming cup of coffee at the ready. As I slowly plugged in the DVI connection to my homebuilt desktop, I fired up the machine to a brilliant array of high-density pixels. Booyah. I savor the first time I donned a pair of Sony headphones and played Alt-J in a pure unadulterated state. Only someone who remembers Lincoln Logs so specifically could be this oddly enchanted by shiny objects.

So what does it all mean? Where will this lead? Why do I know FedEx is going to give me a holiday card? I’m not sure. Yet, I keep e-mailing Sony, asking about their new 4K television. I have started pestering Philips about their new app-controlled lighting kit. I’m thinking of getting my own UPS shirt.

Yet, someday, I will probably say goodbye to this occupation. I’ll receive my last iPad delivery by FedEx Express, the one that comes with a $25 gift card and a hand-written note from Apple PR (I’m trying to hold back the tears here). I’ll shake hands in a hearty, meaningful way with both of my close friends, Bob (UPS) and Katie (FedEx). Thank you for being you.

I’ll walk back to my office, reach up to my computer monitor (but not the Samsung, I have to send that back) and hit the power button. I’ll nod appreciatively at the Microsoft keyboard the public relations agent said I could keep for myself way back in ’09, which I have declared on my taxes and to the FTC. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ready to go back to my normal way of life: stealing stuff from an office supply cabinet.


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