Photograph by David Shankbone
It just never fails! I sit down to eat breakfast with the TV on, and along comes some outrageous news item that makes me want to barf up my oatmeal.
This morning, it was the gullible news readers announcing that, while it might be five years or so years down the road before it happens, a new idea has sprung from the brow of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. He expects to deliver over 85 percent of his packages by drone, which will pick up the goods at various Amazon distribution centers and fly them to customers’ homes.
Here's what it looked like if you missed the 60 Minutes broadcast on it Sunday, or the gullible repetition by the TV newsreaders on Monday morning:
Bezos must live in a bubble.
Bubble-headed broadcasters, too.
Mind you, the newsreaders were broadcasting from the middle of Manhattan, an island bristling with shoulder-to-shoulder skyscrapers, meanwhile showing this fanciful film of a drone delivering the package practically to the front stoop of a private dwelling, presumably one in a sheltered suburban neighborhood, with nary a stray homeless person or mischief-seeker crossing the front walk.
Well, okay, this might make sense in Mr. Bezos’ bubble neighborhood. But not where a soon-to-be majority of “real people” live in our increasingly urbanized nation.
I repeat: the newsreaders were “reporting” news of the coming Age of Drone Delivery from their Manhattan broadcast studios, inside of various skyscrapers and surrounded by other skyscrapers standing nearly wall-to-wall. And yet they never thought to question the feasibility of drone delivery.
In the past I’ve lived in Manhattan buildings with 50 tenants. I currently live in one with over 200 tenants. There are some with well over 400 tenants. These buildings have no front lawns. Land a drone on the sidewalk with a precious wristwatch as a payload – or for that matter a couple of trashy paperback novels – and the payload, probably as well as the drone, will be gone in 90 seconds, scooped up by some passerby who thinks, “Why the hell not?”
Hell, street theft of unguarded articles is so common in New York that the makers of a “theft proof” bicycle lock offer New York City as their standard of near-theftproofness. And even so, if you park a bike in the city with a super killer lock, annoyed thieves will come by and steal whatever parts of the bike aren't locked up. The saddle, for instance. Or the wheels. Or the brake levers.
Roof, shmoof. That won’t work.
What’s that, Mr. Bezos? You’ll say you’ll land your drone on the customers' apartment building roofs? Well, that eliminates roofs with swimming pools, except for packages that are waterproof to a depth of six or more feet. It eliminates roofs with sundecks, where an incoming package attached to a drone with eight propellers is likely to slice up one of the neighbors out to catch some rays, while bopping him over the head with a copy of "The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich." and a portable seltzer maker. It eliminates locked roofs, in buildings where tenants lack general access for safety reasons. Besides, who’s going to go up there and retrieve the package for you when the tenant’s not home?
Now if New York, with 50 percent of its inhabitants living in apartment buildings, were a peculiar anomaly, I’d back off. And I’m not sure whether that 50 percent figure is inclusive of all apartment dwellers, or just renters. Fifty percent seems kind of on the low side for New York City. At any rate, we’re talking about a bare minimum of roughly four million people, in just one city, to whom Mr. Bezos’ drones won’t be able to deliver squat.
But a huge and increasing number of Americans are currently living in multiple dwelling units – even in conservative outposts of Americana-as-it-used-to-be such as Dallas where 40 percent of the population lives in apartment buildings, and Houston, (39 percent). Not to mention San Francisco (40 percent), Los Angeles (42 percent) and Washington D.C. (41 percent).
So unless Bezos plans to fly those packages in through our windows (and if so, will we have to leave them open in winter?) this is a publicity stunt, not a readily-relizeable plan that all those gullible dolts who read the news to us each morning have been telling us about.
Gentlemen, lock and load!
Oh, and one other thing. Perhaps Mr. Bezos plans to initiate this service only in countrified America. Well, think about this, Mr. Bezos. You know all those AR-15s, and AK47s, not to mention deer and elephant rifles, shotguns and for all I know, a stray anti-aircraft battery or two and a few thousand dozens of BB guns that you can find in rural and exurban locales? Think about those for a minute. You listen up, too, you idiot network newsreader. Consider this:
How much fun could you have shooting at a stationary target on a firing range? Not much compared to the full joy potential of taking aim at something mechanical in the sky, squeezing off a couple of dozen rounds and watching it crash to earth.
How about a drone buzzing around overhead, containing a dozen pairs of sweatsocks and a copy of “50 Shades Of Grey” for the dirty old man behind your back 40? Dude, that’s a target just begging to get blasted out of the Bezosphere. And unlike shooting down innocent birds, your shot wouldn’t kill a single living thing.
At least not until Amazon starts selling kittens and puppies.