Early Adopter? Try Wrong Adopter

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With gas prices going up and down and further up, more drivers are interested in buying a hybrid car. Commentator Chris Harris thought he was one of them. But then he remembered that his family is cursed to always pick the wrong technology: BetaMax, Le Car, eight-track tapes. Harris is a writer and producer for the TV program How I Met Your Mother. He lives in Los Angeles.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

With gas prices going up and down and up, lots of people are getting interested in buying a hybrid car. Commentator Chris Harris thought he was one of them.

CHRIS HARRIS: Hybrid cars. What's not to love, right? They're cutting edge. They're good for the environment. Okay, they're less not good for the environment. Plus they get amazing mileage especially at cocktail parties when you're trying to guilt trip your friends.

But there in the dealership, holding that weird high tech key in my hand I hesitated because my family has a curse. Every time my family has made any kind of investment in a brand new technology, it's been 100 percent guaranteed that that technology will become utterly worthless within three months. We are the unluckiest early adopters on the planet.

It started with the quadraphonic sound system we got in 1974. 1974, the same year America decided that unless you have four ears, four way sound in kind of stupid. From then on we just could not win. There was the answering machine that used eight-track tapes. The huge satellite dish that was so ugly and unreliable it convinced everyone else to get cable. The computer from Mattel Electronics. Let me say those words again. Computer from Mattel Electronics.

And yes we had the Beta Max. Our Beta was one of those colossal early models that was bigger than our Le Car and required as I recall twenty-eight union men to move into our home. We spent the next five years desperately trying to get anyone, anyone else to buy one. Betas have better picture quality, we kept saying. Don't matter if you can't find tapes to play in the first place, said everyone else. At last we conceded defeat, bought a VHS and I had learned my lesson.

The early adopter gets the shaft. So I held back. I waited years to make sure cell phones weren't just a passing fad. My gym was a giant web of white headphone cords before I even thought about an iPod. But four months ago while shopping for my niece I realized I might have become too cautious.

Excuse me, I asked, these sneakers with blinking lights on them, they're universal, right? The salesman just stared at me. It's just, I don't want to get home and discover I bought I don't know, a region three pair of sneakers that only work with North Korean batteries, you know, or that their blink rate is non-standard. The response was refreshingly honest for salesmen. He said, you're being stupid.

He was right. Somehow I'd become a late adopter. I had to face my fears and so I stood looking at that hybrid car. I held the key a little longer, let out a sigh and then handed it back to the dealer. My family's curse is too strong, but maybe that's not a bad thing. Plasma or LCD. XM or Sirius. Palm or pocket PC. I couldn't care less what wins out because I'll be getting what everyone else already has.

My family has taken the road less traveled. Guess what. It's a bumpy, poorly maintained dead end. That's why I sticking to the super highways in my new conventional non-hybrid car.

BLOCK: Chris Harris is a writer and producer for the TV program How I Met Your Mother. He lives in Los Angeles.

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