Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Rucola Box

Rucola, also known simply as salad rocket, is a green leafy herb you can put on pizza or in pasta or a salad. Before last Saturday I had only tasted it on pizza and I liked it very much, so I decided to buy some and put it in pasta. The box it came in I noticed only just after throwing it away. And I loved it. By this I don't mean any sort of raving hype. It simply found a soft spot in my heart. It probably aimed for just that, as it was unobtrusive and unassuming. Most of the space was used by an opening, just transparent foil through which you could see the leaves underneath. There was some appropriate imagery to invoke associations with frozen food, but the 'ice' there was really blue (much like the sky) and the drops of water on it were more like rain. Not the cold unfriendly ice at all. And then there was that pretty little ladybug on the edge of the transparent window, very amiable and touching. Perhaps another one somewhere else. And just a little patch of yellow sun in the logo. Otherwise a little green border somewhere or a bit of white. I would not keep the box (or rather its foil wrap), but I still have its picture before my eyes.

It changed my life for the better, if only for a short while. It was so positive and amiable that the mood was contagious, not in the least because of how humble it was. There was no corporate pride. No designer hubris. No gadgetry, no vogue, no artsiness, no nothing. It made the rucola look normal (as opposed to throwing the Italian flag, leaning tower and David  and everything else at me) but also very inviting. A normal part of my day — no pretensions to a central status — but one very rewarding and 'pleasant' but in the the good way, not a hedonistic self-indulgent way. The box and wrap didn't encourage me to give in to my passions or discover the wild me (the consumerist me with an open wallet, rather, huh), or indulge in raw serotonin, nope, if anything, it gave me an appreciation of simplicity. And it didn't commoditise the rucola. It wasn't a 'food product', it was rucola. Rucola that was smiling at me — though not at all presuming to have human-like qualities — and making my day better despite not laying a claim to any such ability. Being so respectul and positive and all. And humble.

You may figured this out by now, but the idea didn't commoditise the rucola at all, rather the opposite. In not becoming the instrument of wild passion or raw satisfaction or indulgence or whatever, it was allowed to be rucola, to be itself. It was very much owing to the opening that showed the leaves, made the leaves the most important thing, not the logo or slogans or certificates or advertising. It was all rucola. The packaging helped bring out the rucola, nothing more.

I wish the translation we do could be just translation, not a 'language service' or product or solution. And certainly not a dose of all-important service-gotten serotonin resulting from the client being complied with and satisfied and having his corporate or other ego stroked by our going through all the rituals of depersonalised contact full of tough talk. I wish we could be translators and not LSP's (or vendors for that matter). I think the tough business and marketing talk actually throws us down to the vendor level and our work down to some sort of services being provided by vendors much like the 'services' of the IT sector, e.g. the Internet access provided by an ISP or 'hardware as a service' or the 'services' that are run by our computers. Which is okay because they are not human work. Or a fresh plant.

So perhaps our way out is in being humble and unassuming, in changing not a life but rather someone's day for the better, in bringing out the natural good qualities of our work? And in keeping it fresh and friendly and not overdoing the packaging? And in remembering about the tiny ladybug and the friendly sun? And making the ice just symbolic, more like the blue sky?

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