Phyllis Flobert of Hutto, Texas has launched the latest salvo in America’s ongoing war on privacy.
The married mother of three has demanded that pen manufacturer Bic create a tool to decrypt this week’s grocery list, the last three items of which were hastily scrawled by her husband, Tim, just before he left the couple’s home for work Tuesday morning.
“I can make out the first half pretty good,” Flobert said, “But Tim’s handwriting is terrible and it gets worse when he’s in a hurry. I’m always telling him to slow down — that rushing around isn’t good for him. But does he listen? No.”
Flobert attempted to decipher the final three items on her own, to no avail. “Maybe they’re ingredients for a new dish Tim wants to try on Thursday nights,” she said. “He always makes dinner on Thursdays, because I have to drive Becky to gymnastics.”
In the face of no dinner — or worse, fast food — Flobert contacted the Bic Corporation, manufacturer of the pen used to write the grocery list, demanding that it help her figure out the mystery ingredients. “They made the pen,” Flobert said. “Don’t tell me they can’t decipher what was written using it.”
Bic CEO Leonard Maltz, contacted for comment, released the following statement:
“The Bic Corporation simply does not have the technology to decipher the nature of the items Tim Flobert added to his weekly grocery list. And, even if we could, this would set a dangerous precedent. We can imagine Ms. Flobert — indeed, all of the Ms. Floberts of the world — demanding that we decipher every poorly-written list and note and every tiny, unreadable form they’ve filled out.”
Meanwhile, Sandra Bunn, CEO of Bic rival Paper-Mate, has weighed in on the side of the Flobert family.
“I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s a few items on a one-time grocery list. If Bic doesn’t decipher the handwriting in question, they are practically condemning the Flobert family to Taco Bell or Arby’s,” Bunn said. “Arby’s, for chrissakes.”
Maltz responded to Bunn’s comments in a second e-mail message:
“Ms. Flobert might say that she only wants the technology to decipher Thursday’s dinner, but what happens the next time her husband hurriedly scrawls directions on a napkin or chicken-scratches an important phone number on the palm of his hand? Do you really want any common thug who gets a glance at your latest anti-psychotic prescription to be able to decipher your doctor’s handwriting as easily as a trained pharmacist could? This is not a can of worms you want to open.”
In response to the company’s statement, Flobert leaned her head back and closed her eyes in thought. “That last item might be a can of something,” she said. “Beans, maybe. Corn. Definitely not worms, though.”