Every generation gets the closing shot of Planet of the Apes it deserves. What stands as warning, on the sands of the beach, which are the sands of time? It is the Garfield phone.
The Garfield phones were written up as a mystery solved, but there was not much of a puzzle to have worked out: why did Garfield phones keep washing up on this particular stretch of beach, year after year? Because, obviously, somebody had lost a container of Garfield phones at sea and it had ended up somewhere nearby. The “where” part was interesting as a concept and a string of words—in a hidden sea cave—but really only meaningful if you lived nearby and cared about where things might be on your own landscape.
No, the Garfield phones were attractive as an omen or a parable. It was the very inevitability of the questions and the answers that gave them their meaning. What were they? They were trash. Why were they in the sea? Because our seas are full of trash. Where did they come from? They came from a factory that makes trash.
By some accident in the logistics chain, the Garfield phones had skipped over the step where they were supposed to have been desired and consumed. Why did that step even exist? Garfield was invented to be marketable, to be an anchor for the sale of merchandise. The merchandise was manufactured to take advantage of the marketability of Garfield. None of this was specifically necessary to allow people to talk to one another, which was what the telephone, as a tool, was supposed to exist to do.
Those dead bulbous eyes were gazing at us in judgment. Imagine where these phones in the shape of Garfield would be today, if they had been properly sold and used and regretted and discarded, as the system intended. The children who might once have wanted one—old enough for their own telephone in the household, young enough for that telephone to be a cartoon character—now have children of their own. The Garfield phones, plastic and metal and factory workers’ labor, were lost at sea and no one even uses a handset phone anymore.