By Ellen Snortland

Pasadena Weekly Columnist

I advocate for inclusivity in realms many people often ignore, especially women being included in design choices. I’m also cranky at how often men are clueless about how their designs impact women.

In the late ’90s, I bought an abandoned 2.5-acre “ranchette” in Shadow Hills, an equestrian pocket of LA County. The house was an actual ranch-style one dating back to the early 1900s that featured charming Saltillo tiles, a fireplace at the end of a great hall and open beams. My plan was to create a bed and breakfast that would cater to German and Japanese tourists who, at the time, were going gaga over “Wild West” themes. Yi-ha! With five bedrooms, I could have a large bedroom for myself, and the tourists could have their choice of four spare rooms.

This was the fourth property I had rehabbed. I am gifted; I see potential in otherwise daunting real estate — aka tear-downs — usually passed over by more practical people than I. This property was so bad, I nicknamed it “Rancho Ratones.” I could have called it Rancho Without Doors, since most of them were missing. The poor house looked like it had lost some teeth.

This is all by way of telling you about one of the most knuckle-headed cowboy handy guys I ever worked with; he had bartered barn space for his horse in exchange for the hundreds of tasks the “Rancho” required. I had purchased nifty combo bookshelves/curtain “rods” from Ikea. The wooden bookshelves had book space on top, plus rods to hang curtains from. I carefully marked with a pencil where I wanted the units to go, then went on to other things.

When I came back, the cowboy had decided I was incompetent. He’d seen the curtains I wanted to hang. Ignoring my instructions, he measured off of the curtains. He mounted the shelves with a 1-inch clearance on top because otherwise, he said, “Your curtains wouldn’t have fit!” “Of course, they wouldn’t,” said I. “That’s why we have sewing machines to hem curtains.” He barely looked chagrined as he went back to using my original markings on the wall above the windows. Clueless as a pail of alfalfa.

Another example of cluelessness connected to unconscious sexism: I once lived in an apartment where the peephole in the front door was for a person at least a foot taller than I am. It was undoubtedly put there by a guy who assumed everyone was as tall as he was; a child or a shorter adult would need a step stool by the front door. Dumb as a bucket of nails.

Finally, in the “Who designed this?!” category, are AirTags. We are an all-things-Apple household, so my husband and I were thrilled to learn Apple was finally shipping AirTags after many delays. We had wanted them as a solution for keeping track of dogs — both ours and the occasional guest dog. It’s rare, but a couple of times, one of them has bolted out a gate, and there are few pains more excruciating than a pet going missing. We felt that having a device able to track in real time where our beloved canines would be invaluable and essential to our well-being. The Tile Tracker was utterly useless, so we had high hopes for the AirTags.

And… meh. While AirTags can track items, even if they’re out of range, we were stunned at some of the dumb design choices. Granted, AirTags look great (and you can actually change the battery!), but they don’t even have a hole in order to attach them to a keychain or pet collar. Function over form, people! It also became painfully evident AirTags were designed primarily to track inanimate objects (backpacks, etc.) and not living beings that move.

Worse, AirTags can only be used by one person, even though Apple has a robust “Family Sharing” system for everything else they offer! That means only one of us can find a lost pet, which is totally infuriating. Really?

We’ve been on the “hunt” for years to be able to track missing dogs more as a foreseeability issue than anything else. As in, it’s predictable that a child, housesitter, gardener or pesky relative could leave a door or gate open. As of February, 67% of American households have at least one pet. That’s a lot of people who will spring for a way to track a moving critter. Hey, Apple — how about hiring some designers who have actually lived a life?

Academics are often criticized for living in ivory towers; there’s a tech parallel of “silicon towers.” I’m guessing the AirTag Design Team members all live in cramped Bay Area apartments that only allow goldfish. They are probably 20-somethings on the “never home, always working” spectrum, so pets would not be foremost in their minds. Ageist? Species-ist? Dim as a bucket of microchips? Just sayin’. Like I said, I’m cranky.

Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at ellen@beautybitesbeast.com.