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Marketing people talk casually about the USP most especially when they want to sink themselves into jargon that excludes you and I ordinary mortals from their professional conversation.

USP, not the courier company,  but ‘Unique Selling Point’; that one thing about you, your product or service, that makes you a compelling choice for the customer to spend scarce resources – money or time – on.

The acronym came to mind by accident as I was making myself comfortable aboard an Emirates flight from Dubai to Dallas this week.

My process of getting comfortable aboard the flight had nothing to do with safety belts, blankets and pillows. I didn’t care that my seat was centre of two others – an abominable placement in most cases.

I ignored all that because I spent the first crucial minutes unpacking USB cables and plugging them into as many free seats as possible near me.

If any of the seats became occupied by the time the plane was taking off, at least I would have sucked up that much power into my devices.

I thanked the heavens for the person who invented the USB cable as a device charging method on its own, and even more for the one who decided to put them on aeroplane seats! And it was after giving thanks that I wondered HOW they had decided it’s USP.

The USB cable in the era of the smartphone reminds me of the tale of the Busia smuggler.

Everyone in Busia knew that this guy was a smuggler, including the authorities. But for years they followed and trailed and trapped and harassed the chap – without ever finding anything of value in his possession. Yet daily he went across the border with humility, riding his bicycle to and fro and raising no fuss.

After a long and very successful, albeit mysterious, career he retired and was one day having drinks at the town bar when his nemesis, the chief anti-smuggling officer also now retired, joined him. They chatted amiably for a while till the retired officer asked our smuggler,

“Seriously now, we are both retired so tell me – what were you smuggling all those years that made you so rich?”

The smuggler thought about it a bit, smiled, and said, “Bicycles.”

The USB cable is versatile because unlike plug chargers, it will fit into anything adaptable but with more possibilities. On my trip this week I went through three different socket permutations in the first 48 hours before arriving at my destination.

If only my Macbook Pro could charge up with the USB cable!

The cable folds up quite easily into the pocket without that plug end jutting out uncomfortably and creating awkward conversation starters.

Plus, it will go into the breast pocket just as easily as into the back pocket.

That being easily rolled up and pocketed, however, means that the USB cable gets spoilt much quicker than other chargers. But because it is just USB-cable-jack, it’s cheap to replace. So cheap, in fact, that I have accumulated about eight of them on or around my person for “just in case”, covering all the gadgets near me that use them.

Which is almost as many USPs that the USB cable has. It also, for instance, will switch between one gadget and another, provided that the other end fits. in the past I have found myself asking around for “a charger” linked to a phone model: “Do you have a Sony Ericsson T28 charger?” was an actual question we used to have to say, back in the day.

Now: “Do you have a cable?” is almost a sufficient query, and if the person you are asking – be it a market woman selling cabbages or a mall shop attendant – will simply glance at the phone in your hand and oblige…if you’re lucky, which is more often than not.

I could go on and on about the USB cable, but I fear this might begin to sound like a eulogy, and that’s the LAST thing I want to see. Instead, I am hoping that this cable becomes even more ubiquitous. The gadget manufacturers of the world need to get together to work out ways of making everything on the other end of the USB cable the same shape and size, so that we can begin to save time unwrapping these cables and charging things up to 30% each when we’ve got limited time and exposure to charging points – as happened to me on that plane.

And while they’re doing that, the entire construction and car manufacturing industry had better get about creating holes in walls and car seats and other things so we can plug our USB cables into them and keep charging stuff up.