I appreciate modern conveniences. Really, I do. I like turning on the tap and getting good water pressure and a seemingly unlimited supply of H two O without having to slog a five gallon bucket repeatedly back and forth from my place to the nearest source be it ten feet or five miles away. And, sorry, Al Gore, but I LOVE a long hot shower.
I am an incredibly big fan of refrigeration. Especially as it relates to ice- and freshly crushed ice out of the door. Love me some good crushed ice in my frosty beverages. I have decided to finally join the rest of you in the twentieth century when it comes to computers, internet, smart phones, iPods, and the like; and, am still trying to make it to a level of comprehension consummate with the twenty first.
But there are still some innovations that chap my old fashioned hide while the rest of you all are sporting high tech poly disco fashion fibers. Among them are: Self check out stands – I like human cashiers and interacting with them, I like humans having jobs; Super complex television set ups. I have been without cable TV for over a decade and only got a set for DVD viewing about three years ago. Sadly, it’s virtually unused. For some reason I prefer reading. When I go to a friend’s and they ask me to turn on the television it brings an anxiety reminiscent of college algebra – especially if there are more than two remotes. Wouldn’t wanna go back to rabbit ears and walking across the room, but isn’t there a better way than all those remotes and buttons?
I resent the near absolute proliferation of email in personal correspondence. It’s fast, cheap, and easy (refraining from an obvious allusion here) but it is not quite the sentimental and tactile treat a handwritten card, letter, or thank you note is. Perhaps the one “benefit” of technology that annoys me more than anything else – except automated phone systems replacing humans on the other end – is…..drum roll, please……automated restrooms.
Surely, a group of well meaning, intelligent engineers wanting to make our lives easier and with a penchant for type AAA cleanliness thought they could save Mother Nature and the type A’s among us from careless swine, by making toilets, soap dispensers, faucets, and paper towel dispensers- or even worse : hand dryers! – operate with no or very little assistance from us.
While that sounds nice on paper, is it really all that great in practice? It starts in the little stall with the toilet. Your zipper goes down farther than it should and you have to spend waaaaay more time than is normal fishing it out to zip up; or you get that text or call you’ve been waiting on all day and wanna answer quickly. The super toilet of the future flushes again and again and again and again. There is no need. All you did was empty your bladder. More and more water winds down the vortex to go meet Nemo. And the chicks in line for your stall are wondering what’s up with your digestion that you’ve already run through four flushes.
You exit the stall, no one wants to go in that one. They’re afraid that after four flushes if the auto air freshener on the wall isn’t misting it’s toxic Bath ‘n Body Works-esque bubble gum scent, they’re gonna suffocate.
Eager to get outta there, you make your way to the sink to wash your hands like momma taught you. Auto soap dispenser. You do the wave pass past the sensor. Nothing. Hmmm. Maybe you didn’t wave just right. Too fast? You do it again. Nothing. Still not right or just empty? Who knows? You try again. Nothing. Either you are a technotard, the thing is broken, or empty. You’ll never know. You move to the next one. Same drill. A little gramma whose momma also taught her to wash her hands says, “Honey, that one there works.” So you use that one.
Now for the faucet. You do the wave hand pass. Nothing. Wave pass again. Nothing. Reposition a little. Nothing. What?? Ohhhhh! You realized you’ve been duped. This is one of those bi-technological bathrooms. You gotta actually turn the faucet on! They got the high-tech toilet, and the Peter Principle soap dispenser, but are still using the Old Faithful faucets. Nice.
The final part of your adventure. Drying your hands. The paper towel dispensers have the darn red light. You wave your hands. Nothing. Gramma’s friend tells you, “Honey, that’s empty, try this one.” You do. After two swipes you get enough towel to actually dry your hands. An aside: have you noticed those machines make a sound that is unquestionably in the mix in that “Gangnam Style” song? Kid you not! Listen for it next time, you will thank me.
Some stores now, like certain Targets, try to force you to be “environmentally friendly” and blow dry your hands. My skin is already as dry as a leaf about to self incinerate, so I’m not having none of that! Especially with all the dough I’ve dropped there. A couple times, to get my revenge when I didn’t dry my hands on my own clothing and it was cold, I walked out the door where the towels were and dried my hands on a nice new towel. Don’t panic. If you bought one of those towels, I am disease free, and… just washed my hands with hard earned auto dispensed soap and water. And, you really should wash towels before your first use anyway. They have all that toxic residue from the factory on them. You don’t want that on your precious parts.
Do I stay awake nights pondering and worrying about this? No. Not really. It is obviously a petty first world problem in the scope of things. But, I suspect it’s a bit of a microcosm for the way the push for tech is so big everywhere, and I am not sure tech is always best. In the end, I am not convinced all this tech is really saving energy all the time. And, when it is, that the money and/or carbon that is required to service and maintain- or replace it when it burns out quickly is worth it.
Sometimes a simpler solution is better. Less glamour, less maintenance, a little more muscle and more long term efficiency. An anecdotal example. Still have an old Radio Shack hand tuned homely radio alarm clock that is so loud it could wake the dead. Maybe it’s what started all this zombie stuff. Simple yes. Still going strong two decades after it was given to me as a junior high graduation gift. You bet. I have had several of the latest greatest digital radio alarm clocks by Sony and other “big names” that sucked. Make that SUCKED. Always managed to die right after the 1 or 2 year warranty expired. Pretty yeah. Digital yeah. Trash YEAH.
I don’t mean to be anti- tech. Just to say in an age where everyone claims to care about the earth and decreasing the toxic crap we are polluting it with in landfills, maybe we should look at how to be lower tech, simpler, longer lasting, and less carbon consuming. Finding elegant new non toxic mechanical solutions to stuff. How ’bout stuff that would still work if we were stuck without power for five days or more? Don’t say it never happens: Katrina, Sandy, and God forbid, but if the “big one” ever hits So Cal, it’s gonna a be a few days- if not weeks or months.
I don’t like having to be dependent on machines. I like it when they can work for me. But wanna have an out when they can’t. I have a dish washer but still remember how to wash dishes by hand. And, frankly, I am perfectly capable of flushing a toilet, deciding how much soap, turning water on and off, and getting my own darn towel or towels. And if the store thinks I am not, I’ll be singing “Gangnam Style” in my head…or on special occasions, quietly rebelling and drying my hands on real cotton plush towels when it’s cold outside.