No one should have to experience two revolutions in one lifetime. I was born in the pre-digital age, which, at the time, seemed an ever-accelerating period of change, but these days innovation is moving at warp speed: Mrs. to Ms. to #MeToo, shift cars to automatic to driverless, people into folks, corporations into people, and people into robots.
Life was undeniably more relaxed when choices were limited. Consider the supermarket, that monument to stress. The cereal aisle literally brings me to my knees. Go try to find Corn Flakes amid the alien Corn Chex, Corn Bran, Corn Squares, Corn Bursts, and Corn Pops.
Mustards alone exasperate. Oh, bring back the simple days of Gulden’s and French’s and the arriviste Grey Poupon.
These days I stand temporarily paralyzed in the produce department, as frazzled as fries. Will it be kale, mâche, endive, arugula, romaine, mesclun, oak leaf, Boston, baby spinach, or grown-up spinach?
Remember iceberg lettuce? It never got slimy.
Digital clocks have replaced the hands of time to no benefit. Once time was fleeting. Now it’s a fugitive 24/7.
There are three of them in my kitchen. The microwave agrees with the TV, but the oven begs to differ. And you can’t trust them. Digital clocks are literally impulsive. The only time they agree is during a power outage. Plus they’re boxy, mean-looking—and they blink.
I learned to tell time by moving the big and little hands from number to number on the face of a cardboard clock. Time was a pie. It took up space. It had gravitas.
Children no longer have to tell time; time tells them. God forbid they should have to count by fives. They have calculators for that.
Compared to some of the other indignities I’ve had to suffer, flushing may seem trivial. Just because a toilet can flush itself automatically doesn’t mean it should be allowed to. I don’t need help with flushing. I was a good flusher. It was part of my job as a person. Now, you never know whether the toilet’s going to flush just as you sit down, or while you’re there— which can be alarming–or when you get up, or not until you close the stall door. And tell me, is it really simpler to try to wring your wet hands beneath a noisy blast of hot air than to dry them briskly with a paper towel?
Don’t even get me started in civility. Was there ever any reason whatsoever for switching from the friendly “You’re welcome” to the dismissive “No problem”? Must I have a nice day even if it’s evening? Please don’t thank me for choosing whatever service I selected. I had no choice. You were my only option, and besides you’re a recording. Sincerity has taken a terrible hit.
Beeping at people is rude. Beeping used to signal that it was time to get out of bed or, after a reasonable amount of time, to inform the car in front of you that the traffic light has turned green. Today you don’t know if the dinner’s microwaved, a truck is backing up, your seat belt’s not fastened, the toast is ready, the laundry’s dry, or the house is on fire.
And what’s the point of warning me that “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”? Either make the objects look as far away as they are or forget it.
Whatever happened to standards? Does every theatrical performance deserve a standing ovation? How can all news be “breaking?” Ask a simple question that used to require a simple “yes” or perhaps a modest “I think so” for an answer, and now you get a bloated “absolutely.” Wasn’t “yes” yessy enough?
And why do parents heap undeserved, abundant praise upon their children? Why do they respond with an automatic “good job” even when their kid has done a mediocre job? Whatever became of conditional love?
A password used to be what you needed to gain access to the neighborhood tree house. (Mine was “ish-ka-bibble mammy toots.” I never forgot it.)
But my computer forgets mine. A bright red message, “Forgot your password?” taunts me regularly. What enrages me is that they dare to think that I, not they, forgot my password. No! No! No! My passwords are unforgettable: Apple’s is HoneyCrisp and Google’s is BabyTalk; Netflix’s is BingeWatch.
Although I write each password down, even if it is unassailably memorable and correct, sooner or later they all pass away. I must abandon them and choose another. They go to that great random word generator in the sky from which new passwords are issued. Passwords must have caps, lower case, and numbers, and they must have eight characters. So how about SnowWhiteAndThe7Dwarfs?
To be fair, computers are wonderful for research. Go ahead. Ask a question. “Is Benedict Cumberbatch his real name?” And they’re great for word processing, as long as you remember to “save.” And who among us wasn’t happy to give up white-out, which took minutes to dry, in favor of “delete?”
But when Amazon closed most of the retail stores in my town, I was obliged to shop online. I asked for “Women’s brown leather boots size 9,” even though I know that for the next few days those boots will walk all over my Facebook.
Then my computer started to ask me questions, some of which I found quite personal. Do I want to share my location? No! I am none of your business. But apparently I am. What am I to do when my computer tells me that a software update – ios12.4.1 – is available and will be auto installed later tonight? Without my permission? Do I want it? I assume my computer knows what’s best for itself, only to find out the next morning that I must first install something else that I don’t know how to do. I am the idiot at the genius bar.
As sure as grapes turn into raisins, snazzy tattoos turn into saggy dragons. (Think upper arms.) Think regret.
I’m nostalgic for bumpers. Now, when I turn in my leased car after having been rear- ended for three years by entitled people who don’t leave notes, I must pay.
I know that yet another new way to listen to music is certain to be revealed any day now, but since my attic is already a graveyard of 78, 45, and 33 rpms; 8-tracks; cassette tapes; and CD players, “new and improved” doesn’t impress me the way it used to—especially the “improved” part. But isn’t Spotify a good name for a dog?
You can’t say we weren’t warned. In 1985 Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death. In 1970 Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, warning us about the dangers of high-speed change. Recent scientific studies show that technological changes are now accelerating beyond our capacity to absorb them. Mark my words. Your iPhone runneth over. You’re ruining your posture. And you’re all thumbs.
In Georgette Unis’ Watercolors in the Desk Drawer, the world is rendered in intricate detail, lush as the pigments on an artist’s palette. Family, nature, politics, and art circumscribe the arc of a life where “time bends / the chronometer” and “leaves do not grow / in the winter soil of philosophies / but rather along the arteries / of unfortunates.” Whether tracking an ancestral immigrant childhood or the results of the most recent election, Unis is attuned to the shifting world, where memories pulled from the desk drawer of recollection reinvent and reinvigorate the landscape.
Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or from your independent bookstore.
6 Comments on “iRANT”
It’s breath-taking that you can take many of the annoyances of life,things that annoy me as much as they annoy you, and transform them into the raw materials of a laugh. Everything you say is true, but it’s much more fun to read your version of it than to hear my version in my head. A couple to add to your collection: adding “like” to a sentence as if it were punctuation (even people who are learning English as a second language do it, like really they do), or filling in my credit card number for me when I order something on line. But, like, it’s amazing — totally, literally, etc — how you manage to be astute and hysterical at the same time. Brava.
like Thanks Carole for enjoying my rant. I keep on wondering if maybe we’re not old — maybe we’re right!!’
Terrific rant! I’m with you. I’m downsizing and was just told no-one will want my books that I’ve cherished. Cd’s anyone? No takers. My Mom’s Haviland fine China? They’re obsolete too. Yikes.
Hi Barby –I’m delighted that you enjoyed my rant. I suppose I (we?) am as obsolete as your mother’s Haviland fine china. I wish you’d been with me in the attic last week when turned over the entire contents to Junkluggers. Now I have no past; just a future. Very cheering!
Dear Mary-Lou Weisman, thank you for your spot-on iRant! I wish I’d written that–I say, do, and protest the same things, all the time. Not sure whether I’m older than you are (I’m nein x 9), and I admit I know more about how the internet works than I usually let on when filing a complaint. But I’m starting to boast about driving an old car (no “entertainment” in it), using an old PC (on which i don’t watch videos or stream anything), and refusing to get a “smartphone,” With you all the way in resisting the digital dictatorship!
Hi Jacqueline — Thanks so much for your response. Although I have forgotten my times tables, I think I am older than you by about 4 years. Good for you for at least wading in the muck of he 21st century. Is it intellectual heresy to say that I simply don’t want to learn anything new?