Everything old is new again

By Chuck Sigars | Feb 01, 2012

There oughta be a word, and I oughta be able to make it up.  

But I’m either too lazy, too stupid, or too sleepy to do that, so I’ll stick with a lot of well-known words to describe a phenomenon that I suspect we are all familiar with.  I’ll start with Dishwasher Syndrome.

Here’s how it is in my house: Dishes get dirty.  These dishes are eventually (and hopefully) placed in a dishwasher rack.  When the dishwasher is full of dirty dishes, it gets turned on and they become clean.  Very cool.

But before that happens, sometimes we run out of something.  Plates.  Glasses.  Spoons.  Oh my God, spoons.  You have no idea.  And there is frustration, and fussing, and whining, and improvisation with forks, etc.  Because the notion of washing dishes individually (i.e., washing dishes), is hard to grasp.  Apparently.

In this household, anyway.  Your results may differ.

This is what I’m looking for, the term that describes our reliance on a time-saving device, a new and sparkling technology, a toy right out of the box or a technique that still has the dew on it.  A reliance that becomes so pervasive that we forget, in a sense, what we used to do.

Technesia, maybe.  Nope.  Not quite.

But let’s use technesia anyway.  Because it’s as much fun to say as it is to type.

Some people are more susceptible than others.  There are people who resist new and improved ways because they think the old ways are just fine.  Sometimes they’re right, too, and other times they’re just stubborn, but we all know them.  

There are writers who still write in longhand, for example (lots of those), and a few dinosaurs who even insist on using a typewriter.  There are also plenty of back-to-basics types in all sorts of ways, from raising your own livestock to brewing your own beer to sewing your own clothes.

I love people like this, by the way.  Carpenters.  Gardeners.  Mechanics.  To a guy who can’t remember which end of a screwdriver the bullet comes out of, whose idea of field dressing is tying his shoe in public, who is still amazed that the rose bushes he planted five years ago continue to grow, these are wizards in my modern world.  They work a particular form of earth magic, ancient and mysterious.  They do stuff.  Amazing stuff.

For many of us, though, technesia creeps in as soon as we open a box.  I have literally – and I am correctly using that word – been halfway to the grocery store when I’ve turned around and returned home because I forgot my phone.  The grocery store.  A mile away.  And you know what?  So have you.

Don’t get me started on calculators.

So there’s pleasure in rediscovering simple things.  A year ago, we discontinued our cable TV.  This wasn’t philosophy or economics; we just never watch TV, and it seemed dumb to pay upwards of $100 a month for The Gravy Channel.

There are occasions, though, particularly involving sports, and very particularly involving tennis (See: Wife, My), when I go primal, just as my ancestors did, when they took a break from hunting and gathering to hook up rabbit ears.  

I contort my aging body, apply tin foil, use a compass and sometimes stand on one foot to pull in a television signal.  And when I get it, all digital and high definition and pretty, the sense of accomplishment is stunning.  Like I killed a bear or changed the oil in my car, something.  

And the other day, I read an interesting article about popcorn.  For most of us, popcorn is the natural result of putting a paper bag in the microwave and waiting for it to get bigger.  Technesia has set in, and it never occurs to us that we might just put half a cup of kernels in a sack and get the same result.  Which we would.

I thought back to the old days, though, the 1960s, when my mother, between killing bears and churning butter, would occasionally make us popcorn.  As I recalled, this involved heat and oil, and with a little research I found that this old-fashioned technique still works.  

It was magic. It took about the same amount of time as boiling water in the microwave. The kernels were all popped, the house smelled like a movie theater, and we have enough packing material now for several Christmases.  We ran out of butter and dental floss, but it was worth it for remembering that simple things are sometimes the best.

I have more to say, but my wife tells me the oil light just came on in the car, so time to run the dishwasher.  Or play tennis, something. I can’t quite remember.
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