Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CLAP HANDS, HERE COMES RAMON


March 21, 2012

Fifty feet to walk is too far. There are customers who’ll motor all over the parking lot in search of a space closer to the store entrance than that. They’ll waste ten minutes, half a gallon of gas and countless amps of nervous energy to save themselves perhaps a couple dozen extra steps.
The same hogs pounce on those electric shopping carts and spend an hour or so zipping in and out the aisles at Walmart. Not the genuinely impaired, and, admittedly, disabilities aren’t always easily detectable, so obviously not those guys. But the selfish act of individuals with zero need for in-store transportation denies a real handicapped person the ride. Finished with their purchases, they’ll even abandon that scooter somewhere out in the parking lot. These are the reprehensible ones - the fat ‘n’ lazy.
Which leads me to ponder how disgustingly lethargic we’ve become. Drive-in movies and restaurants, drive-thru weddings and funerals. Not only can’t we be bothered to take a few healthy steps indoors or out, it seems we find it too strenuous to even twist our wrists.
Why wiggle that toothbrush up and down over your pearly whites when you can simply hold a battery-driven one there and press a button. Not yet invented is a hands-free version that’ll roam all over your mouth.
Toothpaste? Don’t bother unscrewing the cap – it’s one of those modern ones where you can just flip the top open with a fingernail. Saves a few turns. They make those same easy-open caps for bottles of sauce, condiments etc. Even sticking out your tongue is too demanding, so we have self-stick stamps and envelopes.
In all the above cases the amount of effort saved is absolutely minimal. Like with the electric pencil sharpener. It spares you three, maybe four, slight movements of thumb and forefinger, all that was necessary with the original pocket sharpeners. Now just poke the pencil in.
Not to put too fine a point on it - how lazy have we become!
Too comatose to stir your morning joe? Ten bucks buys you a mug that stirs itself. Not to forget the beer helmet that holds two cans on your head as you guzzle away through the plastic tube, thereby freeing your hands to do... nothing, of course. What else if you’re too bone idle to even hold a beer can!
We’re a nation of drones and dronettes, barely able to move, except to reach for the remote. And for some even that’s too demanding. Like my former squeeze Annie. She would wave a limp hand in the vague direction of whatever object lay just out of easy reach and beckon her imaginary Filipino houseboy with a faint and plaintive wail:” Ramon!” An ashtray, the wine bottle, whatever. This “Ramon” was supposed to fetch and deliver it the few paces unto her person.
Slothful? I’ll say. This was the lazy lady who complained when I took her to England: “godammed country’s made of steps!”
Convenience and inertia – the twin evils of modern society, feeding off each other. Literally, too. Pre-shelled hard-boiled eggs, pre-washed lettuce, pre-peeled onions and potatoes, pre-shredded carrots, pre-cut, pre-cooked, pre-everythinged everything, so that virtually all we’re required to do is mobilize our munching mechanism. Next there’ll be a device that lifts the grub off your plate and shoves it into your face.
Not our fault we’re such a torpid bunch. Let’s push the blame onto... the remote control. That’s right, it all started when Zenith introduced the Lazy Bones remote in 1952 with the hand control attached to the TV via a long cable. Or did Loafin’ Time begin a decade earlier with first automatic garage door openers that robbed us motorists of our daily stoop-and-lift exercise?
Fast forward (using your remote) to The Clapper that appeared in 1985. And folks discovered you didn’t even need hands – a cough or other loud noise would do. Therefore sufferers of Tourette’s or owners of yappy dogs would experience a dizzying display of lights constantly switching themselves on and off. For this reason The Clapper merits only faint applause.
Were there a suitable gadget to use we wouldn’t even lift a finger to scratch an itch. It’s all automatic these days – even our thinking’s being done for us.
For instance, how many students do actual arithmetic without the use of a calculator? A local kid I know declared himself a “genius” with an IQ of 180. He’d taken 15 minutes to copy down the solutions to a Mensa exam and I’m convinced he thought the test was exactly that: how fast can you Google the answers.
Clearly, automation makes our lives easier. My observation is that too much of it can turn you into a roly-poly couch slouch. So get out and do something energetic, get the joints working perhaps by skateboarding. But even that is now automated: there are electric skateboards for $200 to $650: just hop on board and go. Effortless.
Large or small, we’re leaving all the chores to the automatons. They mow your lawn, clean the pool, sweep the carpet, microwave your unhealthy TV dinners. So when you succumb there are even robots doing major heart surgery these days although if they screw up then who’re you gonna sue? “i...am...but...a...penniless...android...” Then, mechanical buddyboy, it’s gonna cost you a robotic arm and a leg.
Calling my lawyer now that I’ve digested this pre-sliced apple I just bought. If only I could raise my well-upholstered behind off this armchair and get my cell phone. But I can’t quite reach.
Ramon!

ENDIT

© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.