I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the scale of my generation when it comes to using the best/fastest/easiest inventions to make my life better/faster/easier. I refuse to put a DVR player in my minivan, but I do have a cable TV system that I can control with voice commands. I use an online grocery delivery service, but I won’t buy Lunchables. I use a coffee mug to drink my coffee instead of disposable cups, but I use K-cups to make that coffee. I’m as amused and impressed as the next guy when new ideas to improve convenience are marketed to the masses, but I always have a weird twinge of guilt, like I’m cheating by taking the easy way. I don’t know why that is.
What I do know, though, is that some of the conveniences I regularly enjoy are also finding sneaky ways to make my life harder.
On Demand Programming
I mentioned earlier about the TV system with voice command controls. It’s awesome. I don’t spend a lot of time browsing TV anymore; I watch what I watch and I barely have time for that. So I watch shows off my DVR, I look up things I missed with On Demand, and I use the sports menu to find the games. That’s about it.
Then the day came that I discovered you could sort the guide for kids programming only. And then that you could filter by age range. PEOPLE! THIS IS AMAZING. When my kids are going to watch TV, between the sorted guide and On Demand programming, there is no more indecision. But you know what? It’s really hard to explain to a first grader why he can’t watch a show that doesn’t air for another week. Can’t you just get it on demand, Mom? Nope. Sure can’t. It isn’t a time machine. And it’s great to be able to record or find 564 episodes of my toddlers’ favorite shows, except then they always want to watch that show and only that show. There is no reason to try anything else because they know there are currently another 563 episodes to view after that one.
Long gone are the days when we had to wait for a whole week (gasp!) for the exciting conclusion. My kids don’t even know what it means to have to figure out what day or time a show is aired because it just magically shows up when they say “watch Paw Patrol” into the remote control. As an adult, I love it. As a parent, it’s one more thing thwarting my attempts to teach patience, and I’m sad that they lose an element of the excitement that comes along with the anticipation.
A few years ago, I had my keys stolen with a convenient tiny library card on the key ring. I had to spend way too many hours of my life talking to the library, filing a police report, and talking to the library again to prove that I had not checked out 50+ books that I never intended to return. Convenience thwarted.
Fast forward five or so years and key ring cards are almost obsolete. Anything you need can be programmed into the apps on your phone. You can also start most apps with a free trial, and turn it into a paid service via upgrade with the push of a button. Before either of us knew it was happening, Bear got a hold of one of our cell phones, and through serendipitous button pushing got all the way to the last step of confirming a subscription to Pandora One before hubby snatched it away from her. I fully expect to have a state-of-the-art elliptical machine with a six-year payment plan show up at my door someday without anyone in the family having any idea how it got there.
Cell Phone Cameras
Speaking of serendipitous button pushing, I also always live in fear that one my toddlers are going to grab my phone, take a picture of me in the shower, and post it to Facebook before I even know what is happening. Another challenge is that the quality and convenience of cell phone cameras has made the fancy, expensive camera I finally treated myself to a few years back start collecting dust. I love taking, editing, sharing and printing pictures. Not only have I lost the time to do much of that with three kids, I also rarely have the energy to pull out the nice camera which would take beautiful, clear images, and instead settle for slightly blurred, easy shots with my cell. All of my pictures are slightly blurred because my kids are reaching for the phone to see the picture I took before I even have time to take the picture. Long gone are the days when we had to take pictures without knowing how they looked until the roll was used and three days of processing had passed.
At the risk of sounding like a spiteful old lady who shakes her fist at the clouds and talks about walking three miles uphill, in the rain, to get to the store every day, I don’t know how the virtue of patience will even exist when my kids are adults. I at least feel those of us who spent our childhood in the 80’s had the advantage of knowing how much harder everything was before technology took over the world. So I guess I will fall in line with every generation who came before mine and tell my kids they have it easy. I have a full arsenal of hair-raising tales of the days when cassette tapes could be eaten by stereos and research was done with hardcover encyclopedias.