Pizza and Chinese food deliveries occur a few times a week. And, of course, she has Internet access and cable TV.
Her house is beginning to look a lot like a cocoon.
It’s time to admit that as Americans we’re addicted to shortcuts. We want things to be fast, easy, and cheap. And that spells: convenience. Americans aren’t lazy. Our work productivity is the highest in the world. We work longer hours and take less vacation than other developed nations. But we’re obsessed with saving time (what we’re saving it for is unclear).
Take these rather alarming statistics pointing to our addiction to convenience:
Americans view these everyday tasks as chores – unnecessary inconveniences and time wasters better delegated to another. But it’s a mistake to think of these things as chores – they’re responsibilities. They’re the cost of self-sufficiency (and, quite frankly, help build character). Isn’t the child who does their own homework better off than the child who pays someone else to do it?
There is, of course, an enormous price for all of this convenience: pollution, climate change, and energy consumption. But the high social and cultural costs may be the most damaging. All this convenience – and buck passing – is isolating individuals and eroding the social fabric of our neighborhoods and communities.
This disconnect may be this is why Americans continue to believe our society is at its most dangerous point in history despite a long-time trend in declining violent crime rates (the homicide rate in 2005, for example, was at its lowest point since 1965. But good lucking trying to convince people of that).
My parents knew all of their neighbors intimately. The women all stayed home with their children – set up play dates, babysat for each other, visited each other for lunch and tea. My father knew the men because every weekend they were outside cutting their lawns, trimming their hedges, painting their houses and garages, washing their cars, and performing other regular maintenance on their homes. They took breaks together, borrowed tools from each other, and shared beers at the end of the day.
That forged friendships which lead to family barbeques, joint vacations, dinner and movie dates, dinner parties, etc. When I was growing up, I was intimate with the insides of every neighbor’s house, played with their children, knew their relatives, and thought of neighbors as surrogate parents.
Now as an adult, I’ve never been inside any of my neighbors’ houses, except for one. Only four people out of 10 houses on my section of street even cut their own lawns (and this includes a 75-year-old widow).
Our thirst for convenience undermines our communities. Ordering DVDs over the Internet has closed down one of the two video stores in town. Amazon.com and other online book retailers shuttered the two bookstores many years ago. Home theater will eventually eradicate movie houses. Can gourmet “prepared meals” soon replace restaurants?
We even let convenience erode services we used to get for free. That’s why we now pump our own gas and why we’re starting to check-out and bag our own groceries at the supermarket. Because doing it alone is faster.
Convenience has become an addiction. One all responsible adults should try and break. Mow your own lawn. Rake rather than use a gas-powered blower. Paint your house. Go food shopping. These tasks? These chores?
It’s called life.
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