At the start of each working day, as my train pulls into Ashford International station, I look around at the smoggy skies, take a deep-breath and step off the train to begin my 15 minute walk to the office. The station is typically large and austere looking, and in order to exit you must first ascend a set of 30-steps up to ground-level. I won’t lie, I hate those steps, but like most people I begrudgingly take them anyway. Each time I begin my mountainous ascent (pass me the Red Bull will you?), I notice a notably overweight man from my train is waiting gormlessly below for the elevator to take him up instead. To say it irks me is a slight understatement. Depending on my mood (which usually isn’t good having had five hours sleep), the sight of this completely able-bodied guy waiting for an elevator which will take quadruple the time to arrive as it takes for one to combat the stairs, can absolutely infuriate me. I have never known myself to be so perturbed by such obvious laziness, and occasionally I wonder if this daily sight is but a tiny vignette of a much larger picture of a full-blown epidemic which is sweeping modern day society. Amidst my scorn, a voice within suddenly reminds me of some of my own lazy habits – the inability to turn down lifts, and a dependence on microwaveable dinners when pressed for time, to name just a couple. It began to dawn on me that I was probably being hypocritical in finding myself so incensed at the laziness of Elevator Man. Maybe the fact is that we’re just all a little lazy; and with each new invention – from the elevator to the automatic hand-dryer – it’s getting worse.
My mum loves to remind me about how people in the olden days were much more energetic and hardworking than people today, “Yooouuuuuuuur grand-mother used to have to take the bus from Faversham, then walk to Canterbury West train station, take the train to Ashford, ride a donkey to Folkestone,hop-scotch through the harbour and float across the English Channel on a lettuce leaf before she got to work!” she would say after I started fussing about the inconveniences of my, by comparison, relatively tame commute from Canterbury to Ashford. And she had a point. I don’t doubt that the generations before ours were a lot more physically active than we are. There were significantly fewer cars, fewer televisions and no internet-related distractions! People had to actually – wow, oh my gosh, I can’t comprehend this part – people had to actually physically DO things for themselves!
Can you even imagine what it would be like to return to a life without the internet? You know, when if you wanted to talk to somebody you always had to actually to wibble your lips and vibrate your vocal cords? Can you imagine a life before the television remote? When you had to move your legs to get you to the monitor in order to change the channel? Yet, here we are in 2012 screaming blue murder if we can’t find the remote (Afterall, there’s little use for a television if you can’t channel-hop without needing to desert the indentation on the sofa that so closely resembles the shape of your buttocks, right?). Finally, to use an example on top of another example – can you remember those laborious times when you actually had to type in the whole web-address rather than just press one button for the app on your Smartphone? I don’t blame the older generation for thinking that ours is lazy, not when you consider things like this. The worst thing? I see no sign of it abating – only amplifying.
All around the world, successful entrepreneurs are busy raising a toast to the phenomenon of laziness. They are the ones who make millions from the concept that society seems to wish things were a little easier and faster. As they carve a delicate incision into their pan-fried foie gras, they are probably chuckling at the thought of global debt and are instead concerning themselves with how they can make millions from the invention of gadgets that will change the world. “Brushing my teeth can be such a chore, sometimes I even get cramp in my wrist… maybe we can create a wireless device that moves the handle for us. It can be instructed to sweep each corner thoroughly and can be recommended by the most famous dentists across the world. The suckers out there won’t know how they ever lived without one! I’ll finally be able to afford that castle, with the invention of the Toothatron2012!” Sounds stupid, right? Then again, I expect the conversation between Mr D. Ishwasher, creator of the dishwasher, and his team of mechanics probably went along similar lines… “we could all benefit from a bit less scrubbing”. Lovely, but the question is, when does it end? If we carry on at the rate we are, will we ever have a need to leave the house? Even popular forms of outdoor exercise can now be conducted from behind a television screen via the mediums of a Wii Fit of Xbox Kinect. In the year that will see London host the 2012 Olympics, I can already foresee abstract scenarios of the Games in years to come – the Torch being transported around the host-country via in-built Sat Nav and radio control – notable civilians taking it in turns to reign over the remote…
And then of course, there’s gadget-fever – more hideously over-priced items doing more things that we’ve come to feel we can no longer live without. The only thing I can’t criticise are the networking advantages. I think it’s great we now have so many different ways to contact each other – it helps us to maintain our relationships, and is a damn sight greater than having to depend on land-line phones to speak your nearest and dearest… but apart from this, I don’t really see much benefit of all of this new technology. Suffice to say we live in a recession. Suffice to say that half the world’s population are living on $2.50 a day. Suffice to say that each time the earth completes a rotation, 22 000 thousand more children have died from poverty. And by comparison, what is the rest of the world doing? We’re fucking about spending hundreds of pounds on pieces of plastic so that we can be entertained by talking giraffes on plasma screens. I’m not for a moment suggesting that I fail to see the fun in these items, just that it makes me nauseous to think of just how swept up in them society has become. It doesn’t seem like it was too long ago that a friend was belittling my mobile phone because it didn’t vibrate when it got a message, like all the cool phones of that time did. In reality this was over ten years ago now, and as we all know, phones nowadays do much, much more than merely vibrate. You can virtually live your whole life through your phone, or so it seems, and whilst I too admit to being a sucker to the temptation and a huge fan of my smart-phone, it still makes me sad. Walk past an Apple store the evening before the latest iPhone is released and you’ll see an entire campsite of people with more money than sense forming a queue. They’ll be sat upon fold-up chairs, thermos flasks in hand, enthusing together over the great new ‘specs‘ which the new iPhone promises – jargonistic drivel of which the stand-out point is that the new version is 0.5 millimeters slimmer than the older one. Oh, and it has an in-built assistant that allegedly answers all your questions, because apparently you don’t have the capacity to work out the answers for yourself. Yes, that’s another thing about this century, you don’t actually need a brain anymore. Forget about consuming the omega oils in fish and stick to chips instead – computer chips, that is!
Well personally, I feel as though I have reached my technology quota. My 2006 model MP3 player, 2010 model phone, 2009 model digital camera – these items suit me, I require nothing more in the way of features or speeds or applications and feel like nothing in the past two years’ worth of technology releases have appealed to me in the slightest. Unless these items break, I will never wish to buy later models. In time this will probably mean I start being ‘the one with the oldest and crappiest phone’ again, or maybe I’ll end up succumbing to later models and inventions just like I did when I bought myself an mp3 player despite dismissing the concept for years on the basis that ‘music sounds better on a c.d’.
Either way, I’m satisfied for now – so stop thrusting the Apple down my throat, keep your Wiis in the toilet, and give me a proper smile – not just a couple of pieces of punctuation arranged to resemble a face.
There’ll simply never be anything, like the real thing.
Song of the Day: Wakey! Wakey! – Twenty Two
Alternative pop from NYC, so featured in One Tree Hill (songster Michael Grubb has a cameo role, apparently). A short reminder of how under-rated whistling has become.