I am a great fan of inventions that advance the cause of human comfort. Specifically, my comfort.
I’ve argued often and passionately that air-conditioning is the pinnacle of pampering ingenuity. I’ve bullet-pointed its superiority over the admittedly admirable elevator and the coordination-coddling automatic transmission. (I do like to eat and drive at the same time, so that was a tough one.) I’ve considered the bliss of cool air sighing from a vent in the wall as compared to the convenience of ordering delivery pizza on my mobile phone. But the freedom-phone loses out. If you threaten to take away my climate control, I will beg you to let me dangle at the end of a springy tether in a rotary phone that’s bolted into the wall – and I won’t even cry about it. Hell, I’ll even cook my own supper. Just let me stay cool.
And my dedication to internet access is boundless, but you’d likely get only sniveling and cursing out of me if I had to do it with my sweat-damp blouse clinging to my back.
But all that changed this morning. And there is no truer truth than what’s to be found in the amazement of a four year old.
I was watching something on my computer and the littlest housebeast came into my office to ask a question. I missed the first half of her query because a) she started it halfway down the hall, and b) I was watching Jeremy Clarkson on my Windows Media Player.
She shuffled over to my elbow, still chattering even though her entire point was hopelessly buried in the last few irretrievable seconds of me not paying attention.
“Can you pause that?” she asked.
I could and I did, then answered the great concern of the morning. I assured her that it was indeed warm enough for her to wear her new shirt – the one with the butterflies on it. All puzzles solved, she and I were left contemplating Mr. Clarkson, frozen onscreen – droopy-lidded, skewed-lipped, rolled-eyed, all in all, stuck in a very unfortunate facial pose. But it’s a rare man as looks good zapped to a standstill in the middle of a sentence. Which got me thinking…
“Do you know, we didn’t have a pause button when I was your age?”
I was being silly, of course, but the effect was perception changing. My daughter’s face nearly fell off.
“You had to miss everything?!”
I realized then the true value of creature comfort. It allows us (or it should, if we’re paying attention) the easiest possible route to our generosity. The taped-glasses and pocket-protector set have afforded me every opportunity to have my cake, or my Clarkson, and eat it too. Courtesy and cheerfulness should be so much more accessible now that I can do almost anything, almost anywhere, at virtually any time of the day — and it’ll even wait for me if the baby needs a weather report.
The pause button is the greatest invention of all time.