The space heater finally died. It was quiet, efficient, warmed the studio which is in a cold part of the house, and after two years, it grew cold and stayed cold. Two years–average for small appliances. It would cost more to fix than to throw out, so reluctantly I replaced it.
The new one has a digital temperature reading, a timer, a high- and low speed setting . . . and no “off” switch. I could unplug it to turn it off, but the plug is in an awkward place, difficult to reach. Sure, I can use the digital system to make the requested temperature much lower than the temperature in the room, or click down the timer, but wouldn’t an off switch be simpler?
The digital readout is always on, so it’s sucking up electricity every minute of the day.
Which made me think–our appliances reflect our needs and culture. The first microwave could cook turkeys and came with special browning sauces and powders. Now they have pre-set buttons for heating coffee, warming pizza, popping corn and baking potatoes—because that’s how we use microwaves. Turkey? Of course not.
Our lives no longer have off switches, either. My friends and clients expect me to be available at all times. They are sure I am checking in their Facebook posts, tweets, and their fan pages. They no longer leave voice mails, I’m supposed to notice I missed a call and phone back. Most of my clients text me, emails are not fast enough. The idea that I may be in a meeting, teaching or in bed means nothing. I have to be available. I should point out that I’m not an emergency-room neurologist, I’m a life coach and a trainer who teaches writing, and an artist.
The millennials–the group of adults who are now between 18 and 28–have never existed in a time when they could be alone. They will survive little more than 30 seconds of silence in a conversation before talking or texting to someone else.
Thirty-five percent of babies between the age of six weeks and three years have a TV in their room that is on more than two hours a day. We now live in a culture that is always in touch, speaking, connecting. (I’m not sure how much we’re listening. That’s another post.)
In order for me to be fully functional, I need down time. To sleep deeply, to create, to refresh. I have an off switch and I’m willing to use it, even if my space heater can’t.