February 8, 2012

When did life get to be so easy? All you need to do is push a button and POOF, anything you want suddenly appears, or unfortunately more often for me, disappears and can never again be found, no matter how long you wait on the line to talk to the tech support guy in Mumbai. Gone are all the knobs and dials, the potentiometers of my youth. Gone are elbow grease and matches and pilot lights.

Now you just push a button and instantly have fire! Or a loud clicking noise that won't go away since for some reason the igniter isn't igniting, and does that mean that the smell of gas that I smell is really gas? Am I about to die explosively? Do I even have any matches to light this stove burner with? When was the last time I got matches from anywhere? They used to give them away as a promotion at every restaurant, but now you're not allowed to smoke, even at the bar, and there isn't any reason to advertise on a pack of matches, unless you're trying to attract a clientele of pyromaniacs and arsonists. People who smoke carry a lighter around with them, and the rest of us are just never supposed to touch fire. Maybe I could light the burner by rubbing two sticks together. Maybe I could find a boy scout in the neighborhood. A boy scout who smokes, preferably, to get this dang stove lit.

I suppose I could heat up the food in the microwave - that's push-button, too. Only when I touch the touchpad, it doesn't seem to know I've touched it, so I poke at it harder, but that doesn't always work either. Except to make my finger sore. Maybe I'll just eat a salad tonight.

Or I could call for take-out. The problem is that all the buttons on my push-button phone don't work. The 6 fell off and the 3 only works intermittently. So I'm going to need to find a restaurant that has a number that doesn't include a 6 or too many 3s. My choices are going to be limited, but there's a chance the food will have been cooked with fire.

Of course, I'll have to hang out by the door because the push-button doorbell doesn't work anymore, either, or rather it does work, but only randomly. Sometimes in the middle of the night, the bell will wake us up, ringing and ringing for no apparent reason, but when a FedEx guy is trying to deliver spare parts for the broken stove - it never works. So if the delivery guy comes all this way and rings and I don't hear it, I won't have any dinner, plus I'll get put on the no-show list at the pizza place and the next time I call, they won't answer. Yeah, maybe another peanut butter and jelly wouldn't be so bad.

I have a Universal TV Remote with 63 different tiny buttons that I can't even see in the dark, so I often wind up rapidly switching between my Cable and DVD and Xbox and accidentally purchasing several Pay-Per-View movies before I even realize that I'm sitting on it. I used to think that pushing buttons was cool. I remember when I first got a car back in the '60s that had a built-in transistor radio with push-button settings. You could find your favorite radio stations and set them with buttons which were not digitally exact like they are nowadays: 90.3 FM.

No, the red line would kind of skitter across the dial over to the general vicinity of the station you had set, and if you were lucky, you could sort of hear it and then use the big tuning knob to get close enough to marvel at the latest commercial for Vitalis, which did the same thing back then that Viagra does now, only to a guy's hair.

Today, there are so many buttons and settings on the car radio I can't even figure out how to look for a station. There are buttons for Satellite radio, AM, FM, weather, CD, iPod, auxiliary, plus arrows to get to other screens with more buttons. They have a manual of about 25 pages just to explain to you how to use your car radio.

Push-button used to mean it's easy, it's simple, it's elegant, it's modern, it's instant. Now it means it's way more complicated then you can imagine, it's more than you'll ever want to know, it's as complex as the engineer could make it, it'll break before you get it home, it'll be impossible to fix, the abbreviations are so obscure that you can't understand them, the buttons so small your klutzy, arthritic fingers will never be able to program or push them when the time comes, unless you have a small child to take pity upon you and rescue you from your apoplectic ranting.

Push-button is the button that pushes you around, that pushes you into a corner, that pushes your mind over the edge. You push and it pushes back and then pushes you out the door and into the Twilight Zone.