Mother of inventions

During the recent turn-of-the-millenium binge, we heard a lot about the greatest inventions of the millenium (the printing press) and the greatest person of the century (Andy Kaufman), but it seems to me folks were looking too far afield. The most crucial technological advances are the ones we enjoy right in our own homes. Their creators should be our heroes.

I'm writing this on a computer, which will later deliver it to the newspaper without me leaving my chair. Simultaneously, machines are washing my clothes and my dishes and drying them. A machine that would suck the dirt off my floors would be operating, too, but the kid who was running it went off to play basketball. Thanks to the marvels of telecommunications, I could any second talk with anyone around the world, though it'll most likely be a chat with the doctor after my son takes the basketball in the kisser again.

You see my point, though, right? Say what you like about the printing press, it won't warm up cold coffee. You need a microwave for that. Self-cleaning ovens are a boon to all mankind. And where would we be today without the TV remote? Jumping up to change the channels, that's where.

Considering these marvels of modern ingenuity inevitably brings us to other concepts and inventions that won't fare so well in the History of the Household. We also have a millennium full of goofs. File them under the category Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.
You undoubtedly can come up with many of these on your own, but we'll get you started:

--CALL WAITING. I say, let 'em wait. I got through first, I get to conduct my conversation uninterrupted. I knew this had gone too far when my own mother put me on hold.

--SQUEEZABLE MAYONNAISE. I bought this before fully pondering its ramifications. Any mayonnaise worth having isn't "squeezable." And it looks like toothpaste when you squirt it on bread.

--READY-TO-ASSEMBLE. What's the point of buying a new piece of furniture if you have to put it together yourself? Isn't that the furniture-maker's job? Do I ask furniture-makers to come to my house and write stuff?

Ready-to-assemble means we parents have countless stray parts to toys and basketball goals and bicycles lying around the house. We still don't know what they're for.

--GARBAGE DISPOSALS. I know many of you swear by these, but what could possibly be smart about sending food sludge down your drainpipes? It's just a disaster waiting to happen. One day you wash the English peas down the drain; the next day, your front lawn is swallowed by a sinkhole.

You can always tell the homes that have garbage disposals. All the spoons have been chewed up around the edges.

--TOFU. It tastes like nothing, therefore it tastes like whatever you mix with it. That's what people say. But if it tastes like nothing, why put it in your mouth? Why not just eat the stuff you were going to mix it with and call that good?

Sure, tofu's supposedly good for you, but there are folks in the South who say the same thing about clay.

--SALAD SHOOTERS. Need I say more?

--CELLULAR PHONES. Yeah, yeah, they're convenient. But do you really want to be available 24 hours a day? Is anything more annoying than the sound of someone else's phone ringing in a crowded movie theater? Don't you find yourself shouting at weaving motorists: "Hang up and drive!"

--COMPUTERS. They make many things possible. Scientific advances (coming soon: the Nuclear Salad Shooter) and medical breakthroughs (ditto). The world is a smaller place because of the Internet. But do we want a smaller place? Wasn't the world a perfectly fine size before?
With computers, the focus of a job often is the tool, not the end result. They often mean half the productivity in twice the time. And we entrust our work, investments, addresses, shopping and record-keeping to machines that don't function when the power fails or when they get sick with a virus.

If that's not a boondoggle, I don't know what is. But at least I don't have to get on a horse and carry my column across town to the newspaper.

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