Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A friend of mine borrowed my cell phone the other day to make a call. Unfamiliar with the phone, she asked, “How do I dial it?” After a moment, we both realized how inappropriate her question was. We both laughed. How long has it been since any of us have dialed a phone? How long has it been since we have wound a watch?

Times change and we have to change with them. Doing that is sometimes difficult. Things that have been ingrained in us over a good part of our lives are hard to let go. Most of the time we are able to do that because the changes make sense to us. Sometimes we fight them. I remember many years ago telling a friend of mine who was working in the programming of computers, “I’ll never use a computer!” How wrong I was in thinking that. I could never do without one now.

Some things, however, still don’t make sense to me. One of those is the headlong rush to dehumanize our world. Take the telephone, for instance. The friend who was working with the programming of computers once told me, “There’s one thing we can’t do and that’s teach computers common sense.”  These days, electronic devices are employed by just about every company to handle telephone calls. Often I have gone through long minutes listening to “menus” that seem to contain everything I don’t want and nothing I do want. I long, during those minutes, to hear the voice of a human—someone with common sense.

Another field in which there are changes I find somewhat difficult to grasp is the food industry. The other day I was reading the contents on the side of a container of fat-free half and half. Half and half was devised some years ago as a less expensive—and less rich—replacement for coffee cream. That I accepted. I also accepted the fact that modern technology has devised a process of making the product “fat-free,” though I can’t imagine how. Still, I was surprised to note on this particular carton of fat-free half and half the following message: ALLERGY WARNING - CONTAINS MILK. What is one to suppose it would contain? The consideration of the alternatives makes me uneasy.

Closely related to this are the various categories of “cheese” that are available in the super markets. Some are labeled “Cheese”, some I’ve seen, at a lower price, are labeled “Cheese Food”, others at an even lower price, “Cheese Product.” Is the last product not even worthy of being referred to as a food? I’m going to stop writing here. I don’t want to go any further.

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