Confessions of a technology addict
That was the thing: the stovetop and oven were still working just fine, and we have a nice toaster oven for those times you don’t want to heat up the entire oven just to cook one small thing, right?
In the three or four days that we didn’t have a functioning microwave, it seemed that I had a hundred moments when I wanted to use it—to heat up some leftovers, or to heat up a cup of coffee I’d let get cold, et cetera. Each time I would get a little more grumpy about not having the option I was used to. But what made me even more grumpy is the knowledge that it was really a minor inconvenience at most (not to mention a first world problem), and I shouldn’t have been letting it get to me like that.
While the latest statistics I can find indicate that an estimated 90% of U.S. households have microwave ovens, when I was growing up my family didn’t own one. For most of my teen years, the estimates are that only between 1% and 5% of households had them. I got by for years as a young adult without a microwave. I remember one time being appalled when I found out a friend who wasn’t that much younger than me had never cooked anything on a stove—because his family had owned a microwave oven for as long as he could remember. He was genuinely afraid to even try to heat up water on a stovetop.
While I had laughed and rolled my eyes back then, it was a little weird to catch myself reacting as if it was a great hardship to get by without a microwave for just a few days.
One of our neighbors had her microwave die this week. I happened by while she was unboxing the new microwave, and we got talking about our experiences. This woman used to run her own catering business, so she is no stranger to cooking, right? But she had the same sort of issues I did. Particularly because she lives alone, since retiring she’s gotten into the habit of doing virtually all of her cooking in the microwave. As she said, it seems a waste to heat up the whole oven for just one potato.
No one wants to become so dependent on something that we’re unable to function for a few days without it. Things happen, and we have to get by. Of course, I did get by. It was not a hardship, just an annoyance.
But while humans are tool-making animals, it’s important to remember that we’re also tool-using animals and social beings. An important part of our species’ survival traits is our ability to share knowledge. We don’t each of us have to re-invent everything. We can use what has been learned and made by others to learn and make new things.
Using technology doesn’t mean we’re helpless, it simply means that we stand on the shoulders of giants. And from there, we do what we can to make the world a better place, so that those who come after us start on our shoulders, and can reach heights we can only imagine.