Tuesday, August 5, 2008
“The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
There is a television show I enjoy which features a female housekeeper at its heart. She makes the tea. She makes lots of tea, and offers it in teacups around the house at whim and refuses to take no for an answer.
Making tea happens to be the housekeeper's whole life, and she is utterly devastated one Christmas to be given, by the rest of the household, an automatic tea-making machine.
She is told lightly that her days of making tea are finished.
It is said in such a way as to make her feel better- her position of employment is secure though duties will no longer include anything to do with tea- but they do not know how much she cherishes the business of making tea, of serving it to those in her charge, and it makes her feel dreadful to know she is about to be made useless.
Such is her distress that the housekeeper sneaks down to the kitchen late at night and sabotages the machine with a screwdriver. After it grinds and wails alarmingly and then falls silent, there is an enormous smile on the perpetrator's face. Her work is, indeed, done, and off she goes to bed, knowing that she will be called upon in the morning to make some tea- by hand.
This could well have turned into a lengthy exposition on the importance of work and the necessity of feeling valued. That is all well and good, of course, but unrelated at the present time to my most urgent point: I admit to being a trifle influenced by the housekeeper's desperate actions.
Spouse and I own a perfectly valid and working television, some ten years old and serving its duty beyond all expectation.
It, however, is a hulking great big contraption and in our present state of reducing not just the amount of objects but their size, where possible, it is simply too big.
We have of late been looking- no: staring lavishly- at flat-screen televisions. We make trips to the local stores and we ponder over the few in our price and size range. We are within sight of purchasing one of them, but having trouble justifying such a thing when our own works so awfully, horribly, troublesomely well.
What I fear is that one of these nights either Spouse or I will succumb to irrational temptation and sneak into the living room, furtively pick up a screwdriver and set to work on the television's inner workings, thereby justifying the need for a new appliance.
It might be easier and far less convoluted and complicated, on the other hand, if we- just this once- buy what we are thinking of.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:15 PM