Monday, December 1, 2008
"What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance."
-Henry Havelock Ellis
The teapot: a humble, simple implement that has faithfully served humanity's needs for hundreds of years. An elementary instrument for a straightforward operation, it has needed little adjustment or alteration through the ages.
But we went this weekend to a department store and found that some clever fellow had decided to improve it.
Spouse and I wandered over to one charming little teapot. Drawn by the exorbitant price tag that piqued our curiosity, we paused to examine the decorative and functional qualities of a designer item.
Spouse made an effort to wrest the lid from the top but found himself struggling and grappling with the flimsy porcelain disc.
We were on the verge of reaching the conclusion that the teapot must in fact be bolted, and I was looking all about for an assistant who might have such a key on their person, when Spouse found success and we were able to peer at last into the depths of the vessel.
Much to our disappointment after all the effort to get a glimpse, it looked like a perfectly ordinary teapot and we soon decided to get on with the remainder of our browsing.
Spouse tried to position the top back onto the teapot but it would not fit into place. There was a distinct protrusion on the lid that required precise alignment with a notch on the cusp of the container and a thirsty person could neither open nor close the teapot without first getting the measure of where the two pieces met.
I had never seen such an intricate system inside a teapot, nor one so utterly useless.
The architect presumably thought that the convoluted arrangement was vital to the progress of mankind, that the classic tea dispenser- along with the notion of being able to pour one's tea while it was still piping hot- ought to be a notion of the past. The change was not efficient: deviation from the established style had failed to contribute positively to the evolution of the teapot and had, in fact, brought trouble to the business of making tea where trouble had not previously existed.
Spouse, an engineer, spent a whole minute involved in a battle to open and close the teapot.
I, a notorious tea drinker and user of a great variety of teapots over the years, wondered why anybody would bother to fix an item not in need of mending; and I went on my way.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:00 AM