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Minor Inconveniences

["Inconveniences" is incredibly hard to spell.]

There is an outlet in my bedroom that is too loose. By "too loose," I mean that I cannot plug anything into it without the outlet softly regurgitating the plug. Because this is America and convenience is highly valued, there are about 80 other outlets in my bedroom. The options for plugging shit in are endless. Items that require plugging in seem to be endless, too. There are lamps, my tiny television, and an assortment of chargers (phone, gps watch, bluetooth speaker, laptop, other laptop, kindle, tiny cordless vacuum, window fan, plug-in air freshener, hair curler, hair straightener, etc etc etc).

The only time I truly need this particularly finicky outlet is when I vacuum, which happens to be about once a week if I'm home long enough to notice that my carpet is dirty. My sour outlet is such a minor thing, but I always let it bother me. The gross ish-ness of this annoyance is not lost on me. If I zoom out, just a bit, it's easy to see how minute and meaningless my wall-outlet angst is. It's also abjectly clear how maddening a life of heightened convenience truly is. We expect everything to be automated and easy. We expect the lights to turn on when we walk in a room, for our meals to be prepared, shipped to our doors in dried ice, and ready to consume in minutes. We expect our cars to convey us to any destination without a hiccup, mechanical breakdown, or the vexation of other drivers. The age of autonomy and convenience has ushered in a brand new age of annoyance and isolation and entitlement.

This entitlement plays out in areas that seem unexpected, too. The advent of social media has allowed people to show the world their outdoor adventures. More people than ever are venturing into the wilderness (prepared or not), with a backseat intention of bragging about their exploits on social media. Some more positive persons may think this is a good thing: more people than ever before are getting outside, moving their bodies, and enjoying nature. Some glass-half-empty folks are simply annoyed by crowded parks and trails, people littering (a justifiable annoyance), and mostly, the other people. The singular feeling of being irritated and inconvenienced by the mere presence of other people is a sad fact of life for most of us.

My annoyance at my loose outlet could be remedied by calling maintenance, using a different outlet, or moving to a new apartment. Our widespread annoyance toward other humans could be easily remedied by going to an area of the world where few humans live (I would suggest Antarctica, the Sahara desert, or Wyoming). OR, we could simply acknowledge that other humans may annoy us from time to time. We could simply accept that life is not, and should not be, unilaterally convenient.

Of course, creating a world that is more convenient saves time. Washing machines, for example, save us the grueling, time consuming task of laundering our clothing by hand. But the extreme convenience we live in today, where anything and everything can be delivered to your door at the click of a button, may not actually make our lives better. The more we fight to make everything convenient, the further we move away from the struggles and challenges that give meaning to life. Tim Wu writes in the New York Times, "Created to free us, it [convenience] can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way, can enslave us."

John D. Barrow, a cosmologist, theoretical physicist, mathematician, and professor of mathematical science at the University of Cambridge, says "There is no reason that the universe should be designed for our convenience." Remember his words the next time you're annoyed by one of your fellow humans, a loose outlet, a car problem, lukewarm coffee, or any of the small, minor things that could easily upset your day, but shouldn't. Ernest Hemingway said, "To hell with them. Nothing hurts if you don't let it." And nothing annoys you if you don't let it, either.

P.S. Listen to an interview with Tim Wu, professor of law at Columbia Law School, HERE, and read his op-ed in the New York Times entitled The Tyranny of Convenience HERE.


Sarah Rose

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