Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ten Things We Can't Do Without

I recently saw two lists, each claiming to be the top ten things we can't do without.  While the two lists had several items in common, they weren't identical.  That got me thinking.  There are some things that are very obvious and others that are so much a part of our day-to-day activity that we don't think about them as being essential to our daily lives.  Of course, when that item is suddenly not available, its impact becomes glaringly important.

In almost no particular order, here are ten items that we feel we can't do without.  Of course, without the first item most everything else becomes a non-issue.

1)  Electricity:  From that almost all else flows.  Without that wall plug-in receptacle that we totally take for granted, all our gadgets would be useless.  They would simply sit there collecting dust.  What's that you say?  Your laptop computer runs on battery?  Your cell phone runs on battery?  You have a battery operated television?  Well, unless they run on solar power, those rechargeable batteries need to be recharged on a regular basis.  Do you remember the last time a major storm knocked out all power for days?  I do.  And since I have an all electric kitchen, I couldn't even boil water for instant coffee.  That was a rude shock!  And, of course, the refrigerator and freezer were no longer functional.

2)  Plumbing/Flush Toilets:  No explanation necessary here.  :)

And now that the two primary overall items are out of the way, let's talk about specifics.

3)  Air Conditioning (and heating):  Office buildings, hotels, restaurants, stores, private residences, even our vehicles…we can't imagine them without air conditioning with the exception of only a few places.  And for those of us who live with a cold winter climate, we definitely need that heating system.

4)  Computers:  Needless to say, our computers are an integral part of life.  Whether you're always on the go with your laptop, tablet and/or smart phone or stay at home with your desktop, computers are a major factor in our lives.  And not only our personal computing gadgets.  Look around you…everywhere you go and almost everything you do is somehow computer controlled or computer generated…even the monthly bill for item #1's electricity.

5)  High Speed Internet:  Closely aligned with number three is the need to be able to access and use the internet as quickly as possible.  Waiting for a large download that seems to be moving at a snail's pace is way too frustrating.

6)  Cell Phone (smart phone):  Unlike some people I know, I am not addicted to my cell phone.  I don't need to have it in my hand at all times in order to instantly access text messages, tweets, or updates from various places.

I recently saw a news segment (CNN or network news, I don't recall) about a test to evaluate teenagers and texting while driving to see just how addicted they were to that connection.  The teens all stated that texting did not pose a hazard while driving because they could still give their attention to the road.  One at a time, the teens were instructed to sit at a driving simulator without their cell phone and were put through a program including children running into the road in front of them, cars running red lights and stop signs, cars backing out of driveways, and other hazards of daily driving.  Then the cell phone was returned and they were to go through the program again while texting.  The teens all thought it would be easy, after all they had just seen all the obstacles the program threw at them.  Well, surprise…it was a different program.  Not one of the test subjects was able to successfully complete the program without at least two potentially life-threatening incidents when they hit a car or a person.  Now, the point of this tale—one girl refused to set her cell phone aside as if she would actually stop breathing if it wasn't in her hand.  The instructor finally talked her into placing it on the dashboard in front of her.  As soon as she took her hand away, he quickly took the phone and placed it on a table outside the simulator.  This girl literally went into panic mode and had a full-blown anxiety attack on camera because that phone was now 5 feet away from her and she couldn't reach it.

However, even on the most basic level a cell phone has become a necessity.  The pay phone seems to be rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.  Even at airports where you used to be able to find an entire bank of pay phones as soon as you got off a plane, that's no longer the reality.  Maybe a couple of pay phones, but even those usually require phone cards rather than actual money.

7)  Television:  Yep, whether we use it for entertainment or news and other informational areas, we all have them and can't seem to do without them.  There's something both sad and funny about surfing through one hundred channels and complaining that there's nothing on.  And if the cable goes out…well, enough said.

8)  Automatic garage door opener:  One of those many things you take for granted because it's always there.  Hmmm…I think we just segued back to electricity.  There you are, in your car with the rain pouring down and 60mph winds.  You're wearing your best clothes because you've just come from the society event of the decade.  And you need to get out of your car to unlock and manually open the garage door.  Or, everything is covered in ice and snow and you're thanking the deity of your choice that you made it home safely…but now you need to walk on that ice and through that snow to get your garage door open.

9)  Automobiles:  In some places more than others.  There are certainly places where one can live without the need for a car because the public transportation is excellent.  Some places where owning a car is a disadvantage due to the expense of needing a place to park it.  Certainly New York City (or more specifically, Manhattan) comes to mind.  But for most of us, an automobile is an absolute necessity in order to get to and from our job, go to the grocery store, and other required chores.

10)  I think I'm going to declare this slot as a tie between remote controls and coffee:  We definitely have become a society too lazy to get out of the chair to change the channel on the television.  And that's only one of many remote controls.  Even on our key ring we have the remote door lock/unlock and trunk open for our car.  And coffee…it's obviously big business when there are establishments that can truly be called coffee shops because coffee is the only thing they serve.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I have a small four cup coffee maker in my office so that I don't need to go to the kitchen to make coffee first thing in the morning when I turn on my computer and access my high speed internet while reaching for the remote control to turn on television to watch the morning news…well, as you can see, I'm back at electricity again. :)

Honorable Mention:  I felt compelled to include chocolate and wine. 

What modern convenience is an absolute must have for you?

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