I’ve been thinking a lot about convenience.
I live in a sprawling apartment complex, a small city-state that houses a coffee shop, a hair salon, and other assorted businesses. The coffee shop is so close that I can see it from my balcony, so close that I can see the expressions on the faces of patrons coming and going. In order to enjoy coffee, tea, or hot cocoa with extra whipped cream (hold the hot cocoa, thank you), all I need do is go to another part of my building. It couldn’t be more local if it were on my lap.
One morning, after I had begrudgingly put my shoes on to fetch an iced decaf, I began to fantasize how the world would be so much better if my coffee shop were even more convenient. “I wish there were a coffee shop nearby,” I actually said to myself.
My indolence shocked me. In a brief, fitful bout of attempting not to lead an unexamined life, I contemplated the matter. (Note to self: Look into hiring someone to examine my life for me and report back in brief, uplifting bullet points.) Good gravy, just how convenient did I expect things to be?
I fear I may be skidding down that slippery slope where convenience becomes just plain lazy. We of the modern world are well versed in convenience—anything that makes life easier. Since the dawn of humanity, we’ve always looked for ways to improve the living process. Perhaps it came with the discovery of fire, when humans realized it would be more convenient to not freeze to death, or they were just tired of the inconvenience of suffering the ravages of food poisoning. Animals understand ease too: The squirrels in Loring Park know it’s easier to approach people for food rather than forage for nuts and berries themselves.
But I wonder if we’ve lapped ourselves. Convenience has become a given, a god, something that excuses and justifies everything: “It’s just so convenient,” we say.
We’ve been so conditioned to expect things to go off without a hitch—to have that which we desire at our fingers—that anything beyond that is considered a hardship.
I once dated a man who lived in a very large house. The master bedroom had a bathroom, roughly a stroll of four or five strides from the bed. But the fellow had gone one better: He’d fashioned a small closet next to the bed, a closet that contained a urinal. (If only I were making this up.) At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, all he had to do was get out of bed and pivot.
The situation was so wrong on so many levels, but it came to mind when I was coping with the coffee-shop crisis. If I considered having to walk 50 yards for coffee no longer convenient, what would have satisfied me where the personal application of beverages was concerned?
Clearly, acquiring my own coffeemaker and utilizing it would be much too troublesome. But perhaps a skyway could be devised so I could get to the coffee shop in five-eights the time it usually takes—and without having to put on shoes (or clothes for that matter). Better yet, a skyway with a moving sidewalk. Perhaps I could start sleeping on a gurney on a moving sidewalk that would deliver me directly to the counter at the hour of my awakening. Or how about a sort of reverse drive-through in which the coffee shop delivers the beverage to my apartment, placing it in a window slot I’ve carved in the wall. Aha! A personal barista, silent but alert, sitting on a chair next to my bed, awaiting my stirring from slumber to funnel the beverage into my mouth?
I don’t know whether to be frightened or excited by these possible solutions.