Twenty years ago, new consumer technology was usually easy to understand., like: Oh, it’s a phone without wires, so you can talk and walk around. Oh, it’s a Datasette for your VIC-20, so you can store Q*bert for later enjoyment while playing Radar Rat Race. Oh, it’s a crimper, so your hair will look crimpy.
Simple, right? Maybe they weren’t all great products, but they were pretty much self-explanatory. Even if you didn’t want one yourself, you could at least imagine someone who might.
Nowadays, when I see an ad for something new, I often have no idea what it is. So my husband explains what it does. Then comes the whole new question: why would anyone want such a thing? It’s not just that the products are new and unfamiliar, but they fill needs which are themselves unfamiliar and dubious.
It gets worse. More and more, technology is not only nearly useless, but it actively betrays us—creates more problems than it solves. For instance, mobile phones kept getting smaller and smaller, because it was considered obvious that smaller is cooler and cooler is better. Which led to construction workers everywhere using their phones mainly as something to curse at as they try and try and try and try to hit the right little bitty button with their giant, meaty pointer fingers.
And then we have, of course, the miserable, wretched CFL bulb. I don’t think of myself as a connoisseur of pretty much anything. I can, for instance, identify good bread or good gin or sheets with a high thread count, but I can also very easily tolerate the crummy stuff if that’s what’s available, because it’s just me, right? I’m not a princess; I can deal.
Then the CFL bulbs came out, and I discovered that I am the snob to end all snobs . . . when it comes to light. Fluorescent lighting makes me feel like I’m dead, and am just haunting whatever room I happen to be in. It makes me feel like the top of my head has been replaced with something clammy and toxic. It makes me feel like filling up my 15-passenger van with overpriced gas and barreling nonstop to Al Gore’s house and smacking his silly, fat face around until he admits that his main goal is and always has been to make each and every day for the entire human race a little less bearable.
Now, I understand that these bulbs are better for the environment, because they save energy. But this is only true for overhead bulbs, because my kids can’t reach them for smashing purposes. Any other bulb in any other light fixture at our house works out to be much, much worse for the environment. Here’s how:
MY KIDS: Ooh, a lamp! Let’s kick it until it’s dead!
ME: (lying on the couch dying with morning sickness): . . .I didn’t hear anything. . . [promptly manages to actually forget about everything]
LAMP: I guess I’ll just lie here and bleed poison all over your house, you dirty breeders.
KIDS: Yay, let’s throw stuff around!
HUSBAND: Hi, I’m home! Hey, there’s broken glass all over the room. There’s mercury mixed in with the six bags of winter clothes you were sorting, and it’s all over the portacrib. Okay, well, you lie there, I’ll take care of it.
For the sake of propriety, I’ll just skip over the next two weeks and the marital unpleasantness therein. Suffice it to say that an overworked husband, a sick and mopey wife, several bundles of contaminated laundry, a crowded kitchen (which was, for some reason, being used to store said bundles of laundry), thoroughly ingrained habits of procrastination and monstrously ineffective patterns of communication in the face of stress, AND DEADLY MERCURY do not mix well.
So, thanks, Al Gore. Thanks for ruining my marriage. When my baby is born with mercury poisoning, we‘ll be sure to name one of its heads after you. Because of you and your fearless activism, I’ve decided to replace all the light fixtures in the house with little brass lamps that burn polar bear blubber; and for heat, I’m going to get one of those generators that’s powered by powerful surges of indignation.
I expect the coming winter to be toasty warm.