I recently met a woman who works for the UN. She's lived around the world since she was 23, mostly in Third World countries.  When she moved into her hotel room in Madagascar, the walls were riddled with bullet holes and there were scorpions all over the floor.  She lived without much of anything, very few creature comforts, and missed out on the whole technology age.  Her idea of GPS was when she needed to contact the closest US Army base to request an escort to a remote village.  She loved every minute of it.

Now she’s back in the US and is learning all about smartphones, wi-fi, anything we’ve taken for granted during the past ten years with regards to technology.  When she moved into her apartment, she asked her very surprised leasing agent to remove the microwave and dishwasher since she wouldn’t be using them and could use the extra space they were taking up (they did remove the microwave, and she said she’s slowly learning to use her dishwasher).  But her biggest shock of all was going grocery shopping.

“I had PTSD”, she said. “I walked into the grocery store and was completely overwhelmed by the abundance. So many things, too many things, products I’d never heard of, and just the sheer amount of everything anyone could ever need and never need. And the waste!  I got such an anxiety attack that I had to leave immediately”.

I thought about that for a while after we talked. We do take things for granted, don’t we? That our grocery stores will have every variety of potato, lettuce, and packaged cereal - and if they don’t, we’ll surely complain to management then head to the store down the street, since they will certainly have what we’re looking for.  Everything is so convenient. Too convenient.  We want for nothing. We have fast food joints littered along every city block.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the convenience myself. I thoroughly enjoy grocery shopping: checking out all the cuts of meat and varieties of cheese; taking my time going through the produce aisle as recipe ideas pop into my head. I love that shit. But seriously, do we need this?:

wall 'o k-cups
I tend to skip the middle aisles of the grocery store and mainly shop the perimeter aisles, because most of what is offered in the middle is junk. The exception is when I need to get something like crackers, or Dunkin' Donuts ground coffee (the coffee of choice in This House). Or wine. Because, priorities.  But in the past year, my local Kroger re-arranged their store layout, except for the perimeter displays; so in order to get to what I want in the middle, I must surf my way up and down countless aisles of garbage as I have yet to remember where my beloved wine items now live.

middle aisle junk: what in the hell is this? and it's USDA approved AND organic? yikes.
The thing is, i'm not immune to the K-Cup things myself.  At my teaching job, we sell those violently expensive Nespresso machines in all their many mutations (and price range), and they do make a fine cup of coffee. {Off topic for a second, when I was last in France I noticed that George Clooney was hustling Nespresso machines in TV ads that i've never seen make it over here (yet). They're quite silly. See for yourself}. I was so excited to learn how to use one of the more complicated machines, one that I originally thought i'd need a degree in Physics in order to figure out how to operate. I loved it so much that on one of my first days there, I drank three double espressos with foam... and was awake until 4 am. So i'm limiting my intake from now on.  

But honestly. Do we need it? and the answer is: No. We don't. We like convenience, that is all. And to be honest, the best cup of coffee i've had is one made with my Vietnamese coffee press or my no-frills French press. Yeah, it takes time.... like maybe five whole minutes. It's not instantaneous. But somehow, I'll manage to live.


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