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♫Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless....♫ - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
♫Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless....♫

We're switching cars tomorrow. Eleanor has a doctor's appointment beyond Iggy's reliable range, so I made sure she has a full tank of gas (even though it's well under 106 miles and it won't be dark).  While I was filling up, the guy on the other side of the island was having a lit-tle problem.  His Hyundai Sonata was brand new, or a rental, or a borrow- and he had no idea how to get the gas tank lid to unlock.

I've had a few cars over the years with this "feature," and the intuitive places for the lid release seemed to be on or around the driver's side door.  No such luck with this guy's.  I felt his pain: years ago, I rented a car from a fairly remote location to drive from the Hudson Valley out to Long Island, and I discovered, just as the road was getting wind-y and the skies were getting dark, that I had no idea how to turn the headlights on.  I had to pull off the Taconic in bare-twilight, into a driveway, and somehow figured it out.  This guy did get his open, but that took as long as it took me to run my card, prepay, and fill my whole (unlocked) tank.

It got me thinking how dependent we've become on Smart People to do thinking for us. Whether it's designing our cars, or appliances, or computers, or programming things for them, we're increasingly forgetting how to become, much less remain, self-reliant if these things are taken from us, even for mere moments.

We were spared the effects of the winter storm that paralyzed much of the eastern US starting last weekend, but the biggest fear I saw among people, early in the event, was that they would lose power.  Twice in our marriage, we've endured extended periods of powerlessness from natural dropkicks at us.  We hated it both times, but we lived through them, with candles, outdoor grills, and plenty of ingenuity.  Yet the last of those events was in late 2006- when we weren't nearly as dependent on "paperless billing" and social media connections (including, yes, this site) to keep in touch with people as we are now.  This time round, one friend speculated at how totally fucked we would be if a terrorist chose a nationwide series of electromagnetic pulses rather than Ye Olde Fashioned Bombbes.  Fortunately, these sorts of wingnuts (foreign and domestic) tend toward the testosterone and prefer to see stuff blowed up real good.

Within moments of that friend's post, another, somewhere in the storm zone, quoted this 1973 line from sci-fi author Robert Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Between us, we could probably account for a bit more than half that list- and I'd be lost without Eleanor pulling well more than half of that halfish-weight.  I doubt if many around us could even crack the surface of it without computerized help.

2 comments or Leave a comment
warriorsavant From: warriorsavant Date: January 28th, 2016 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for an insightful post. Couldn't quite manage everything on Admiral Bob's list, but a goodly number of them. I think I once defined "manly" as being equally able to change a diaper or fight a war (both require cleaning up s***), but perhaps that is simply the definition of competent adult.

(On the other hand, since medically I'm a specialist, perhaps I am little better than an insect.)

Edited at 2016-01-28 06:14 pm (UTC)
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: January 28th, 2016 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
jack of all trades, master of none.
2 comments or Leave a comment