We have had the man on the grassy knoll, Area 51, and even Kirstie not winning “Dancing with the Stars” this year. The world is rife with conspiracy theories that abound and persist. We are simply captivated by the thought that some secret event has occurred, it has somehow been veiled in a shroud of secrecy, and we are destined to discover it. However, the greatest conspiracy of all time was hatched on October 8, 1945. That was the exact date that Raytheon filed an US patent application for the first microwave oven!
By 1975, well over one million of these appliances had been sold in the United States alone. Today, ninety percent of our households own a microwave oven. Liberation came to the American home in the form of this newfangled technology. Suddenly we were able to warm up water and thaw meats in less and less time. Technology advanced, manufacturing methods became leaner, and this radiating cabinet was within the financial grasp of the ordinary masses.
A new industry was born, offering entire meals that could be cooked in minutes. Grocery store displays trumpeted the latest gourmet offerings that could be on the table in less than ten minutes. The traditional convection oven-based TV dinner went the way of the Dodo. Never would you have to worry about missing the start of your favorite television show because dinner was still in the oven. We were freed to gather around the tube with our foam-encased delicacies; gathering the family together and ignoring one another as we absorbed the mindless dribble coming over the airwaves.
In spite of the Norman Rockwell picture just painted; there is a darker and seamy side to the microwave oven. There is a conspiracy waiting to be revealed and I am just the person to blow the lid off of the entire thing! The microwave spelled out the eventual demise of that wonderful human trait called “patience!”
Once upon a time, we were thrilled to send correspondence overseas that would arrive in a week. In the early 1970’s, the advent of overnight delivery services allowed for foreign delivery within a few days. The fax machine went one better, allowing you to now send that contract to Paris in near real-time. It did not take long for the Internet to give birth to the concept of email, which delivered your attached documents in near instantaneous fashion. Unfortunately, delivery only occurred when somebody on the other end actually opened your attachment. Now we live with an entire generation that considers email too slow; opting out instead for the benefits of text messaging.
In all aspects of our lives, we expect immediate gratification. The thought of waiting for anything is no longer acceptable. We are compelled to push a single button or key and have all of our concerns magically melt away. There was a time when people would spend their precious days anticipating the results of their actions. There was a certain satisfaction in mulling the potential rewards of your efforts while you awaited the result. That nostalgic ritual has fallen by the wayside, vanquished by the legions of efficiency.
The end result of this technological onslaught has been a society of neurotics who fall to pieces if their latest Tweet is not responded to immediately or if their recent update does not receive over one hundred “likes” within the first hour of being posted. In short, we expect our intellectual investments to be ready for harvest right this instant.
This erosion of patience has spread to every aspect of our lives. We have become a “real-time society.” The side effect of this seemingly wonderful Utopia has been the extinction of patience. That in turn has spread through our entire bodies and the cancer has now attacked another vital function; introspection. In an age where everything is delivered to you in mere seconds, can there be time to reflect, to ponder, and to anticipate? Have we robbed ourselves of a precious gift that used to be called “soul-searching?” There is so much to be said for lying in tall grass and asking yourself, “what if?”
I would love to continue this illustration of the greatest conspiracy in the history of mankind. However, I can smell the alluring scent of popcorn coming down from the kitchen. No, not a bag in the microwave; the real stuff on the stove!