August 18, 2009
It was the morning of a summer day in 1981. I was 10 years old and I vividly remember the day. The day the Sears delivery truck dropped off the big brown box that was going to change our lives forever. This device was so new, innovative and ahead of its time that houses weren’t structurally prepared for them. We had to remodel a portion of our kitchen in order for it to fit and operate properly. I figured if my parents were willing to rip a hole in our wall for this device then I better pay attention and start taking notes. This was the appliance that was not only going to change our lives, but it was going to change the world. I of course am talking about the microwave oven.
“Do you mean I am going to be able to cook a hot dog in 2 minutes rather then 5?“, I asked my Mom. “Yes Michael” she said with a huge smile on her face. “Wow!, a hot dog in 2 minutes” I exclaimed in jubilation. “What else can it cook quickly?“, I said to my Mom so excited now that I almost pissed myself. “Be patient Michael” she said. “After it is installed we will read the instructions and figure out all of the great things it can do.“ The installer arrived later that day and installed our microwave in what seemed at the time to be very quick only to realize later in life that we actually had the slowest microwave installer in the history of man and he should have been fired on the spot. Unfortunately when he finished it was late in the day so we decided to wait until the next day to read the instructions and start the time saving portion of our lives. We spent the entire next day reading the instructions, cooking and heating up items in our new microwave. The amount of time we saved spending the entire day finding new ways to save time was simply obscene. There was no doubt in my young mind that this was going to be the greatest invention since Pong & beef jerky chew.
Little did I know that this device would indeed change our lives and the world around us. This was no pet rock or Cabbage Patch Kid. This wasn’t a fad or a trend. The microwave was here to stay and little did the inventors or the world know that it would single handedly change the patience tolerance levels and the attention spans of any human that came in contact with this wonderful time saving invention.
Looking back on that time it is clear that the paradigm had shifted. The microwave made us all realize or more importantly made us believe that we were wasting copious amounts of time heating up food in ovens and on stovetops. The benchmark for speed, and for life for that matter was now the microwave oven. The microwave made hot dogs taste like shit, but it did so 3 minutes quicker than the tasty hot dog method. Those 3 minutes were very critical because they allowed us to get back to the TV that we couldn’t pause and sit through the commercials that we couldn‘t fast forward through. Thank you microwave! Yes that’s right generation X-Box, we had to watch non Superbowl commercials. Commercials telling us which Ron Popeil piece of shit product we absolutely had to have or our lives were being wasted. Quality, integrity and patience had officially been replaced by speed & convenience. The human race hasn’t been the same since.
You don’t believe me? Look around you. Try sitting at a traffic light that just turned green for more than 2 seconds without getting an earful of horns. With the exception of the ride lines at Disneyland try standing in ANY line for more than 5 minutes and count how many people start to complain around you. Heck I used to complain that our DVR didn’t fast forward fast enough. Seriously. I complained that our DVR didn’t fast forward fast enough. That was until they created a 4th arrow of hyper speed fast forward which I am sure will only be fast enough for a short time.
So we have a generation where “now” is often not fast enough. Fast is the new slow and even when it’s fast we still think it could have been faster if the minimum wage guy working the drive-thru pick-up window hadn’t been flirting via the headset with the girl at the “pay here” window.
This brings me to Twitter. So we are living in a world where fast isn’t fast enough and just in case we are talking too much or not fast enough now we have to tell the world what we are doing in 140 characters or less. Just like the microwave Twitter has it’s place and is a great new tool in the information now age. However, will our intolerance for waiting combined with having only 140 characters to make our point cause our heads to explode when someone doesn’t talk fast enough or even worse tries to make a point verbally using more than 140 characters? For better or for worse, is Twitter this generations microwave oven?