Everyday I witness a phenomena that I don’t understand, can’t explain, take for granted but enjoy immensely. We all are lucky enough to share this gift daily (and nightly).
It wasn’t always like this but for the past 100 years or so we have had the good fortune to live in a country where we enjoy this liberation, not only from drudgery but, it makes life downright pleasurable. Some of us had the luxury of growing up in a rural area, some were able to visit Grandpa’s farm when you were younger and can remember some of the differences from today.
“Mom, did you know they have to go to the bathroom outside? In another little building?” Of course Mom knew, she grew up there and got the hell out after high school graduation.
In the house it may not have been so modern as well. Grandma making breakfast with hot biscuits because she didn’t have a toaster or too many other conveniences. The breakfast was always good with homemade jam, maybe even homemade butter.
Then the revolution, the Rural Electrification Act, the REA, brought a miracle to many farm families. We got electricity in 1953, our house was old and the electrician, who was really just a handyman, wired our house with the wire stapled on the outside of the walls. It wasn’t neat but it was functional. My bedroom was upstairs, the ceiling was low so I didn’t have an overhead light. Two wall outlets, one for a bed light and one by a little table that I used for a desk with a lamp on it.
What a major transformation! I could read, look at the JC Whitney car accessory catalogs and see to get dressed without having to light a kerosene lamp. My folks started to modernize; my mother already had an old toaster, the kind where you open the side door, the bread flips over and you toast the second side. They bought an electric refrigerator (a ‘frig’, my Mom called it) and the gas one went out the door. We got an electric cream separator so my brother and I didn’t have to crank out the cream by hand any more. Little by little things changed for the better; a 5 tube Arvin radio on a little shelf between the kitchen and living room, an electric wringer type wash machine replaced the old one that ran on white gas.
When I went to work I bought my mother an electric percolator, then a deep fryer (’cause I loved French fries), then an electric skillet and a pop up toaster. We/she was living the high life, times were good at the Fourscores.
Now I wake up in the morning, maybe turn off the electric blanket or the ceiling fan, look at the electric clock, push the button on the coffee maker. The counter top is covered with appliances, I’ll try to remember without looking: first the refrig, then coffee grinder, coffee maker, air cooker, counter top oven, toaster, mixer. Probably missed something. Microwave is near the electric range. All day long is a parade downstairs to the pantry with another dozen or more appliances, woks, fry pans, slow cookers, rice cookers.
Too warm, turn on the AC, too cold, start a fire and the furnace fan will kick on automatically. Another refrig and freezer downstairs, ditto out in the garage. Drive up, push the remote and the garage door opens. Garage is full of electric power tools and I’m about as handy as a cub bear with his…well you get the idea.
Garden needs water? Throw the switch. Keep the electric fence going around the bees in case there is a bear in the neighborhood. Everything we do, every waking minute, is pushing a button or a switch and it’s a miracle. I have no idea where the power comes from, how it is generated or who keeps things humming but I’m grateful. On those rare occasions that the power goes off it’s deathly silent. All the daily work, from pumping the water to keeping me up at night on the computer costs about 6-7 bucks a day. What a bargain.
Miracle or magic? We are lucky to be living in these times, I wish my folks were around to enjoy it. When we see other places, Africa, Central America and other places less modern there is a reason and it’s not because of an energy shortage.
We’ve come a long ways, Baby! Now to keep the magic going!