On my second day of giving thanks for things less important than health, peace, food, shelter, love and safety but still worthy of a Thanksgiving nod, I’m feeling especially grateful for household appliances.
Perhaps I’m channeling my Russian peasant ancestors (assuming I had Russian peasant ancestors; I’m not entirely sure), but it still amazes me to look at all the conveniences at my fingertips and how effortlessly they all seem to function. They are like our household servants, except with no attitude (the very mention of which might suggest I’ve read too many Victorian novels). Not only do they ask so little in return; they don’t, as far as I know, talk about us behind our backs or even harbor their own opinions about us. (Though it’s amusing to imagine what the washing machine might mutter to the dryer when everyone is asleep: “If I have to deal with pee one more time…why they can’t just insist the kid keep wearing nighttime diapers is utterly beyond me. So she’s seven years old, so what? How would you like to have someone throw pee-soaked sheets into your midsection day after day?” And then the dryer might respond with something along the lines of “At least you don’t feel used. I’m loved only for my inner warmth. I know that boy claims his shirts are still damp even after I’ve done a comprehensive job of drying them just so he has an excuse to put them back in and get them nice and toasty right before he leaves for school.”
Well, whether they gossip about us or not, I love those appliances. I try to follow good energy practices as far as how and when and how often to run them all, but even taking that into account, it gives me such a feeling of good fortune to stack the last plate in the dishwasher, throw one more sock into the washing machine, adjust the thermostat down a degree or two and start the oven preheating and know that all of those appliances will do just what I’ve asked. Ice chunking down in the freezer; cookies baking; wrinkles in shirts placidly disappearing until the firm flat weight of the iron. I’m grateful to the Cuisinart for the way it minces onions and shreds cheese; I appreciate the toaster for transforming bagels from good to delicious. Meanwhile the phone brings me the voice of one friend and my computer the words of another. When I get back from a run, a warm shower removes every trace of sticky sweat.
Once or twice every winter we lose electricity for a few hours, sometimes longer. As an adult, I don’t find that situation cozy and romantic the way I did when I was a kid; I get frustrated at the things I can’t do, but I look forward to the elation that comes when everything suddenly hums back into action. At the same time, I feel a touch of that every day, even days without power outages, when the things I need to use seem to so effortlessly function. Or, in the rare times that they’re not – such as our refrigerator, which mysteriously refused to drop below a tepid 57 degrees earlier this week – that there are people available to fix them and capable of doing so.
Living off the grid is a very interesting concept, and one that we will probably all be learning more about in the next few years. I might be wise to try to become less dependent on my plugged-in things. But I don’t think it’s so much a matter of dependency as a matter of keen appreciation. I could wash my clothes by hand, sweep instead of vacuum, write letters instead of e-mail. But I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to. I appreciate all the little humming engines, motors and power sources that make my life so much easier than it might otherwise be.