From Manual To Automatic...and Back Again

From Manual To Automatic...and Back Again

Abby Stone
Jul 26, 2012

In the morning I make coffee: boil water, measure out the grounds into the French press, heat up milk on the stove while waiting for the coffee to steep. While it may be a tedious process, it's become a quiet ritual during which I mull over the upcoming day. Not this morning. This morning, I pressed a few buttons and, lights, camera, action, in moments a machine presented me with a fully realized foaming coffee.

Life at the home where I'm house sitting is fully automated. There are kitchen appliances I don't have — microwaves and coffee machines — and ones that I do have but that are a few years behind — I don't have a refrigerator that automatically dispenses ice cubes — and lights that go on automatically. While I could easily get used to this life (yes, that is where I sit while I drink that insta-coffee), there's a connection to process that gets lost when everything is automated or made ultra-convenient.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewing a store owner and the old skool record player she had kept skipping. I showed her how to balance the arm and suggested she place a dime on the arm's head to add enough weight to the needle that it wouldn't bounce out of the record's grooves. It connected her to the whole process of recorded music in a way that she hadn't realized. It's the impulse behind our connection with artisinal and hand-crafted things.

I'm not suggesting we go back to manual everything; that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Touch of a button, pre-chopped, ready-made convenience is an amazing thing and I'm grateful for every easy, lazy moment of it. That gift, that time that it affords me to do other things is something I'm very thankful for and not something that I take lightly. Of course, that's not true. Often I do take it lightly. This morning, however, with the extra few minutes that coffee machine gave my morning, I said a quick thank you to the universe.

What am I going to do with all this time?

(Image: Abby Stone)

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