There's a TV show on the Home and Garden Television channel called "I Want That!" One of their ads for the show (I'm paraphrasing here) announced that the products featured on that show were things that yesterday you didn't know existed but today you just have to own. That's not the exact wording, but you get the gist. It sounds like a situation where you aren't thinking about cake, don't care about cake particularly, but you see a photo of a cake on the front of a magazine and suddenly you want cake. If you have had cake before, this one promises to be more delicious than anything you've ever tasted. If you have never had cake before, well, then you deserve some cake, now that you see it and have awakened to what you have been missing. Oh, yes, the marketing teams have done their research.
I've watched the show a couple of times, and it is truly amazing the inventions they are creating these days. I can understand how the marketing executives came up with that catchy title. I can imagine viewers watching the program, saying, "Hey! That looks handy!" "Such a great idea!" "I could really use that!" and finally, of course, "I need that!" No matter that I have lived 51 years very nicely without "that," thank you very much. All of a sudden it is a priority. The "want" list gets smaller as we transfer items over to the "need" list.
Recently I was out with Ed running errands, and I suddenly realized I had left the cell phone at home. Horrors! I was actually going to be away from the house without the cell phone! I could not be contacted! No matter that we had an answering machine at home to take messages - I had a few seconds of panic anyway. Then Ed, the ever practical Ed, turned to me and said, "A few years ago you didn't even have a cell phone. You got along wonderfully without it. You could actually drive locally without having to be available to someone who wanted to talk to you." And then Ed with a gasp, eyes wide, said sarcastically, "And you actually survived!"
I called Mother last night and she said Matt had called her on his cell phone while he was riding in his car (just the passenger; not driving). In the ensuing conversation, she talked about her amazement that someone could call from his car. We talked about the people in her generation (she is 82 years old) and all the technological changes they have experienced in their lifetimes.
"I Want That" certainly understands this. According to the show's web site, they "...showcase innovations for the home that are so new they almost haven't happened yet." And with each new technological advancement, whatever you own has become obsolete. Haven't you heard? They are building bigger, better, more complicated, more intriguing, more powerful things than whatever you have now. Don't you want to be on the cutting edge of invention? Don't you want to be the envy of all your friends? Don't you want to be the first on the block to own one?
I started thinking about how many things our generation owns that we consider necessities - the very things that in previous generations were things that were luxuries - or things that had never even been imagined yet, even in their wildest dreams.
A friend of ours is trying to sell her house. It is a modest one, in downtown Ellsworth. It looks like a good price and is in a good neighborhood. She confessed to me why she thinks it hasn't sold. "It has only one bathroom," she stated sadly. One bathroom! I grew up in a house with 3 other people and we all shared one bathroom and managed fine. Now it's a necessity, even in modest homes, to have at least 1-1/2 bathrooms, preferably 2. This big house of ours has 2-1/2 baths. I imagine there are some families who won't even consider a house with less than 3 bathrooms.
I'm not trying to judge what is necessity and what is luxury for everyone. I wouldn't presume to. But it is helpful sometimes to stop and think just what is considered a necessity in our lives and why. Some inventions in my lifetime, like seat belts and child car seats, are truly for society's welfare. Others, though, seem to be just one more way for me to throw away money in that elusive search for contentment and fulfillment.