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By Tom Waters
September 16 , 2004

Is it really difficult to slice cheese into geometrically pleasing chunks? Is it time consuming? I don't think so. And yet there must be a big market out there if the average consumer is willing to pay an extra buck fifty to get their cheese sliced in advance.

Now I'm not an American-basher by any means. Unlike Johnny Depp or any other notable celebrity who's moved out of the country and passed judgment on the bulk of us, I don't pick Western culture to shreds, but we're starting to get really, really lazy. I realized this last week while I was in the frozen food section of a super store doing my grocery shopping and pondering the existence of precut cheese cubes. The fact that they were there bothered me greatly. There must be a market for precut cheese cubes. Is it really difficult to slice cheese into geometrically pleasing chunks? Is it time consuming? I don't think so. And yet there must be a big market out there if the average consumer is willing to pay an extra buck fifty to get their cheese sliced in advance. It was a bit maddening, really. We're getting lackadaisical here when we can't cube our own cheese at home. We're slacking. If this continues, the opposable digits we use to slice our own cheese will be replaced with a machine six or seven hundred years from now and our genetic process will weed said digits out of our DNA chain.

I love cheese, I really do. That's why it troubled me to see it prepackaged in the laziest fashion possible. I've even eaten pre-cubed cheese at other people's houses. You may think that I'm running out of interesting things to write about, but bear with me. Microwave ovens have replaced regular ovens in a day to day cooking regimen. I'm almost completely and symbiotically dependent on my microwave. It was a sign of progress. Recently, I've gotten accustomed to my George Forman grill. Why heat up a hamburger on a pan when you'd just have to wash the pan and put it in the dishwasher? Now you can flash fry the thing, dump the grease bin, and move on with your life!

Some inventions are time savers and others just go to far, like peanut butter and jelly in one jar. That's disgusting. Is it overly tedious to grab two jars out of a cupboard and mix it's contents? Are people the world over collectively groaning because they can't bear to grab a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly during one meal preparation? What's become of us?

Maybe I never noticed it until I made steps to become self-reliant. Following this wheel of logic, we arrive at dishwasher cubes. I have little pumice sized stones that I drop into the reservoir for my washer. I used to use the powder stuff, but why bother now? It makes me weep to think about how much time it took to open the box, tilt the box of detergent towards the washer, and have to decide how much powder to put in. Now for a couple dollars more, I have a cube that I open up and drop in the washer. This is patently ridiculous.

Margarita mixes, bagged salads, and three step boxed casseroles. Making a drink is so time consuming, so why not just spend the extra five dollars and pour the whole thing out of one bottle? Who wants to go through the trouble of buying lettuce, carrots, and radishes when you can get it all in one bag with five hundred percent of your daily preservatives thrown in at no extra cost? Tired of going through the motions with your sheperd's pie? We'll do it for you! Dump the mix into a pan, add water and pre-cubed beef and you've got your very own beef stew! And it's microwave friendly! I think we're all sick of taking a can of soup out of the pantry, having to walk over to the can opener, open the damned thing, pour it into a bowl, and heat it. Now you just put a soup pod into the microwave, heat, eat, and throw it out! In another year, we'll have soup pods that self destruct after they're empty! It'll save you the long trip to the garbage can.

I don't think it's all food either. Clip-on ties. Stain-guarded pants. The fashion disaster of skorts. If you don't know how to tie a tie, ask someone to stick your head in a dishwasher and have them set it on "imbecile" for you. Tying a tie is not rocket science. Washing stains out of your khakis might be difficult, but is it that difficult? And skorts. At the risk of sounding like Jerry Seinfeild, it's not a skirt, it's not shorts! Don't wear them, ever. I'm glad that fanny packs aren't enjoying a heyday anywhere other than in Canada, so I'm hoping that skorts are over with as well.

It's bad enough that people are too lazy to read book-sized books on a regular basis. We'd rather power-scan fifteen different running banners on a cable channel with a cute anchor woman feeding us factoids in a happy, non-threatening manner. We'd rather hop onto and catch up on world events in 2.5 minutes and sign off. Or read a blurb-filled magazine with happy looking pull quotes and pretty pictures. Enough is enough! How much lazier can we get?! This is out of control!

Western culture is turning into a Kubrick science fiction film. Maybe I like going through the routines and less time-saving motions of doing things for myself, but it's good exercise. If we keep this shit up, people will be going terminally senile in their mid-30s because their minds are too goddamned idle. My grandfather used to wash his dishes by hand, if you can imagine such a thing. It was the one time out of the day that he had to think and turn the day's events over in his head. There's a Buddhist term for finding spiritual harmony in everyday functions and activities. I'm no Buddhist, but I like the concept. There are a million useless chores and tasks we go through everyday, but by injecting a little bit of joy into them, we elevate them to something more than mechanical boredom. Siddhana. That's it. You're not going to get that from Auto-opening your Pre-Sliced Monterey Jack Cubes and Insta-Melting them into your Turbo Soup and spilling them onto your stain guarded pants. For chrissakes.

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Tom "Generic Nickname" Waters