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Thanks for the Technologies : A Holiday Tribute to the Gadgets That Make Life a Movable and Mechanical Feast

November 18, 1990|MARGO KAUFMAN

THIS THANKSGIVING, after I give thanks for my health, my husband, my friends, my family and my home, I'm going to give thanks for the humble bits of high technology that make life a little easier.

I'm not talking about wonders like jets and cars or even slightly lesser marvels like dishwashers and computers and that masterpiece of human ingenuity--the telephone!--for which I am eternally grateful. I'm talking about smaller blessings, the MVPs of everyday life.

Take those little plastic trays of roach bait. The guys at Combat deserve the Nobel Prize. I no longer have to spray foul-smelling yet utterly ineffective pesticides into my kitchen cupboards, hoping that I haven't inadvertently poisoned my food. I don't have to contemplate dead--or worse, live--cockroaches. Instead, these persistent vermin, survivors of the catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs and every catastrophe since, eat the bait and scutter back to their sleazy corner to die.

"One of the few victories of humans over insects in history," says my husband, Duke. "And in our kitchen."

Meanwhile, in our bathroom, a minor engineering miracle helps keep our marriage intact. A while back, Duke complained, "Honey, you aren't a disciplined squeezer." My hackles rose instantly as he held the toothpaste and haughtily demonstrated the proper technique: squeezing from the bottom of the tube, rolling it up progressively. This from a man who thinks the bedroom floor is a clothes hamper.

Still, life is too short and I'm too grumpy in the morning to worry about a mangled tube of toothpaste. So come Thanksgiving, I'll say a prayer for the toothpaste pump.

"Don't forget the mute button and the fast-forward button on the TV remote control," says my friend Rob. "Those are two inventions that life wouldn't be the same without. I rank them up there with heart-lung machines and power steering."

Frankly, I wouldn't rank anything connected to a television set above automated teller machines, garage-door openers or the greatest boon to physical fitness since sneakers--the Sony Walkman. Of course, like many women, I don't control the clicker in my home.

"One of the few victories of humans over advertising in history," says Duke, who does. "And in our living room."

"I'm thankful for things like safety matches and fountain pens," my friend Doug says smugly. "I hate technology. I think it's ruining mankind." Mind you, this man has three computers, four printers and a fax modem. "Lately, I've been doing much more work with a pencil on a yellow pad," he informs me.

For the record, I'm not one of those gadget-toting technology fanatics who believes that status is the mother of invention. I don't own a tanning bed, a laser disc player, a travel Water Pik, a "painless" electric device that rips the hair out of your legs or even a microwave.

On the other hand, there are certain doohickeys that have really changed my life--like our Braun coffee maker. Even Duke, who is incredibly fussy about his java, concedes that it produces an acceptable cup. Thank God! His earlier brewing systems included a salvaged plastic filter precariously balanced on the rim of a wobbly thermos, and a lethal copper gizmo from Brazil, which had to be flipped over after being filled with boiling water. Since I dislike third-degree burns first thing in the morning, I'm deeply grateful to simply add coffee and cold water and flip a switch.

"I've become a recent convert to the electric blanket," my friend Nancy says. "I have a typical California house with one heater--in the living room. The bedroom is freezing." Still, she had doubts. "I know about the electromagnetic field. I know we're not supposed to sleep near electric wires. But I finally gave in and ran to Sears. And I've been completely happy ever since."

Of course, technology can't solve everything. I want to know why you can buy decent-fitting panty hose at any supermarket, but you can't find a pair of ultra-sheer stockings to wear with a garter belt that don't bag, sag, and /or pleat. Frankly, no woman ever got anything by wearing panty hose, but the effect of black-seamed stockings is diminished if your legs look as if they're sheathed in Viennese pouf shades.

Then there's lipstick. If they can put a nearsighted telescope in space, why can't they make lipstick stick? Cosmetic companies have had years of practice. Still, lipstick is like life--it looks perfect for 30 seconds and then it gets smudged.

Recently, I took this complaint to my favorite cosmetic counter. "You've got to powder your lips and line them," said a saleswoman whose makeup looked as if it had been tattooed. The powder was $20 and the liner, $13.50. But what the heck?

"You mean the lipstick will stay on even if I eat?" I asked incredulously.

"Well, not if you eat," said the Tattooed Lady. What about if I drink? "Maybe. If you use a straw." And what about kissing? "Are you kidding?" she exclaimed.

Oh, well, maybe next Thanksgiving.

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