Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Angers of Ease

Those of us who fall in a certain age bracket can remember a time when electric hand dryers in public restrooms across the country bore a little metal plaque with instructions which ran something like this: "Electric hand dryers... dry hands more thoroughly... protect you from paper and towel litter, and the dangers of disease... Available at the touch of a button... Step 1, Push button. Step 2, Rub hands together gently beneath hot air vent... Step 3..."

For some reason this plaque was made of a soft metal which could easily be gouged and carved with any common implement such as a pocket knife or even a ballpoint pen. And so arose a minor piece of Americana, as electric hand dryers in public restrooms across the land came to bear much the same edited instructions on that little metal plaque: "Tric hand dryers... dry hands more roughly... protect you from ape and owl litter, and the angers of ease... Available at the ouch of a butt... Step 1, Push butt. Step 2, Rub gently... Step 4, wipe hands on pants."

Yes, "the angers of ease." Somehow that phrase stuck with me. It made me think of how people who've got it easier are so often the angriest. "The angers of ease." You know, energy that would've been constructively burned off a hundred years ago by going out and chopping firewood is expended today instead by writing angry letters to the editor, or hyperventilating about kids who don't wear bike helmets, or persecuting the wretches who smoke.

The generation that first got most of today's household appliances, produced angry radical feminism. The generation that first got almost everything in life easy, produced angry Sixties campus radicalism. Ah yes, "the angers of ease." A hundred years ago, they would've worked it off by going out back and chopping more firewood, so they wouldn't freeze to death come winter.

But nowadays we don't chop firewood anymore. We just discover new and hitherto unsuspected reasons to be angry. Perfume worn in public! Peanuts in the lunchroom! People who buy SUVs! Little kids who point their finger and say "Bang!" Oh, the inhumanity of it all! The easier we have it, the angrier we get. It's a growth industry, rather like discovering new and hitherto unsuspected planets orbiting distant stars.

"The angers of ease": a hundred years from now, when medical science has pushed the average human lifespan well up into the triple-digit range, no doubt the common man will have to launch World War III single-handed— atomic, chemical, and bathtub-biological— just to ward off the anomie and the boredom and the bottomless free-floating anger which come from having everything handed to him on a silver platter, and the silver platter itself handed to him on a self-replicating gold platter.

Yes, "the angers of ease." Gotta watch out for that "ape and owl litter." And them "tric hand dryers," too. And don't forget: "Step 4, wipe hands on pants."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the "Angers of Ease". I was really looking for the old World Dryer plaque and how it was modified to be funny. But you make a good point about the angers of ease. It's almost Fruedian that it comes out on a hand dryer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 1:02:00 PM  

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