COLUMN: Digital dialogue that’s gone too far

Instead of actually talking to your lunch guest, you can be Tweeting your menu choice, texting your BFF, checking the weather in Bolivia...

Do you know what your washer/dryer is doing right now?

There’s an app for that.


Little did I know, until a friend enthused how she could monitor her laundry machines via her smartphone.

If they have issues, they’ll let her know.

Some models even let you control the action remotely.

Super. Another reason for people to be fixated on their phones.

Instead of actually talking to your lunch guest, you can be Tweeting your menu choice, texting your BFF, checking the weather in Bolivia, AND adjusting the fluff cycle on the dryer while receiving a cranky message from the washer that it has a loose button under the agitator.

Honestly, in this information-overloaded world, how much real-time interaction do we really need with our household appliances?

Is it not enough to be able to just throw clothes in the washing machine, add soap, push a button and walk away?

As far as I’m concerned, that’s still a vast improvement over earlier mechanized methods.

Back on the farm, my mother used to do her washing with one of those machines that had a wringer mounted above the tub. Other than the automatic agitation, it was a very hands-on operation. If she wanted to talk to the washer, she’d do it in person.

Once the laundry was washed, she had to pull the dripping wet items from the tub, and hand-feed them into the wringer. The water sluiced into a concrete laundry sink. One pass generally wasn’t enough, so she’d have to pile up the semi-squeezed laundry into a basket, and run it through a second time.

I recall at least one occasion where she also fed her fingers into that wringer. Now that was real-time. Fortunately, the manufacturer had thought of that potential, and built in an automatic release that would pop the rollers apart if the pressure exceeded a certain level … like that of human digits between them. Nevertheless, it was a painful and traumatic event.

Anyway, after the laundry was wrung, it was off to the dryer, which was a cable strung between pulleys on two poles outside, otherwise known as a clothesline. Also very manual.

Among my vivid childhood memories of the laundry process was an occasion when a particular washing day coincided with my father fertilizing the field next to the clothesline – with chicken manure.

When ma went out to gather in her nicely dried laundry, it had been deeply infused with the odour of ripe chicken dung.

Back into the washing machine went the entire batch.

Some heated words were directed toward the man on the tractor who narrowly avoided getting pinned up on the clothesline himself by the irate laundry lady.

I think there was some farming-versus-domestics policy established at that point to govern my father’s activities, since of course, there was no app to monitor what he was up to at any given point in time.

On the other hand, I’m certain my mother felt no need to know his moment by moment pursuits, other than when he was out playing with chicken poop.

There were many aspects of life for which we didn’t feel the need for constant updates.

I remain of that mindset today.

Refrigerator reporting in, sir!  All cool here!

Nice… punning kitchen appliances.

Boss? Teddy the Toilet here.

OK, don’t go there! (Hah, I can pun too.)

We surround ourselves with mega terra-bytes of information – enough to make one’s brain gag. No thanks to the digital dialogue with the domestic devices.

My appliances should just apply themselves, and I’ll do the same.

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