I want a Toyota Sienna. It is my dream minivan, if I dare admit such a thing. A Toyota was not even on the radar screen when we bought our used Chrysler; but with a fourth child on the way, we needed to get something. Two rows of seating seemed heavenly, even if we weren’t always reliably “moving forward.”
My neighbor drives a Sienna. I have a bit of trouble with the tenth commandment when I see that gleaming vehicle. This same neighbor called me a few weeks ago and asked me to pick up her kids from school. No problemo. I rumbled over to the school, parked, and waited. Out they all came, with her kids running ahead of mine (no doubt they were excited about the opportunity to ride in a Chrysler), when they stopped at the door and just stood there . . . and stood there. After several seconds it dawned on me that they were waiting for me to open the door for them. With the automatic door opener. That our van does not have. I pulled my disjointed thoughts together and was about to roll the window down (well, not actually roll, we do have power windows; do we need a new expression for that?) when her oldest boy recognized our lack of automation and opened the door himself.
I should have recognized the problem more quickly. I’ve sat behind my neighbor in the mommy line of vans while we wait to pick up our kindergartners. Up goes her hand to that magic button on the ceiling, open goes the door, in bounces her daughter, and zhhhhm click click closes the door. Very slick. My little guy has to throw his entire body weight against our door to open or close it. When closing from the inside, he has learned to watch for the light to turn off so he knows it is completely shut. Sometimes it takes four or five tries. If he gets it closed on the first try, he is completely tickled with himself.
Life would definitely be easier with automatic doors. Automatic anythings are much appreciated when you are the mother of young children. Yet after that moment of awkwardness—me waiting for them to open the door and them waiting for me to open it, each of us wondering what was wrong with the other—I’ve wondered about the possible side effects of convenience saturation.
Some conveniences have evolved into necessities. When my microwave died for a week, I was appalled at myself. I could not function. How exactly did people heat up their leftovers or cook chicken nuggets back in the day? Apparently, they used a pan and stove or oven, as I did for that week. I learned something about food (it heats very nicely on the stove—no hot and cold spots; takes forever though), about myself (I can adjust to new—or should I say old?—routines), and about women who lived without microwaves (they washed a lot more pans). But what about my children, who are growing up in a very instant and convenient world? I feel they may be losing something—not their actual capacity to do for themselves, but their awareness of that capacity. How long will they wait for opportunities to come to them, or doors to open, before they reach out and grab, push, or pull on their own? Being one generation further removed from memories of “life before _________” (insert favorite gadget here), will they know what to do when inconvenience strikes?
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating tossing all microwaves and cell phones out the window as a declaration of mechanical independence. Modern conveniences are a delight, and doing without them for some martyr-like sense of accomplishment does not float my thoroughly modern boat. I’m just saying, I worry sometimes about the possibilities that might be lost in that space of time where my children wait for doors to open for them, and also the sense of entitlement that is sometimes generated by our automatic world.
I can hear my rocking chair calling to me, wherein I will sit and quaver, “When I was a kid, we had to open our own van doors”¦”
If I ever drive a Toyota Sienna, I may occasionally skip the button on the ceiling and see what happens.