I wade a lot in the ocean that is reading and play with the pebbles on its shores . Sometimes, I find gems. Carried in the torrent that is today’s life, not everybody has the time to play with pebbles. I share those gems with you, here, to save you the time of searching in the pebbles. These gems have many colors. These colors are sometimes of tears, sometimes awe, sometimes science, sometimes medicine, sometimes love, sometimes introspection, sometimes smiles, sometimes anything.
Here is such a gem, shared with you. It brings smiles.
One Giant Step Sideways
By Will Stanton
My Grandfather Willets had been dead for some time when America put a man on the moon. I remember thinking what a shame he had to miss it. Not that he would have cared about reaching the moon-but it beautifully illustrated the central question of his life: if mankind is so good at doing hard stuff, how come it’s so bad at doing easy stuff?
He had this wonderful old car. Then the family somehow persuaded him to turn it in for a new one, all-automatic. In a way, the new car was a blessing, because it provided Grandpa with daily proof of his favourite theory: all changes are for the worse. The automatic windows began to stick after the second month. The ones on the old car worked perfectly after 20 years.
You stepped up into the old car with dignity and pride. You didn’t have to crouch down, crack your elbow and get your hat knocked off. The old car had high wheels with plenty of clearance-handy for taking a short cut across a meadow. With the new one, even a small boulder that the old car could have cleared like a gazelle was enough to tear out the whole exhaust system.
I spent quite a bit of time with Grandfather Willets when I was a boy, and there are those who say my somewhat sceptical and distrustful nature comes from that association. Nonsense. The old man simply happened to be right. From him I learnt:
1. The improved model is rarely as good as the thing improved.
2. For every person who does something right, there’s another person ready to talk him out of it.
3. Nothing is so simple it can’t be bungled.
Take the coaster-the kind you put a glass on. A perfectly good one can be made from a cardboard box by a first standard pupil. The improved one I’m talking about was a kind of plastic saucer with comical sayings on it. Someone gave us a set. It was a sultry afternoon and I was enjoying a tall, frosty drink on the porch. As the condensation trickled down the glass, it gradually filled the coaster. This caused the coaster to stick to the glass (unnoticed by me.) so when I tilted it up for the last swallow, the ice water in the coaster emptied into my lap. Some improvement !
I guess not many people would remember the old-fashioned toaster with the door on either side where you put the bread. Any time you wanted, you could open it and see how the toast was browning. Now our family has a modern, four slice pop-up, the kind cartoonists love to show hurling toast all over the kitchen. Ours is just the opposite. It gives up the toast grudgingly if at all.
Milk used to come in bottles. The cream was on top so you could pour it off and use it for coffee or strawberries. The milk was left for the children. The cream was loaded with calories and cholesterol, but we didn’t care; we thought stuff like that was good for you. Then they began to homogenize the milk, and the calories and cholesterol got mixed together for everybody equally, and not just the strawberry eaters.
Nowadays they put out the milk in cardboard cartons-the kind where you pull out the top to form a spout. In theory. Actually they have the cardboard glued together so the spout usually tears along the side. When you pick up a glass to pour your child some milk, most of it goes down your sleeve. One giant step sideways.
Not long ago Roy and Sammy got into a fight over the last jelly doughnut. I thought I’d give each one half and they‘d both be satisfied. Ha-ha. Sammy got the half with all the jelly in it, so I had to scoop out the other half and fill it with jelly from a jar.
And for a moment there, it seemed to me I could hear my Grandpa Willets:-
“What the devil is this?” he was demanding in his rasping, querulous voice. “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t get the jelly in the middle of the doughnut!”