Humans by their nature will seek things that make life easier and often do not consider the consequences. What is worse is that a lot of the convenience we seek is anything but and it guides the true cost to our health. Some of this cost is short term, others longer term and more difficult to ascertain (think forever chemicals).
One of my favorite examples of this is coffee. People are in the constant search for the perfect, fast and easy cup of coffee. I have in fact found the perfect cup of coffee. I was in Austria presenting on PostgreSQL at the time. We were at the hotel and the complimentary breakfast had a coffee maker. This wasn’t just some Mr. Coffee. This was an Italian job that had a touch screen and I was able to select anything from Espresso to Cappuccino to Americano. Let me just say, I never knew a machine to make such a perfect Cappuccino, let alone a Barista. Nowadays, you can find these machines at any quality truck stop (Pilot, Loves, Sheetz).
What is the cost of the perfect cup of coffee
There is definitely a material waste. These coffee makers are created from plastic, silicon and rare earth metals. They are computers with touch screens. They have the ability to heat and sense the perfect temperature and brew the perfect cup of joe. Then they break and if it can’t be fixed, it is just thrown away. They aren’t recycled, many of the parts aren’t recyclable. The company will just buy another one because: Humans seek the perfect cup of coffee. It is the very reason even many of my environmentalist (green) friends will say, “You can take my Keurig from my cold dead hands!”
The cost to society
These conveniences, while a simple luxury, create a vacuum within our communities. While I touch a few buttons to have a machine brew the perfect cup to satiate my need for caffeine, I am missing out on something far more important:. The Barista and human interaction.
The Barista is the individual taking my order, creating through art and skill my coffee and having small talk. It might be just a hello, or through time it may be a conversation about how school, work or the kids are. We might form a bond and find out that they are a cabinet maker on the side, perhaps they are retired and who knows, they may become friends. A person you look forward to seeing each morning, or Saturday or whatever your routine may be.
This is why I love it when the KOA has free coffee. It is terrible coffee and I can make better coffee using my pour over. However, it isn’t a better morning. I wouldn’t make the connection with the people that made the coffee. We meet many interesting people on the road, all of whom have a story to be heard or told. We listen to them and they listen to us. We learn about each other and a social bond forms. This bond causes us to return to the same KOA more than once and the people remember us. To be fair it is usually because of Intrepidus but that does not reduce the quality of the connection and the community being built.
Where to now
Next time you are staring at a screen, consider the implications. What is it that you are missing out on? When was the last time you reached out to someone, said thank you to a complete stranger, or paid it forward? There are so many of us that are missing connection.. Connection is where we find community, identity, and happiness. It is how we are able to become the best versions of ourselves and deal with the hardships that life throws at us. Convenience can be great – but it can also remove something we as humans deeply need. Choose your conveniences wisely.
Tl;dr; Life is about people.