Revisited: Change is in the air

Change is in the air. We see it in the seasons, we see it in the economy. We see it in the space refrigerator hurtling toward earth and threatening to extinguish all life, and we hear about it incessantly from the presidential candidates. Barack Obama calls for “change we can believe in” while John McCain insists on “change you can trust.” Even minor-party candidates have joined the bandwagon, with the United Two-Year-Olds candidate demanding “change my diaper now” and the leader of the Guys in the Next Cubicle Party asking “anybody have change for a twenty?”

In this atmosphere where basic transformations in the way we live our lives are ready to be considered on a wide-scale basis, I’d like to propose several ideas I’ve had knocking around in my head for a few years. These aren’t the conventional and admittedly important policies like energy and war that I’m talking about; these are even more fundamental topics that I feel have been long overlooked. While it’s probably too late for any of them to make it into a major-party platform – and I understand if the president-elect feels compelled to solve that whole end-of-capitalism thing first – I call on the new leader of the Free World to consider these issues.

  • We need a wholesale revolution in the closures on our clothing. Have you ever considered how long it takes to button your shirt as you get ready for work each morning? I have – it’s 11.4 seconds. Multiply this out to include every day of your work life, and it comes to something like 100,000 seconds, which would be a significant number of hours wasted if I remembered how to do long division. We need to replace shirt buttons with zippers, which would take a fraction of the time to close. We also need to eliminate zippers on our pants and instead rely on elastic waistbands, which would also let us get rid of belts. Needless to say, pointless accessories like hats, neckties, undershirts, scarves, sashes and any kind of jewelry or other ornamentation can simply be eliminated. Actually, I’d prefer we all wear one-piece grey jumpsuits that could be mass-produced and selected for wear each day without having to waste time considering the type of fashion statement that a partly cloudy Tuesday in April demands. I’m not sure whether the new president could make this happen by executive decree or whether he’d have to get Congressional approval. I’d suggest it be done by decree and then just dare the Supreme Court to challenge it (I doubt they would, since their robes suggest they’re already sympathetic to the concept).
  • I’d like to see four buttons installed in our foreheads that would activate the following mental states: sleep, stimulation, euphoria and relaxation. This one might be a little harder to accomplish than the fashion edict, but I’m confident a crash program undertaken jointly by the medical, pharmaceutical and button-making industries could bring such an innovation to our brows by 2015. (Remember, the button-makers are going to be looking for something new to do anyway). Once installed, you’d able to press the appropriate knob – each labeled with raised lettering of “S” for sleep, a slightly bigger “S” for stimulation, “E” for euphoria and “R” for relaxation, so there’d be no confusion — and find yourself ready to enjoy whatever altered state you’d prefer. Those who felt self-conscious about having buttons on their heads could either come up with an appropriately cloaking hairstyle (see any emo rock band for ideas) or could order the buttons in flesh-colored tones.
  • Though we failed in the U.S. to successfully adopt the metric system of weights and measures, we can actually become a world leader in a related area by introducing metric time. While the natural rhythms of astronomy make it difficult to fiddle with concepts like day, month and year, there’s no reason we can’t monkey around with parts of the day. I propose that instead of dividing the day into 24 hours, we opt for “cent-hours” (pronounced like “centaurs”) of 36 minutes a piece, making for an even 100 units per day. You’d no longer have the question of a.m. versus p.m., never wonder exactly what quarter-past meant, and could greatly simplify scheduling throughout the entire day. “Meet me at 43,” you could say to a prospective lunch companion. “The doctor has an opening at 72,” the appointment desk could report. Think how much confusion this would eliminate, once we figured out what the new clocks would look like.
  • I’d like to see piping installed in each home that would allow us to receive more options than just water for our drinking needs. I’m a big fan of Pepsi, for example, and get tired of lugging those two-liter bottles home, not to mention the extreme pricing fluctuations that make oil futures seem stable by comparison. Why can’t I just turn on a tap and have my favorite Pepsi product dispensed over the sink?
  • Possibly related (and not just by all the new ductwork that would have to be laid), I would like to see plumbing built into bedding that would allow you to relieve yourself in the middle of the night without getting out of bed. I, for one, am ready for my first good night’s sleep since my thirties. It could be done in an appropriately sanitary way, with an access plug that could be periodically removed and sanitized. The piping would travel from the surface of the bed, through the mattress, under the floor and ultimately intersect with your municipal sewage system. And shame on any of you who imagined some kind of waterbed concept when you first pictured this set-up in your mind. That would be gross.
  • People need to stop holding their noses when they smell something bad. The odor that your olfactory system is detecting is actually thousands of tiny atoms of flatulence or Arby’s dollar-menu roast beef sandwiches or whatever floating through the air and into your body. Your nose contains sticky secretions as well as dozens of small hairs that capture these atoms and prevent them from going any further into your system. If you’re holding your nose and instead breathing through your mouth, you have literally no defense against these disgusting particles unless you’re a baleen whale that filters its food orally or else have hair growing inside your cheeks. (And no presidential signing statements that interpret this regulation to allow simply holding your breath and walking quickly to another part of the room).
  • Finally, I’d like to see the introduction of a 99-cent coin. I know the dollar coin has been an abject failure, regardless of whether the image of Susan B. Anthony, a dead president, Sacagawea or Jenny McCarthy has been minted into the face. But think about how often the price you’re asked to pay for a product or service ends in zero-zero, and compare that to all the sale prices you see that come in just under a dollar. If this coin succeeded, we could then try the nine-tenths-of-a-cent piece that could be used to pay for gasoline purchases.

As I said at the beginning, change is in the air, and we need to be sure our new president and Congress recognize that reform is as important in the area of everyday habits as it is in larger realms.

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2 Responses to “Revisited: Change is in the air”

  1. to55er Says:

    Excellent ideas, in particular the 99 cent coin, and as a fiftysomething I can relate to the lack of a good night’s sleep. If only the body could be adapted to make full use of all food and liquid intake. Bathrooms would look so much tidier without the need for a toilet, and no more discussions regarding leaving the toilet seat up.

  2. Rocky Humbert Says:

    DavisW: If you button your shirt starting at the bottom and ending at the top, you can save 10-15% of the overall time required (as compared with starting at the top button and ending at the bottom button).

    Over the course of a lifetime, this is probably enough time saved to learn a foreign language.

    Please let me know if you try this approach — and experience this revelation…


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