We are living in the best time in all of human history. Life can be hard, no doubt, but if we take a minute to look around, there are some amazing things that have changed our lives for the better. It’s not just the medical advancements. They are certainly high on my list, but here are three big things, in my opinion, that have improved our quality of life for which I am eternally grateful:
- Food Network*
- Wheels on luggage**
- Online shopping with home delivery
It’s simple, really. Buying stuff makes me feel better. And it doesn’t take a lot of money. It can just be a quick trip to Goodwill for a set of three cocktail glasses.***
Recently, my rather dull day was positively impacted by the home delivery of a fabric shaver. That afternoon I removed annoying lint balls from my throw pillows, and it was invigorating. I then moved to the couch pillows and felt something not unlike euphoria. $8.99 is a small price to pay for euphoria.
They say material things can’t bring happiness, but I say buy yourself a fabric shaver, and let’s see what happens to any minimalist philosophy you might’ve had. Winter is hard for many of us. The days are already short enough, and then one Saturday night in October, we’re told to move our clocks back, making the days even shorter so Benjamin Franklin can keep saving money on candle wax.****
Lucky for me, I live in the shadow of an Amazon distribution center. Chances are, you’re not far from one either. Tennessee has a bunch. Mount Juliet in Wilson county, where I hang my proverbial hat, is home to an 80-acre facility with 3.5 million square feet of warehouse space, employing more than 1,000 full time workers. There’s another Amazon facility just a few miles up the road in Lebanon. While the Mount Juliet facility is dedicated to shipping smaller products — in boxes no larger than 18 inches square — the one in Lebanon is about 1 million square feet and dedicated to larger products.
In news articles published this past December, it was noted that our Mount Juliet facility ranked fourth in the nation in size, just behind Tesla in Fremont, California, and Austin, Texas, and Boeing in Everett, Washington.
As of this writing, Amazon counts 185 distribution centers worldwide. This past October, the retail giant announced Tennessee’s most recent center in Alcoa, and another in Clarksville will open later this year, making a total of 20 centers statewide.*****
The first dilemma every online shopper has to face is what to do with all the cardboard. My garage has gotten so full of cardboard boxes, my grandkids built a fort out there over Christmas. I haven’t seen the 5-year-old in a couple of weeks. I’m sure he’s fine. They’re resilient, these kids. And I’m not sure, but I believe I have a second car out there somewhere. An ’85 Buick Skylark. I think it’s brown.ªº
Recently, during a postholiday bout feeling less than social, I cut-and-pasted my grocery list into an online app and had my weekly groceries delivered to my doorstep. Many of us did that out of necessity during the pandemic, but now it’s a service offered by every major grocery chain.
For those of us who love people but love them better in smaller doses, home grocery delivery is akin to a religious experience. These days I consider most anything that requires getting out of my bathrobe invasive and unneighborly.
Most days I feel good. I’m happy. I enjoy life. I’m grateful for all the people I have around me who love me and include me in their hearts.
For those grayer days, it’s nice to curl up under a blanket and browse new books, favorite authors, luxurious red pillow cases with just the right thread count, silky pajamas, a pocket watch that reminds me of my dad.
And a fabric shaver for $8.99 that somehow changed the course of my day.
Someone invented that! They saw a need for smooth, lint-free fabric, and they just made it. Another person grabbed it from a shelf and put it in a box just for me. Another neighbor picked up the box and drove it to my home. They did the same for several other neighbors on my street. These are all hardworking people who deserve our gratitude and recognition for the roles they play in making our lives a little easier, a little better in this ever-changing, modern age often filled with frustration and anxiety.
Money can’t buy happiness, it’s true. But it can buy stuff. And that stuff can make us smile.
People form a tribe around us, sometimes invisibly, and they can bring us things in a box that we can open, and it makes an ordinary day feel a little more like a birthday party. And we can do that for others to say we’re thinking of them. Sure, it’s just stuff. But when it’s gray out there — impossibly gray — isn’t it nice to open a box and smile?
*When America started watching Food Network, we started cooking better, and we started demanding better experiences at restaurants. Nashville in the 1990s, for instance, had some very good restaurants, but it was known mostly for its “meat-and-threes” (one meat, three vegetables) — a solid concept but not terribly adventurous. Now, Music City, like many other cities, is teeming with great cuisine from all around the world.
**Luggage has been around forever. We only started putting wheels on luggage in the 1970s, and it wasn’t widely adopted until the late ’90s. What took so long?
***You will rarely find a full set of glasses at Goodwill. Nice cocktail glasses are at Goodwill because somebody broke one and didn’t want to keep an unfinished set. But I’m good with odd numbers, so I’ll buy an incomplete set of glasses for $5, no problem. Chances are good that if you’ve toasted with me at my house, you were holding a Goodwill glass. And if there were four of us, somebody didn’t match.
****Stories vary, but daylight saving time is said to have come about in order to ration candles, which were quite pricey back in the day. News flash to The Powers That Be: Yankee Candles and others have frequent sales — and, hold on, this is an electric cooperative publication! The electric industry as a whole has quite successfully moved the candle from its previous utilitarian status to something we only see around bathtubs in Hallmark movies. Why are we still moving our clocks around? But that’s another story for another day.
***** This number might vary by publishing time because Amazon facilities seem to grow faster than a Gremlin splashed with water.ªªª
ªºEditor’s note: While it’s not mentioned in this article, we can say we know the author personally; we’ve been to his home, and he does, indeed, recycle his boxes. He is a responsible consumer, at least in that regard.
ªªª“Gremlins” is a Steven Spielberg film from 1984 in which alien creatures duplicate themselves exponentially when put in contact with water.ªªªª
ªªªªThese footnotes are getting annoyingly tedious. I think I’ll stop now.