Articles & SummariesArticles & Summaries

Form Object

Search Homer

This Week's Issue: Homer ponders our seeming obsession with instant gratification. He, of course, is a proponent of instant gratification in his world, but he seems to take a jaundiced view of the practice in Isabel's. A doggy double standard? Go figure!

"I want it now!"

Here we are in the mid-1980s, and just the other day I heard Isabel and Micah talking about "instant gratification." Isabel, who has long been opposed to owning a microwave oven, is seriously considering a new convection oven for Faded Glory's kitchen. Micah made the mistake of referring to her choice as "instant gratification," Of course, instant gratification is nothing new to me. As a dog, I live and thrive in a world of spontanaeity. Since dogs don't plan and strategize, almost anything that befalls us would qualify as "spontaneous." In my world of instant gratification, I don't have to think, plan, strategize, or work for my short-term goals.

Typical "Food Eyes"

I bark, I get let out; and my reward for "food eyes" is invariably an instant sharing of whatever food is up for grabs at the moment. For me, those delicious scraps falling from Louella's work table are totally spontaneous and represent instant gratification. When a tasty morsel of dough flies from Louella's biscuit cutter or pie crust crimper, I catch, I eat, and I enjoy; a totally serendipitous experience! No plan, no strategy, no effort! This, my friends, is instant gratification at it's best. So, then, is instant gratification an outgrowth of spontaneity? For me, YES!

I see instant gratification as the shortening of the 'gestation period' leading up to pleasure, so that pleasure (the main event) can take top billing in our pyramid of needs. Isabel used to be satisfied with the word "postpaid" when she would order something from Belks or LL Bean. These days, UPS, Fedex, and Emory Air Freight have worn a path to the Inn's front door, and waiting longer than a week for a delivery is unheard of. "I've paid for it, and I want it now!" is Isabel's current attitude as well as the attitude of many of today's consumers -- even way out here in the country.

I have heard guests from down near Atlanta talk about a new pizza company that delivers hot pizza right to your door. In greater Atlanta, all it takes is a phone call, and your pizza gets delivered by a teenage 'race car driver wannabe' with a purse. Don't forget to tip him, or he'll drive across your lawn. Remember, he can now obtain instant gratification, too.

I can understand the ongoing quest for a faster working pain reliever, a quick and effective laxative and other medications designed to fast-track relief from pain or discomfort, but in virtually every other venue, you folks seem to want results NOW. But, when some of you opt to pay five times the cost of regular airfare to fly the Concorde SST to London or Paris, don't you think you are carrying the concept of instant gratification a bit too far?

I won't name names, but some of my best human friends are growing a bit pudgy; okay, maybe fat is a better word. Micah was reading recently that millions of Americans spend billions of dollars annually on quick, or INSTANT weight loss drugs. Even though it takes you years of overeating and inactivity to put those pounds on, you will willingly spend megabucks in the hopes of immediately and effortlessly taking the weight off.

Even though the life span of the average American is increasing rapidly, discretionary use of time is not, and you still want more results even faster. What happened to the pleasure of anticipation? If Isabel is faced with a twenty minute wait for a table at her favorite restaurant, she will most likely opt for a lesser restaurant where there is no wait. Since when do we sacrifice quality for speed? I remember the day when Ray and Isabel actually enjoyed waiting in line at restaurants so that they could smell the food cooking, sip some wine, and kibbitz with fellow diners. So, what price are you willing to pay for "fast?"

I think there is a fine line between increased convenience and instant gratification. I think that convenience evolves as a natural and usually free outgrowth of need. One example might be the "ten items or less" line at the supermarket. The store gets it's money faster, and you get out faster; win, win. It just makes sense, and there is no extra cost to the store or the customer. Conversely, don't mention "instant grits" in our kitchens when you visit the Inn, or you may end up wearing them! Instant cake and pancake mixes will elicit a similar reaction with both Louella and Isabel if you want to wade into that cultural quagmire.

Maybe it's urban automobile gridlock, crowded doctors' offices, and waiting lines at restaurants, but 'delays" seem to be increasingly linked to stress. Here at the Inn, we know for a fact that it sometimes takes several hours for newly arrived guests to 'slow down' and become accustomed to the more leisurely pace and relaxation offered in our rustic country environment. The word "unwind" is used here often. We can actually see this transition happening in their eyes and on their faces.

In the next few months some of our more popular local restaurants are going to have to step aside to make room for the new McDonald's that has recently come our way at the corner of old Route 5. Fast food restaurants seem to be making a serious impact on our small-town culture. Local folks seem rather eager to embrace a fast food restaurant to compete with some of our more traditional restaurants that have faithfully served up traditional southern-cooked dinners over the past few decades. Maybe it's not fast-food that they want; maybe it's just "food faster," and they're willing to sacrifice time-honored quality to get it.

Maybe you need to put a price tag on your desire for instant gratification to better bring it into perspective. A few of our more progressive banks have ATMs up here, but Isabel says that they're all over the place when she goes to Atlanta or Chattanooga. Between these new ATMs and credit cards, folks who want things can now get things almost immediately and worry about the cost later. I don't think Isabel owns a single credit card, and as far as I know, she doesn't accept them at Faded Glory; cash and checks are just fine with her.

Times change, and so do people. As you rush headlong into the 21st century, remember that friendships take time, and they are still created the old fashioned way. Good meals are cooked and simmered for awhile, and time invested is amply rewarded. Your world appears to be looking for shortcuts, but be careful not to shortcut the true essence of life altogether. Kick back and try to take it easy; "a watched pot never boils."

Meanwhile, I'm headed back into the kitchen; from the sound of things a "dough storm" is starting up out there.

© 2010-2011 David Johnson, All Rights Reserved