The Button

When I was younger, there were cars with push-button automatic transmissions. It was a bad idea, and it wasn’t long before the buttons disappeared and more traditional methods of changing gears returned. We know now that it was not a harbinger of a button-less future, but rather a blip on the path to our modern push-button society.

I read somewhere that beginning in the nineties, pushing the close button an elevator did nothing, but it didn’t stop me or others from pushing the button anyway, sometimes repeatedly. And when the door eventually closed, we felt the power of a prayer answered or, in my case, the laws of physics confirmed.

I’m an itinerant button pusher. I’ve pushed buttons on more than one continent. I not only push the close button in the elevator but in my impatience, I push the open button too. If there were a button for the sunrise and the sunset, I’d be pushing it as well.

And the button you push at the crosswalk, I’ve always wondered if it really worked or if the light changed on its own like the closing door on a modern elevator. I’ve never tested it and given my disposition never will.

If it works it should only take a single push, right? But, if you’re like me you push it at least twice, and if there is someone already there you can’t trust that they’ve pushed it even if you saw them do it. You walk past them, careful to avoid eye contact, you can almost hear them saying, “I’ve pushed it, you idiot, do you think I don’t know to push it.” But that doesn’t stop you; you push it again, twice.

A friend told me she was once standing at a crosswalk when a fellow arrived and before pushing the button, he said, “I know you’ve already pushed it but I can’t help myself.” Button pushing must be in our genes.

There are other buttons I push, and not always intentionally. When I push the volume button on the TV remote, it pushes my wife’s are-you-deaf button. And when the timer set to announce it’s time to remove the baked chicken from the oven is 20 or 30 seconds from sounding, I push the button to cancel it thereby insuring that we will eat sooner.

If she sees me near the stove, or for that matter if she sees me near anything with buttons, she warns me off. “You don’t want to push that button, do you?” she says. I look at her and our eyes meet. It’s test of wills. We’re like a couple of gunfighters in the old west. She says, “Go ahead, push it, make my day.” I back off. I always back off. She’s a crack shot and I know it.

We’d be better off without so many buttons. I’m willing to do my part; I can do without. We should start with my wife’s buttons.


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