Cumberland Times-News

July 13, 2013

What would we do without useless stuff?

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Americans are always patting themselves on the back(s?) because they’re so sensible, but there are a number of places where we could improve our performance. There is so much perfectly useless stuff around.

For instance — pillows. What in the world is the reason for all the pillows around these days. Look at any advertisement for sofas and beds and even easy chairs these days, and they teem with — pillows! I saw one just yesterday in which there were so many pillows piled on the sofa they were advertising that there was literally no room for a person to sit. You have to conclude that the sofa is there just to sell the pillows. (And at $50 apiece, that might be the key. )

I have seen ads for beds with pillows so stacked up that it must take 15 minutes of perfectly good sleep time just getting them off the bed and in a safe place so you don’t trip over them if you get up at night. For a drink of water, of course.

Anyway, what you do is, you take them all off and put them on the floor, sleep for 7-8 hours and then wake up, make the bed (because pillows all over an unmade bed just look silly) and put them all back on again. And what have they done in all that time to justify their existence? Not a thing! Being a pillow in one of the most useless callings I know of these days. And the ads for beds are actually tiring to look at — because you know that by the time you find a place on the floor for all the pillows stored on the bed, so you can crawl in, you’re too tired to crawl in. And too worn out to face getting up to put all those pillows back on the bed in the morning

I know, I know, it looks good, but does it really? Honestly? As I see it, pillows these days are a cancer of our time. Luckily, they can be removed without a major operation, but you do have to be careful. They reproduce in the night and indeed whenever you are out of the room, honest. I have seen the results and I do not take these things lightly. Beware of the pillow plot. They’re out to get us!

Okay, here’s another accepted phenomenon of our time that is totally useless stuff, and can even be physically destructive. I do not attack it lightly because I know that one of my two readers is young — and loves the stuff. I’m talking about current pop music (or at least a lot of it) which from the few times I come across it, (before I can turn it off) assaults my nerves and lacerates my brain. And our kids listen to this stuff day in and day out! Sorry to be old, but I consider that I am being moderate simply to call it useless stuff. A recent article in the Washington Post (which is usually fairly supportive of all the very latest trends in the youth culture) actually complained of “a decibel level [in modern music] that could stop a charging rhinoceros in its tracks.” It might be different if it had anything useful to say but mostly it doesn’t. (Often just the opposite.) I will leave it at that, and take my chances for being out of it all. And glad of it.

What I don’t understand is why the usual historical process seems not to be working in this case. Loud rock music has been going on for a long time, and the next step is always a reaction in the opposite direction. Now is the time for silent pop music, folks. But there has been no such reaction for the last 50 years — everything just keeps getting louder. Probably it is because all our young people have lost their hearing and have to have it that loud to hear it at all.

Here’s something else that recently turned useless on me, and that is umbrellas. I had two new ones (never used, mind you!) stowed in my car for emergencies and we’ve had a lot of those lately, what with all the rainstorms. Both of my umbrellas were delightful: one looked like a gorgeous stained glass window, and the other had little black doggies all over it — cute as a button. And I felt secure because I knew I always had them at the ready, whatever rainy happened.

Well, the time came several weeks ago, and I put up the beautiful one and got halfway from the car to the store when it suddenly collapsed around me — catching my hair in amongst the spokes or whatever they are. By the time I made it to the store I looked a wreck and the umbrella wasn’t looking too good either. But that’s OK. If I met anyone I knew I could pretend to be someone else, and I was safe, because I had another umbrella waiting, right? So I threw away the beautiful one, got out to the car during a lull in the storm, and a half hour later, when I needed it I confidently unfurled the doggie one. I have always had good experiences with dogs but not this time. Before I even got on my own two feet out the car door, this umbrella had — collapsed around my head. And for good measure, it was showering me all over my head and shoulders with little metal strips the size of bobby pins.

I found out I could get to the store and back without any umbrella at all, and look no worse for wear than the umbrellas made me. I have decided that umbrellas are part of this perfectly useless stuff we accumulate in this life, like pillows and rock music, and I can get along without any of it.

You live and you learn — if it’s worth the trouble.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears in the Times-News on alternate Sundays.