We live in remarkable times, do we not? Technology has got things moving so fast (and, on occasion, efficiently) that it’s dazzling to experience. You can be sitting in your podiatrist’s waiting room while conducting detailed research on ancient Pig Latin at the same time—far faster, in fact, than it would take to do so in person at the International Institute for Detailed Ancient Pig Latin Research (IIDAPLR).
Yesterday I ordered some shirts on line and, shortly thereafter, got an email from the company’s customer service department apologizing because they weren’t able to ship one of the items right away, meaning it might take as long as a week to get to me. My God. A whole week. Why, back when I was just a little curmudgeon, my parents would order items from the Sears & Roebuck catalogue using a mail-in form, and we’d wait for what seemed like months for delivery, without complaint. The anticipation was glorious.
I’m reminded of a joke I once heard Joan Rivers (ask your parents) tell about Elizabeth Taylor (ask your grandparents), during a time that Liz had been putting on a few pounds: “She’s the only person I know who can stand in front of a microwave and yell ‘hurry!’” And it was funny, you see, because microwaves were new and considered stunningly fast. (Many of us believed them to be suspiciously fast. Some of us still do.) Nowadays, such illogical speeds are expected.
And that brings the Curmudgeon to the topic at hand: Amazon. Look, I hate to be the one to point this out, but something is very wrong there. Items ordered from this online mother of all megastores are now arriving . . . too quickly.
It isn’t that I like waiting longer times for things. Certainly not; impatience is one of my strongest traits. It’s just that I get extremely uneasy when delivery times violate the laws of time and space. How is it that I can order something from East Peru and have it the next afternoon? That simply isn’t right. I tell you, friends, something awfully nefarious is afoot and I am gravely, gravely concerned.
Words and ideas may fly through cyberspace instantaneously, but hardcover books do not. Household goods do not. Appliances do not. Such physical items can’t simply materialize. They must be transported, which requires at least some amount of time. But delivery speeds offered by Amazon defy such limiting scientific requirements. Having just now checked their site, I've learned that the list of things they can deliver to me today includes a state-of-the-art steam iron, a calming tabletop Zen fountain, a fifteen-foot industrial ladder, and a framed print of Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” That's today. If I can make it until tomorrow, I can get a lawnmower delivered. It’s simply unnatural.
How do they do it? Well, the Curmudgeon is no expert on these things, but I do have some theories. It may be that Amazon has tunnels that run under the whole of earth, with supersonic high-speed rockets that shoot the various boxes from the home store (located in the earth’s core) to their various destinations, stopping only to be marked with fake postage so no one's the wiser. Or maybe there are storehouses—invisible, of course—each stocked with one hundred of everything, located in every neighborhood worldwide. I’ve seen The Matrix. I know how these things work.
I believe it’s also possible that the overlords of Amazon have secretly conquered time travel . . . or mass mind-reading . . . or some kind of dark magic that allows them to deliver things unreasonably fast by summoning supernatural forces.
Regardless of how they’re doing it, I worry that, like Hansel and Gretel, we’ve gotten ourselves into a tantalizing arrangement we’ll regret later. Have you ever heard someone say they needed something “yesterday”? Well . . . I fear the day is coming when you’ll be able to literally order from Amazon today and have it delivered the day before you ordered it. Maybe then the world will believe me that there’s evil at work. Of course, by then it will be too late.
Eerily, it will also be too early.