Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Enough is Enough

As soon as I asked my employer whether or not she owned a cheese slicer, I felt foolish because I already knew the answer. "We may have one somewhere," she said, "but that isn't very Swiss." I puzzled over this for a while; why don't the people of Switzerland, a nation known both for its efficiency and love of cheese, embrace cheese slicers?

I believe that it is because they decided at one point that enough was enough. Let me explain. The Swiss had been cutting cheese with knives for centuries and I suppose the cheese slicer was not enough of a work saver to entice the Swiss to change their ways. A knife worked just as well, and for the Swiss, that was enough.

Likewise, I believe a similar mentality prevents the Swiss from purchasing disposable paper napkins en masse. Mickey and I don't eat a meal without paper napkins (1. I'm a mess and 2. cloth napkins will be on the wedding registry) and were initially surprised that the grocery stores do not carry this meal time must have. Maybe the Swiss are neater than we are or maybe meal time is sacred enough to deserve proper linens. In any case, the convenience of paper napkins is outweighed by the fact that cloth napkins are good enough for the Swiss.

Perhaps every culture can be defined by the moment at which it declares, 'enough.' For the Amish, the technology in use one hundred years ago was enough. For the Japanese and others, a simple futon, blanket, and pillow (as opposed to the bed frame, head board, box spring, mattress, sheets, etc. we use in the US) are enough for sleeping.

Engulfed in a culture of bigger, more, faster, Americans have trouble deciding when enough is enough. If you don't believe me I have two words for you, 'Hummer Limo.' This culture of excess negatively impacts the environment and our health. So, perhaps there is something to be said for the rejection of the cheese slicer, paper napkins and all else that is a little too convenient for our own good. I'll take a cue from the Swiss and try to live more simply, right after I eat a burger the size of my head. Yum.


debby said...

I finally remembered to check your blog! I thoroughly enjoy reading your stories. You are a wonderful writer. I look forward to keeping up with your adventures. My best to you and Mickey.


Nan said...

Enough will never be enough!!! I know where my exclamation point is.....This concept of bigger,better,more is indeed wasteful and environmentally unsound, however we do not have four weeks of vacation, two hour lunches and a workday so short as to not even require a lunch hour. American are driven to cram in as much as possible whenever possible. All negatives eagerly stipulated, however this "force" that is America allows for unlimited posssibilities. As to the cheese slicer, perhaps it is because one would not fit on a Swiss Army knife! All written toungue in cheek of course.
This is really Pauletee, not your mom.

Leah said...

I am finally checking your blog and am really happy to read about the engagement story and your observations. Your writing shows that you are really sensitive and perceptive. I am experiencing culture shock of my own as I talk to teachers here in Baltimore whose first graders read at a fourth grade level and whose students are all Caucasian. I am used to East Side kids, and when I tell my run-of-the-mill stories, I think I freak people out.
Best of luck with your adventures. I look forward to reading them and will try not to wait too long to respond.