Before the 20th century, travel was slow: months on a boat or on roads. Travel was the hardships of migration for most, formative fun for the well off, and adventure for novel heroes. Then came a century of wars and population displacement. But between those wars, a few strange things happened. The 1930s saw the invention of paid vacation, and thus, mass tourism.
Zeal and the useless job
March 18, 2009
My only problem is that I don’t need their plastic bags. In the past years I’ve trained myself to always go groceries-shopping with a couple of large cotton bags, thus trying not to waste plastic just to carry carrots and crumpets for a few blocks. My cash-register experience generally consists of an awkward dance, both trying not to be rude at the cashier but be fast enough to grab my veggies before they get shoved in bags by the Polyethylene Pam of the day.
A few weeks ago, my shopping basket included a rather voluminous pack of kitchen towels, the kind that would definitely not fit in my usual bags, and that I would simply lug home in my arms.
Aware of an opportunity to show his talent, the packing kid grabbed the pack, squeezed it with great pains into a plastic bag, and since it stuck out in an odd fashion, proceeded to use another three bags to make handles. A true work of art. A totally useless work of art: as I noticed, the pack of paper towels already came with a flimsy, but adequate, handle.
What would I tell the kid? Thank him for his zeal or tell him off for wasting his life all the way to the landfill? I smiled and left, nagged all the way home by the thought that this is what it’s like to put one’s heart into an utterly pointless, harmful even, task. Did he even realise it? Would I, in his place? Would I, if I were working in a job or industry that caused more harm than good, walk away or put all my heart into useless masterpieces?
On the occasion of the first “Ada Lovelace Day”, which aims to highlight remarkable women in technology as potential role models for present and future generations of women, I started looking for the epitome of the “Renaissance Woman”.