An Idiot in an Age of Specialization

Most of us have seen the entertaining video of the people going up the escalator when the escalator suddenly stops. The people just stand there wondering what to do.  I could have been one of those people today except I did not stand there helpless; I problem-solved.

I’m on a ski trip in Montana.  This morning, my electric toothbrush’s “charge me!” light came on. I had intentionally packed as lightly as I could, but in this case I packed too lightly.  Normally, I bring the travel case that came with the toothbrush.  But it’s bulky, so I decided to just bring the cable to connect my toothbrush to the USB port on my laptop.  What did not occur to me is that the toothbrush itself has no connection for the cable: you use the cable in conjunction with either the travel case or the charging stand, which was sitting on my dresser at home.

My first thought was to send an email to the 20+ people who are on this trip with me, as one of them must have the same toothbrush and would lend me their charger for a couple hours. However, I’ve just met most of these people, so I thought better of that solution. No need to broadcast what an idiot I am; they’ll figure that out soon enough, if they haven’t already.

My next thought was, “I can buy a toothbrush at the little store next door to the lodge. I’m sure that they must have a toothbrush.” Then I got even smarter and said to myself, “I’m in a hotel.  I bet if I call housekeeping, they will bring me a toothbrush and I won’t have to pay for it!”  And that’s what I did!

A few minutes later, a nice man from housekeeping brought me a simple toothbrush—just a handle and some bristles (made in China). As I was putting the toothbrush in a glass on the sink in my bathroom, it finally dawned on me that just because my electric toothbrush won’t vibrate on its own, there’s no reason I couldn’t have used it anyway.  One set of bristles on a handle is as good as another.

We do live in an age of specialization, and technology only amplifies its effects.  Oh, and if you haven’t seen the escalator video, here it is!


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