We have just returned from a weekend at the Chicago condo that the son and daughter-in-law are renovating. The only thing that didn't beep, buzz, ring, glow, flash or stay continually connected to cyberspace was the husband and myself.
You ring a buzzer to get into the building. They flick the television to channel 3 to see who is in the lobby, then punch a code into a cell phone to open the door.
Immediately inside their front door is a recently installed digital thermostat that has a 5+1+1 and "special day" function. Each setting has four phases. You program one temperature for when you wake up, one for when you leave for work, one for when you get home, and one for when you go to sleep. You can program Monday through Friday (5 days) and weekends (+1+1).
The "special day" program our son says with a straight face, is for when your parents come.
Since they ripped off all the baseboards in order to pull the carpet and lay wood floors, they figured they might as well install a connection that allows them to browse movies stored on a laptop and then show them on the television with a single keystroke.
It's hard to imagine what would happen to civilization if someone actually had to stand up and physically push a button one of these days.
One of umpteen kitchen cabinets they ripped off the walls sits in the middle of the floor holding paint cans, brushes, rollers, joint compound, spackling, Sprite and Kashi cereal. The dining room is decorated in Power Tool Nuvo. There's a sofa somewhere in the living room, behind the ladders and between the sawhorses, but it's covered in plastic.
Big changes are happening here, and not just to the condo. The kid who used to drink out of the milk jug now uses coasters on the one piece of accessible furniture, a new coffee table his father-in-law helped him make.
The son who used to tramp through the kitchen with muddy tennis shoes, now wipes his dog's feet when he's been in wet grass. I'm not saying this transformation is like the seventh wonder of the world. It's more like the first or second.
The kid who sometimes told us he was "low energy" has knocked out a wall, lowered a ceiling, replaced light fixtures, and is putting two data ports in the kitchen island.
When I ask why they need two data ports in the kitchen island when the entire place has wi-fi, he explains the data ports are for appliances.
"Smart appliances," he says. "You can activate them with a cell phone or computer and they will begin cooking the food or preheating the oven while you're on your way home from work."
Like me and my 26-year-old GE range with dirty drip pans didn't know that.
Isn't that great?" he asks.
"Great," I say. "Do you have such a stove?"
"No, but maybe the people we'll sell this to someday will have one."
Oh, and did I know they now make a dishwasher that has a ring tone and projects a red light on the floor when the dishes are clean?
Unbelievable. Our son is now into kitchens. When he lived with us, the only time he was into kitchens was to eat.
All of which goes to prove the lure of technological bells and whistles. If you can program it, they will come.