Hay’s Daze: Is someone pushing your buttons?

  • Apr. 29, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Sometimes it’s odd when you realize something about yourself that you didn’t really know about yourself, until you realize it. And if that made sense to you, you’re probably in as much mental muddle as I usually am.

You see, I was out for bevvy-walk the other day, which is a stroll to any nearby establishment that serves beverages (because I figure if I’m going to walk more than a block or so I deserve a beverage). I came to a crosswalk with a set of traffic lights looming overhead. There was your typical button on a pole at the end of the sidewalk, so I walked up to it and pressed the button. Then I pressed it again. And again. And again.

Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever I come up to a traffic light button as a pedestrian I typically push it about 12 times. Somewhere in my tiny brain there is a strong belief that the more I press the button, the faster I will cause the traffic light to change and light up the little light bulb walking man in the box on the pole across the street so I can legally cross.

Thing is, as I was pressing the button I started thinking to myself: “You know what, self? Pressing this button is a very satisfying thing to do!” And after pressing it a few more times, it got me thinking some more: “And further to that, self — I realize that I like pressing any kind of button.” These are the kinds of things I think about when I should be thinking about important things like why are American voters such morons, what the heck is gravity and how do they get the caramel inside those little chocolate squares?

But just think how many buttons there are to push nowadays. There are buttons on TV remotes, on phones, on ATMs. In cars now, instead of turning a key, a button starts the engine. And — especially rewarding — good old fashioned doorbell buttons. Instant gratification, doorbell buttons. Press the button, you hear the chimes and moments later an annoyed person comes to the door. What fun. Remember “knock-a-door-ginger?!”

And of course, the mother of all buttons: the elevator. Have you ever pressed all the buttons in an elevator just because you like pressing buttons? I know I have. But of course you haven’t because you’re not perpetually immature like yours truly some people. But if you ever get the urge and nobody’s around, when the door opens and the elevator is empty, jump in, press all the buttons for every single floor, then leave the elevator and take the stairs. You might be out of breath, but you’ll be smiling.

Pressing buttons feels oddly satisfying. For most people a good push on a really good button makes them feel like they are causing something good or interesting or special to happen. It gives many of us a microscopic sense of control over a vast unfeeling sarcastic universe.

Except for the “close door” button in elevators. Guess what. They were actually disabled years ago. Not kidding. According to the National Elevator Industry Inc., legislation requires that an elevator door must stay open long enough for a person in a wheelchair or using a walking stick to “get comfortably in.” So “close door” elevator buttons are dummies. And so are we for pushing it twelve times. But I say go ahead and press that baby all you want, and enjoy it. Because you and I both know we don’t really have any control over the universe anyway.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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