Common sense has its place, and indeed a valuable role to play, in our day-to-day existence.
By Michelle Martin
Published August 25, 2009
It has become a truism that we moderns live too far away from our extended families. One of the consequences of this is a loss of knowledge, of shared advice. Unlike our esteemed editor (see Ryan's sig file), I am of the opinion that common sense has its place, and indeed a valuable role to play, in our day-to-day existence.
Take hand washing, for example. Because we don't have our mothers around to cluck their tongues if they observe that we haven't taught our own children to wash up after using the toilet, we now have signs [PDF link] in every public restroom telling everyone to do so.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not knocking this. If there really are people in this city who don't, then there bloody well should be signs up reminding them about the spread of disease.
Semmelweiss must be rolling in his grave - come to think of it, he fought against common sense when he argued for hand washing in hospitals, so I'll concede to Ryan in that case.
It's not only public health departments that have taken over the preservation of received wisdom that used to come from the family and the community. Homemaking magazines do the same. How else to explain editors who wrap up ridiculously obvious tips and hand them to us like gifts from Solomon to the Queen of Sheba?
So we read among housekeeping tips that it's important to wipe those spills up right away, before they harden into a sticky mess that takes twice as long to scrub. And we read among budgeting tips that it's a really, really bad idea to buy lunch out all the time when you're trying to save money. Or that by wearing a sweater and slippers around the house in the winter time you can turn down the thermostat and help save energy.
There is some generational wisdom they can't adequately reproduce, though. I still haven't found a recipe that will walk me through making tea biscuits like the unbelievably flaky ones my late grandfather used to make, measured and mixed with his large, capable hands.
I'm sure I could read every Chatelaine magazine in every dentist's office from Dundas to Grimsby and I still wouldn't find it. Jack (that's what he preferred for us all to call him) is probably pleased with the fact that his biscuit recipe followed him to his grave.
Magazine advice on taming clutter can be the most bizarre. Aside from touting the most immediate solution (get rid of stuff!) like they're the first ones who've thought of it and they're waaaay smarter than my uneducated grandmother who lived through the Great Depression, clutter-busting authors breezily bounce from the self-evident (put your books on a shelf!) to the self-evident (store out-of-season clothes!).
Yes, I put myself three minutes behind schedule before I left for work so I could unbury this nugget of orderliness:
Store batteries in their original packaging in a drawer.
Jack would have loved that one.
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