A magic undo button for life
March 26, 2012
by Ivan Raconteur

One of the dangers of living in the digital age is that we are spoiled by the ability to correct our mistakes by hitting the “undo” button.

If we are typing, we can simply hit the backspace key. If we make a change that we later regret, we can type command+Z or some other shortcut, and it is as if the infraction never happened.

We spend so much time interacting with computers and other electronic devices, that this ability to wipe out mistakes seems natural to us.

It wasn’t always like this.

Those of us who grew up in the age of typewriters – MANUAL typewriters, no less – are painfully aware of how important it once was to get things right the first time. It wasn’t enough to be fast in the bad old days; one had to be fast and accurate.

The danger in technological advances is that they can make us careless, or even sloppy, because it is so simple to correct and re-do things before we get to the final copy.

Still, despite the danger, I wouldn’t want to give up this quick-fix ability. In fact, I wish we could expand it into other areas of our lives.

For example, how many of us have said something that we regretted as soon as the words were out of our big yapper?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just hit a delete button, and go back to the time before we uttered whatever ignorant, hurtful, or thoughtless thing we just said? I would probably wear that button out, if it existed. I try to take time to think before I speak, and I still say stupid things much more often than I would like (as anyone who has spent time in my company well knows).

Having a delete button on the old pie hole would save a lot of embarrassment for us, and a great deal of pain, or sadness, or flat-out confusion on the part of our audience.

An undo command would be helpful in other areas of our lives, as well.

Suppose we had an “undo” feature on our vehicles. I am acquainted with people who, through no fault of their own, of course, have had the unfortunate experience of getting caught by a sudden unexpected tailwind which caused them to inadvertently drift over the posted speed limit at the exact moment they encountered a representative of the local constabulary, leading to an expensive donation to the public coffers.

I am sure people who have found themselves in that embarrassing situation would love to have an undo button on the dashboard by which they could transport themselves back over that last hill. This would allow them to moderate their speed before the long arm of the law reached out and touched them.

An undo button could also be a tremendous advantage to those on the dating scene.

I have sometimes experienced a sort of inexplicable physiological disturbance when I am in the presence of a member of the opposite sex, particularly one who is unattached.

This lack of synchronization between brain and body has, on some occasions in the past, led to acts of buffoonery well beyond the scope of normal behavior, even for me.

I can think of numerous instances during which I would have welcomed the opportunity to hit a magic undo button that would give me a second chance to make a first impression.

I haven’t been on a date in ages, but I can recall plenty of times in the deep, distant past when I wish I could have asked the young lady I was with to allow me to take a mulligan and start the date over.

A financial undo button might also be a good idea.

There have been times, when I have been totting up the old mountain of bills at the end of the month, when I have wished I had been more prudent in allocating my financial resources.

Having an undo button that could reset the clock (and wallet) to an earlier date might help us to handle things differently.

There are all sorts of cases where it would be nice to have a do-over option to correct our behavior.

I confess, in my younger days, to having awakened to the sensation of having moss on my tongue and a boisterous brass band playing a tune composed by the late John Philip Sousa somewhere behind my temples.

On those bleak mornings, I would gladly have availed myself of an undo button to go back in time to a point prior to when I consumed the last beaker of whatever adult beverage was sloshing against my back teeth.

Experience is an excellent teacher. Unfortunately, it generally arrives late.

If we had a magic undo button, we could work around that regrettable fact.

As it is, however, we can’t magically undo our mistakes, so we will have to carry on trying to get things right the first time.

When we stumble or fail, as we undoubtedly will, all we can do is learn from our mistakes, and make amends for them as best we can.

And, we should rejoice in the fact that we live in an age in which, at least on our electronic devices, we can eliminate some of our mis-steps with a single keystroke.

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