Unnecessary Tools: a contradiction

By Sesha Kammula

Tool (noun):
1. a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task.
2. something (such as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession.

There’s a kitchen implement that is only used to slice avocados. It is named, aptly enough, an avocado slicer, and you can buy one for $5.99 on Amazon. It’s one of the latest in a string of supposedly useless tools. If you can cut an avocado open with a knife, why do you need a specific tool? It adds to clutter, it’s a waste of money, and it might not even work that well. With the minimalist trend nipping at our heels, who can justify buying a product whose singular purpose is to enable millennials never to buy houses?

Annika Bjerke Avo 2.png
Art by Annika Bjerke

On the other hand, who is to say that anyone has the power to pass judgement on this device? Who has the status and social capital to name themselves the decider? After all, every generation is defined by the tools they use.

The definition of tool does not include qualifiers or disclaimers. As long as it meets the above criteria, then a tool is a tool is a tool. Most would say the invention of new tools is innovative. Perhaps progressive. Maybe even revolutionary. So why is it that when tools emerge with only one purpose, they are ridiculed as “extra”? Who is to say that ultra-specific iterations of the knife are less useful than a multipurpose razor?

If an avocado slicer makes life easier, if it facilitates a common task, then it is no more extra to own than a set of ten different knives. Technology develops to make complex tasks more accessible to the general public and to save time (e.g. lawnmowers, dishwashers, and cell phones). Who’s to say that having a large machine that washes dishes in large batches rather than just washing them all by hand isn’t extra?

Picture yourself cutting into a ripe avocado. You pierce the slightly leathery skin and slice through the buttery fruit. The smooth pit stops your knife and you proceed to cut around it. You try to scoop the pit cleanly out of the fruit, but you end up losing some avocado along with the seed. You have ninety percent of a smushed avocado when your hand slips and you’re suddenly dripping blood on the counter and the floor. Someone drives you to the emergency room where you receive stitches and the recommendation that you be more careful next time.

Picture this same scene with an avocado slicer. It may not be faster, and it may only be marginally easier, but you eliminate the risk of needing to be rushed to the hospital. If you give in to the pressure of pop marketing, you can cleanly pit and slice your avocado, saving mental energy that could be better spent not buying diamonds or freeloading. Of course, most people aren’t rushed to the ER in the middle of slicing avocados, but that shouldn’t be the only reason to reject utensil evolution. Just because some people can get by without them doesn’t mean society as a whole needs to reject them. Entire populations are erased with the assumption that the only reason to use an avocado slicer is because someone is lazy and has money to burn. People who have trouble using knives for physical or mental reasons deserve access to the same goods as others, and hiding behind flimsy excuses is a terrible way to deny condescension and implicit ableism.

There is no question that an avocado slicer is a millennial tool. It may be used across every generation, but at its core the concept of an avocado slicer defines a generation of people trying to find a way to make the world work for them. Rather than accept life as it comes to them, millennials are constantly looking for ways to make their lives easier. Some call this lazy, but I call this progress.

Annika Bjerke.png
Art by Annika Bjerke

 

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