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Life's a Mitch: Out of touch


Mitch Mackowiak is the Thresher Opinions Editor and a Lovett College senior

By Mitch Mackowiak     3/22/17 8:00am

I write with slick keys embedded in a slim aluminum-clad machine on a laminated plywood table. What’s missing? Survey your surroundings and note the un-smooth things commonly touched.

I fondly remember my slide-phone’s teeny raised-button keypad. Now, touching my mini 2001: Space Odyssey monolith, I notice my fingers seek the bumps where its protective case exposes outlets, the speaker and camera lens. To combat its relentless smoothness I smudge the surface with oily swirls escaping from dragged fingertips. In an emergency I find the nearest braille.

Fingers can starve in this slippery world. If the range of texture our fingers felt translated to what our mouth felt, we would eat most of our meals pureed.

Cooking delights the hands if you use few utensils, as does eating if you forgo flatware. Sport balls are wrapped with some of the best surfaces. While walking campus my hands tend to graze brickwork, skim over the hedge-tops, high-five a tree or muss the grass. They enjoy Coffeehouse cup wrappers and coarse-knit clothes.

One of the most frustrating museum policies is Do Not Touch. Art has become one of the last frontiers of texture experimentation. To see the subtle topography of paintings without touching takes great restraint.

Perhaps the visual appearance of texture satisfies most people, and they are in luck. But I want to delight my fingers with unknown or rare sensations like grabbing a fistful of spaghetti. Eyes enjoy both the simple smooth surface and texture, so why does one dominate our material culture? Smoothness belies an efficiency or aerodynamics. Perhaps we should accommodate a little inefficiency for our hands’ sake.

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