Likewise in other parts of the world. The more vanished the civilization, the more respect it gets. The ancient Egyptians are credited for inventing written language and pyramids and the Sumerians beer. We think of these peoples as utterly gone, because from what we know of their history, they don’t seem much like the jihadi types that inhabit their old neighborhood now, who blow up ruins and behead you for drinking beer.
The equally ancient Hindu civilization gets no love. Why? They haven’t vanished, and every time you step out for a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, check into a motel or visit your proctologist, you are reminded of that. The Mayan civilization’s cred is so huge they nearly caused the end of the world a few years ago, something they couldn’t have achieved if they still existed, whereas the many Roman doomsayers of their late empire can’t even make the back pages of the National Enquirer. That is because everybody knows that the Romans quit ruling the world to become Italians and devote their lives to arguing with the French about who has better food.
The achievements of the ancients, creating sweeping empires, discovering new lands, and leaving us crumbly old stuff can be intimidating to the average American, most of whose best moment on any given day is throwing out those leftover breadsticks from the Olive Garden instead of dipping them in butter and having them for breakfast. This column is here to help. Below you’ll find a list of ten things the wisest Pharaoh or the most magical Inca couldn’t figure out if their civilization depended on it, but every twelve-year-old American knows like the back of his or her hand:
Putting the tray table in the upright and locked position.
Pressing ESC to exit full screen.
Any TV remote.
Spray cooking oil. Hell, spray anything.
How to open a bag of microwave popcorn without burning your fingertips. I mean, hand old Ramses a bag of the stuff right after the microwaves dings and watch him howl.
Tip 20% or your waitperson is going to tell everybody else in the restaurant that you're a jerk.
Anything about gluten.
Digital enhancement, Adobe Photoshop, or green screens.
Upskirt videos. Not invented by the ancients, in spite of the fact that many of them wore skirts.
What to do when your password is too weak.
I could go on and on. What did the ancients do with their time, anyway? Invented civilizations out of sheer boredom is the theory here.