I have decided to take a break from talking about emotions and feelings and spend a little time talking about what ‘once was’, in other words, ‘the good old days’. In order to do so, I’m going to venture back in time, not as far back as when humans still hadn’t yet discovered the miracle of ‘fire’, but to a more recent time in our past when cell phones and texting weren’t such an integral part of our daily experience. Does anyone still remember those days? A lot of you reading this probably have no idea what that must have been like because you grew up with cell phones and computers and ‘electronic’ mail being as much a part of your existence as corded phones (on landlines) and manual typewriters and ‘snail’ mail (letters actually written on paper that relied heavily on the U.S. Postal Service) were during my upbringing. If you brought up the technology that we have today when I was still in school, people would have either thought 1) you’re referencing a science fiction film you just watched at the drive-in theater or on your console TV, 2) you’re high as a kite, or 3) you’re totally bonkers.
I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Dang it! Despite my effort not to bring up emotions or feelings, there I just went!! Oh, well. I tried. Moving on. Anyway, what I had started to say is that I feel conflicted about the changes that have been brought about due to the introduction of all of this ‘technology’. Words that are so commonplace today had a whole new meaning when I was growing up. The only time I heard anyone refer to ‘Apps’, the abbreviation for ‘Applications’, was when I was in math or science class. In math, it related to an application of a formula. In science, it related to an application of a theory. Now? ‘Apps’ are everywhere! Without having the proper apps on your phone, your phone will function as little more than a giant ‘paper weight’. If you’re 20 years old or younger, I bet you’ve never heard of that term before. Paper weights were an item found on every desk in America. What purpose did they serve? Well, you remember ‘paper’ don’t you, that stuff made from trees that is converted into thin sheets?
Yes, ‘paper’! It’s that stuff that, up until recently, most data was recorded on. Well, not surprisingly, we used a lot of it back in the day. And the reason for ‘paper weights’? Imagine a person sitting at a desk, a teacher, for instance. The teacher has just finished collecting the last of the mid-term papers and has them in a nice, tidy stack on his/her desk. Now imagine this. A student enters the classroom through the outer door, leaving it ajar momentarily while collecting his/her textbook. While the door is ajar, a huge gust of wind blows into the classroom, heads right towards the teacher’s desk, and scatters the midterm papers in 30 different directions. Now do you understand the purpose of a ‘paper weight’? Sometimes they were actually quite beautiful, made from colored glass or ornate objects. And sometimes, people would simply use a large rock as it was just as effective and didn’t cost anything. You can find a lot of these ‘archaic’ gismos at your local thrift store, just like a lot of the stuff that was a regular part of the landscape when I was growing up.
I walk into a thrift store and it’s like taking a trip back in time. The phone we had in our home was the kind designed to teach patience. I think it was created by a sadist. It had a round, rotary dial and if you stuck your finger in the hole for a particular number and didn’t complete the rotation, you’d have to hang up and start all over again (or risk calling the wrong person). I often ‘happen upon’ them when I’m milling about in thrift stores. In our home, we had one rotary phone. It was located in the kitchen and was mounted to the wall just above the counter. Have you ever gone to a thrift store and noticed those outrageously long phone cords? That’s what we had attached to our phone. It had to be long enough to permit the user the ability to at least round the corner and possibly sit at the bottom of the stairs, an often futile attempt at having a private conversation. And if I wanted to use the phone during the day? I was allowed ‘five minutes’. Five minutes was all I ‘needed’ to get my point across. If I ever wanted to talk any longer than that, I’d have to ‘sneak’ a phone call after my parents went to bed.
When my parents weren’t home, there were no limits to our phone usage. Of course, we had the sense not to make long distance phone calls because that would have landed us in hot water; however, apart from that, there were no other restrictions. When we weren’t making prank calls, what I find most humorous is how much time we devoted to calling our local radio station. If we weren’t requesting the latest song from Steely Dan, Gerry Rafferty, or Supertramp, we were trying to win a contest. They were always having contests for the lamest stuff, but if we could get something for free, we weren’t going to turn our nose up at the chance. One of the most popular contests was the opportunity to win a Big-Mac. Yes, one Big-Mac from McDonalds! Not two or four or even a dozen, just one. We’d have the radio volume cranked all the way up and stand around like hungry vultures, waiting for the ‘prompt’. When the DJ would finally say, “Call now for a chance at a free Big-Mac,” you should have seen us hustle! If we were the first lucky ones to get through and could recite the Big-Mac jingle exactly like on the TV commercial, we’d win a free burger.
If they were to do something like that today? Oh, I just fact-checked ‘Google’ and I guess they still do! They’re still only awarding people one lousy Big Mac if they win the contest?! Good grief! Come on, McDonalds! You can do better than that. For people’s time, the least you can do is up the ante and make it a combo meal. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. And speaking of burgers, they didn’t have all of the burger ‘chains’ or ‘franchises’ that they do today. When I was a kid, there was only McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, and Herfy’s. There was no Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr, Five Guys and a Burger, In ‘n’ Out, Johnny Rockets, Whataburger or Culver’s. We had five places to choose from and five was plenty. And when did ‘curly fries’ enter the picture? There were fries alright, but nobody ever used the adjective ‘curly’ to describe them. It’s so hard to figure out where to even go these days because there are so many places to choose from. If I haven’t made up my mind by the time lunch hour rolls around, I scrap the whole idea. I like having the freedom to choose but sometimes it can be exceedingly overwhelming.
Something I’ve noticed and maybe you have, too? Where are all of the children? Have they all gone extinct? Did the Pied Piper show up and whisk them all away? Have we wiped them out like the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon? I don’t see them anymore. When I was a a kid, everyone that was still considered a ‘minor’ was outside. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, there was always some kind of activity taking place. When it was warm out, kids were everywhere. If you were anything like me, you were probably up in a tree. When I wasn’t up in a tree, I was walking around on a pair of homemade stilts that I fashioned out of scrap lumber, launching myself off a rope swing into a lake, running through the sprinkler in the front yard, riding my bike, swimming at the local pool or in a nearby lake, engaging in a ‘water balloon fight’ or playing any number of games with the other neighborhood kids. Games like Hide-n-Seek or Kick-the-Can could last for hours. At night, sometimes we’d lay on our backs in the grass and watch the stars. I could always spot the Big Dipper.
Another thing I would do, but would not recommend, was find ways to ‘get a rise’ out of people. Sometimes, just because we had nothing better to do, my brother Clover would set a large box on a neighbor’s porch, have me climb in, tape the top of the box shut, ring the doorbell, and run away. I got the biggest kick out of this ‘stunt’ because the expressions on people’s faces were priceless. After hauling the box inside, the tape would be removed and I would pop out and yell, “Surprise!!!” Clearly, I grew up in a much more innocent time. The way things are today, it probably wouldn’t be advisable to try this stunt. And speaking of kids, another thing I no longer see is kids serving as crossing guards or cafeteria assistants as they often did when I was in elementary school. I actually did both. Before and/or after school, I’d put on my little reflective vest, stand at the corner and hold out my flag to allow other kids to cross when it was safe. During lunch, I stood on kitchen side of the cafeteria counter and scooped up mashed potatoes and green beans to place on the trays. Does that still even happen?
Clearly, times have changed. For the better? That’s debatable. I worry how much technology has ‘distanced’ us from one another. In many ways it has brought us closer together, but it many other ways, it has driven us apart. People just don’t interact like they used to. When a typical family would go out to dinner when I was younger, everyone was ‘engaged’. Now? Most people hardly even make eye contact, let alone have a conversation. Everyone’s so consumed with ‘checking their phones’ that they rarely engage. What is that all about anyway? It troubles me but there’s really nothing I can do about it. However, I will say something if it personally involves me. If my husband or my kids keep picking up their phones when we’re out enjoying a meal, I do speak up. I just think there’s a time and a place for certain things and when I’m forking out a fair amount of money for a nice meal with my family, I think commenting on the latest Instagram posts or watching amusing kitten videos on Facebook or YouTube or continually texting back and forth with friends is not appropriate.
I know, I can be an old stick in the mud. I apologize. I just have a hard time dealing with all of the continual change. My biggest beef is how short the lifespan of a cellphone is. I’ve got one that is 3 or 4 years old and is pristine but it can only support one ‘App’ at a time. I paid hundreds of dollars for it and now, unless I routinely delete all of my incoming texts, voicemail messages and photos, I am constantly reminded that I am ‘running out of space’. Ack! In my wildest dreams, I never imagined having to pay hundreds of dollars for a phone. For a couch? Sure! But for a phone that I’ll be forced to replace in 2-3 years because it will become obsolete? Give me a break! As I stated earlier, if I’d have mentioned this to someone when I was still in school, the chance that anyone would have believed me would have been slim to none. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few things that I appreciate. Robot vacuum? I’ll take it! Navigation system for my car? Yes, please! I’ll even admit there are benefits to having a cell phone. The main thing about cellphones that I am grateful for? Not ever having to use another payphone, yet another reminder of ‘the good old days’.
Do any of you remember ‘payphones’? It was such a complicated affair! First, you had to drive all over town on the lookout for one. Once you found one, you had to dig furiously through your purse or car ashtray (where many people stored their coins) for the correct change. Once you had adequate change to make a call, you then had to exit your vehicle and walk over to the payphone ‘stall’ as you glanced around nervously to ensure there were no ‘shady’ characters lurking in the vicinity. Next, you had to page through an enormous phone book (physically attached at the spine so people couldn’t steal it) to try and obtain the number you were looking for. If you were fortunate, someone hadn’t beat you to it and already torn the page out. The worst part? Actually making a call. After lifting the receiver off the handle, putting it up to your ear, inserting the correct change, and pushing the filthy buttons, you had to go to great lengths to prevent the mouth piece from ever making contact with your face and/or lips. Yuck! Gross! I’ll keep my cell phone, muchas gracias.
Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. I love to write and I try to infuse humor into everything I do, especially when I write. And I hope I was able to make you smile, especially if you had a really crappy day. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.