We live in a pretty amazing world. The changes I’ve seen in my lifetime are…well, I’ve seen a lot of changes.
Our first TV had a very small screen and a big cabinet that also included a radio and a record player. Every time Mom went through the room on Saturday morning she said “Scoot back away from the TV, you’re too close.” Every year, screens got bigger and brighter. Every year we still sat too close. Every year she still told us to scoot back.
The other day I walked through the Commons at the school where I work and noticed a student sitting at one of the tables, hunched over the table with both hands wrapped around his cellphone, watching some video on a screen no bigger than a 3” x 5” index card.
Speaking of phones, we had one phone in the house. When it rang, everyone yelled “Got it!” and ran. First one there got the honors of announcing the caller.
Eventually, we figured out how to run phone wire to other rooms in the house and put phones within reach in the bedroom, kitchen, even the bathroom.
Today, we’re all getting rid of “land line” phones for cell phones. No more phones in every room. Now we have one phone again—that we have to carry with us at all times. Or else it’s laying in the car cup holder when we’re in the kitchen. Or in our sweatshirt pocket by the back door when we’re in the bathroom. And when it rings we have to yell “Got it!” as we scramble to keep one of the youngsters from grabbing it and announcing to our boss where we are and what we are doing.
Years ago, when I stopped for gas on the way to my after-school job, one of the Mundy twins would pump it and also wash my windshield and check my oil. At least until I jokingly tooted the horn while he was under the hood. After that he thoughtfully unplugged the horn every time he checked the oil. That never got old!
When he the oil was topped off and the gas pumped, he would take my money and make change. I drove away happy. (I didn’t mind the horn bit, he was kinda cute.)
Today, when I get gas I have to sit in a line glaring at the guy who needs to approach the pump from a different way because his gas door is on the other side from mine. Once I get to the pump, I have to get out and do the pumping. If I don’t pay with a debit card that may or may not be “skimmed” when I use it, I have to go into the convenience store where I also buy two candy bars, a bag of chips, a hot dog and a huge cup of pop. The price I pay at the cash register reflects not only the gas I pumped, but the gas I’ll develop on the way home as I consume the junk I bought.
Speaking of cars, can you remember when we could call the neighbor’s nephew and tell him the car was making a funny noise and he’d tell us to bring it on over. He’d raise the hood and fiddle around for a few minutes. When he emerged with a smear of grease on his cheek, the car would start up and purr like a kitten. “What do I owe you?” you’d ask and he’d grin and say “How about a 6 pack of Bud?”
Today, you make an appointment two weeks out to leave the car with a mechanic all day so he can plug your car into a computer. He’ll present you with a list of several repairs that will cost you from $300 to $500 each to complete. “Which one of those repairs will quiet the noise I hear?” The mechanic shrugs. “I didn’t hear anything when I pulled it around to the bay.”
You drive away and turn the radio up real loud, problem solved.
Every year before school started, Mom took us to Ritter’s Shoe Store. One by one, we’d sit beside her as Mr. or Mrs. Ritter would gently take our ankle and guide our foot into the metal device that measured not only the length, but the width of our feet. From the back room they would fetch 4 or 5 boxes of shoes that would suit Mom as being cheap enough, yet tough enough to get us through the school year. Final approval went like this: Mr. or Mrs. Ritter approved the fit; Mom, the appearance and price; me—well, my opinion didn’t matter too much after that.
Today, kids get dragged into the nearest Big Box Store, plopped down in the floor and subjected to much tugging on and off of every conceivable style of shoe with strewing of boxes everywhere. There’s crying and wailing and whining on the part of the children, grumbling and ultimatums on the part of the parents until finally shoes and kids are loaded into a cart along with $70 worth of soda pop and corn chips.
I know, I know. All this makes me sound like an old fogey, but you know what? I love most of the improvements we’ve made over the years but I wouldn’t take a million dollars for those good times I had growing up.
Of course, if I could have a million dollars AND those good times…that would be better, right?