Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Those Were the Days



Lately I've been finding myself thinking about and talking about how things used to be.  The olden days.  But not the Pilgrims or founding fathers old-old olden days.  I'm talking about the much-less-old olden days.  My personal olden days.  And these aren't really olden at all.  They are more like the very recently retro days.  It's a stretch, I know. But it's my story, so you're stuck.

The spectre of olden days keeps showing up because we are in the midst of several milestone activities, many of which involve the end of days the end of high school.  First came Senior Pictures.  Oh my, this entire procedure has changed a great deal since I had my pictures taken in the olden days.  Actually let me correct that, picture taken.  Picture singular.  One shot, one outfit, one pose, and then into the yearbook it went!  Now there are locations (multiple) with outfits (multiple) and props (multiple).  The result will be so many pictures you'll need to be working jobs (multiple) in order to afford them.

Next up is college applications.  This may be the one thing that I've come up against that makes me sad to be leaving the insane environment of High School.  It's not because I'll be sad when she's grown up and a college student.  That's perfectly fine.  But these applications!  You need your vital information, you need test scores, you need a comprehensive list of your significant achievements throughout high school.  AND THEN (but wait, there's more!) there is the essay.  Smart, hard-working and constantly helping old ladies across the street isn't enough.  Now you have to include an essay on the history of the entire world, your place within it, why the dodo became extinct and why you are not a racist.  In 300 words or less.  In the olden days we just sort of grunted and pointed at the school, and they said, "Sure!  Come one in!"  Those really were the good olden days.

I was reminded of the olden days again tonight at the theatre.  We were seeing a touring Broadway musical, and there was the standard greeting message reminding everyone to turn off their cellphones.  This sort of announcement has morphed over the years, changing not so much to acknowledge new technology, but to remind people of things they should have thought of themselves.  The history went something like this:

1. No message at all.
2. A brief message about silencing your watch.
3. A longer message about silencing your watch, your pager and your beeper.
4. A modified longer message that lumped all the equipment that 95% of us don't own (see pager and beeper, above) under the umbrella of all other electronic devices.  Hello, cellphone!
5. A modified shorter message that excluded your watch because who has a watch when you have a cellphone?

6. A modified longer message that not only asked you to silence your phone, it had to further explain how NOT to be a jerk by telling people not to text either.  Or play games.
7. A new message reminding you that if you turned on the cellphone during intermission, you had better turn it off NOW. And still, no texting or playing games.

Maybe someday there will be a museum where visitors can learn about and experience the olden days for themselves.  Perhaps there will be dioramas showing a typical suburban neighborhood, with a voice explaining the tradition in the olden days of letting children play outside, unsupervised, until the street lights came on.  There might also be interactive displays where visitors can play an 8-track tape, use a phone with a rotary dial, or flip between the three possible television channels by turning the knob (Yes, KNOB) on the TV and then using the small box that adjusts the antennae on the roof.  I can imagine there will be excited cries of, "Hey, over here!  Look at this!!!" and dumbstruck WOAHs as they change the ribbon on a manual typewriter or watch skilled craftsmen run a mimeograph machine.  Specialists could learn the fine art of showing a filmstrip, or using a Brownie camera.

Someday my daughter will become a card-carrying member of the olden days.  She won't believe how things have changed, and how so many necessities of today morph into the curiosities of tomorrow.  Maybe generations to come will look at a NintendoDS or an CD and wonder what it is and what it does.  I take comfort in knowing that I won't be sitting on the front porch of the olden days all by myself.  It will be nice to have some company.





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