I don’t want to say exactly who — or even “whom” for that matter — but some of my friends are so old, that waaay back when they were in Grade 1, there was only one television channel and it was in black and white, and the only thing on it after midnight was an Indian Head Test Pattern.
I think they must be pulling my leg.
And never mind CDs and DVDs! They say eight-track tapes and audio cassettes hadn’t even been invented yet. They had something called “LPs” and “45s” and machines called “record players.”
Never mind cellphones. They claim that phones were permanently attached to walls and they were made of some weird thick and heavy material similar to plastic, before plastic got soft and squishy, and by some governmental decree all telephones in those days had to be matt black.
And I just shake my head when they try to tell me that you only had to dial four numbers to make a local call!
Yeah, right. And cars had only three gears and the standard stick shift was on the steering wheel. And cars all had bench seats in the front! I don’t think so.
These very same people, who aren’t even senior citizens yet, try to tell me that they never even had ball point pens in elementary school. They say, with a straight face, that everyone learned to print with a pencil the size of a stick of dynamite, and they learned to write “longhand” (whatever that is) with a fountain pen. Or more to the point, something called a “straight pen” that had interchangeable “nibs” that you dipped into a glass bottle of ink which sat in a hole in the corner of the desk, and which apparently was called an “ink well.”
Supposedly, they even used something called a “blotter,” which they say was a thick piece of soft paper that they pressed into the wet ink after they wrote something so that it would dry and not smear.
Grade 1, mind you. Can you imagine turning a room full of energetic, dangerously enthusiastic Grade 1-ers loose with straight pens containing sharp nib points and bottles of ink?
Next thing they’ll tell me is that a bottle of Coke used to cost five cents out of a vending machine.
Nonetheless, I still have faint stains … I mean, I’m sure my friends still have faint stains of Sheaffer’s Permanent India Ink on their fingers!
I’ve even heard about playing something called “board” games, which teenagers nowadays would no doubt call “bored” games, with names like Clue and Sorry and card games that weren’t called Texas Holdem and involved no money or chips or wearing sunglasses while playing.
Card games with names like Crib or Hearts or Crazy 8s, instead of today’s chief form of ‘family’ entertainment called “video games.” This digital deluge features outrageously expensive games with titles like Bloodspurt 2 and Demon Zombies of Fiendish Evil.
They say their board and card games were played by sitting around a table, facing each other and often actually talking to each other, perhaps smiling or even laughing once in a while.
As opposed to playing video games sitting side by side facing an HD flat screen plasma monitor worth twice what I paid for my first car, with fully EQ-ed, room-shaking Googlaphonic Sound Surround speaker system with woofers and tweeters that can be clearly heard by the astronauts on the space station.
Where no one talks or looks at each other on account of they are too busy killing eerily lifelike characters on the screen with various lethal weapons ranging from razor-sharp ninja swords to semi-automatic Russian machine guns and laser-guided rocket launchers.
Such a long way from playing Old Maid at the kitchen table with your cousins on Saturday afternoons.
And when I remember … I mean, when I hear all these tall tales from my friends, it kind of gives me pause. In the sense that a freight train coming at you in a stalled car in the middle of the railroad tracks gives you pause.
I’m thinking: if there has really been that much crazy change in just a few decades, what in the name of PlayStation 3 will the next few decades bring?
Maybe it’ll be those floating cars my friends tell me were always featured in articles about the year 2000 in Popular Mechanics magazines in the ’50s. Or teleporting from place to place like in Star Trek by dissolving and reappearing somewhere else instead of taking expensive transportation. Or 3D holograms instead of flat screen TV. (I hope they hurry up with that one — especially if they still do shows like the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit special.)
Sometimes, though, I know all this hurtling vortex of change makes my … I mean, makes my elderly friends’ heads swim as they cling onto the flotsam and jetsam of a not-so-distant Luddite past. As writer Peal S. Buck said: “You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.”
No wonder I ache all the time. True story: I just finished writing this with a fountain pen.
Now if I could only get my eight-track player to work.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.