As I notice there are more years in the rear-view mirror than over the hood, I can’t help thinking about some day becoming a grandfather. I’ve been told often that it is truly the best of times. You can get the little ones all riled up, and when they refuse to go down for their naps, just duck out the back door to catch the 4:00 Early-Bird Special at Dennys. No muss, no fuss. You don’t need to worry about spoiling them, either. They want a super-sized, mega-gulp chocolate shake, the kind that comes in a glass made from a recycled aquarium? Sure, why not? You won’t be around as they’re bouncing off the walls like amethyst in a rock tumbler. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Yet, I think there’ll be another aspect of the experience that makes it even better.
Namely, scaring the bejeebers out of them.
I don’t mean telling them ghost stories, or about zombie apocalypses. Oh, no. The truth is always much more horrifying. I’m going to tell them about growing up without… technology. You see, my kid’s grandparents can prattle on and on about the Great Depression, polio and World War Two; and my kids just sit and stare at them. There’s no real connection to that world anymore. But, talk about a time where if you saw a movie in a theater, there was a real possibility you might not EVER SEE IT AGAIN!, that they can understand. I’m going to let my grandkids know I survived a time before Netflix, satellite receivers and DVR’s. I knew a world of only FOUR (the big three networks plus PBS) channels! If you weren’t home when it came on, sorry, you missed it. And that’s not all.
I’ll tell them about the days when telephones were permanently attached to your house by a wire, and your parents knew who you talked to, how long you talked, and what you talked about. And if you phoned little Susie down the block, the one you had the crush on, you had to actually ask her out on a date by speaking the words aloud. You couldn’t just hide behind cutesy emojis on a little screen. She, in turn, would be forced to answer your question right away without a chance to group message her support team. It was a horrifying time to be alive, kiddos.
The nightmare didn’t end there. Oh, no. Let’s say you your ride home was going to be fifteen minutes late. Guess what? You just waited with nothing to do but think. No Angry Birds, no twitter, not even music to listen to while you sat there. Long road trips were even worse. Cars didn’t have multiple television screens attached to video games or Blu-ray players. You either looked out the window and daydreamed or, <gasp>, talked to your parents. And forget about changing the radio station, back then Mom and Dad got to choose which one they wanted to hear. Sometimes, you drove in places where you couldn’t get any stations at all, not even country-western <shiver>.
The hardships continued wherever you went. Without social media, you couldn’t instantly share pictures of our food, photos of celebrities with funny sayings written on them, or cryptic messages like, “Feeling blue,” or, “I hate my life.” If you wanted to know when a movie started, you had to check the newspaper. How to spell a word?, look it up in a dictionary. Who the President was in 1927?, go to the library and read a book. Most stores back then only took cash, which you had to get from a teller during bank hours. In fact, there were a lot of people we were forced to interact with. For example: cashiers (no self-service lanes), travel agents (no Orbitz) and our teachers (no online schools). Frankly, I’m surprised we didn’t have knights on horseback directing traffic. In a way, it was even worse. Without GPS, we only an atlas.
By this time, my grandkids should be practically on their knees with gratitude at not having to live through such a backwards age like I did. They will have a greater appreciation and newfound respect for those of us who survived a world without Google, Instagram and selfies. At least, they probably would if they ever hear a word I say. My mistake will be not making them take out their earbuds first.