Trade-Offs And Disappearing Acts

Today’s generation of young people is growing up with their phones permanently in hand – a native appendage. By middle school they all have flying fingers that are impossible for this fossil to imitate.

Our flowing handwriting is fast disappearing, replaced by choppy printing. Man has been handwriting since 3000 BC but probably will not be by 2050. By then all we seniors who prize our penmanship will be dead and the “digital natives” will be relearning how to write an “X.” Many kids today don’t have signatures.

I got to thinking about the long list of things that have disappeared in my lifetime. For example: My godmother had a real oaken icebox. The well-muscled iceman delivered the huge frozen block every Friday. The ice filled the metal cavity behind the left door. The holes in the dividing wall kept everything behind the right door cold.

When the icebox disappeared, so did the iceman with his big carrying picks. His replacement? A large stainless steel box with an icemaker and water in the door.

Hey, I remember the first fridge we ever got with a light inside – a very big deal! There was a lotta curiosity about whether the light stayed on all the time. And while we’re talking cold, I can’t say I miss those screechy metal ice cube trays. Children of today will have to be told what those were.

Along with the iceman, we’ve lost the milkman too. Ours also delivered eggs, butter, cream, cottage cheese… and chocolate milk. If I was very good. And I haven’t seen an ice cream truck in ages – or its driver doling out cooling happiness on a hot day.

Way back in my childhood, I used a hand-held carpet beater every spring and fall. Mom hung our scatter rugs over a low branch, and I whacked on them from both sides, surrounded by choking dust clouds. Clothespins, eggbeaters, camera film, flashbulbs, fountain pens, hair curlers, and garter belts with stockings are all distant memories. I don’t think any of these antiques exist in my daughter’s house. And why should they?

She has a bagless vacuum cleaner, a clothes dryer, and a phone camera with automatic flash if needed… the phone decides if it’s necessary! Ballpoint pens were a huge innovation in my youth, and today they are just everyday pens. Blenders and food processors replaced egg beaters, and hand-held hair dryers, along with their curling iron sidekicks, buried my old bag of curlers. In my airline days, we slept with our hair rolled in orange juice cans, bigger than the fattest rollers, to produce our perfect bouffant pageboys. I think about the nights I can’t sleep now and wonder how I ever slept in my Tropicana tins.

I think the Amish keep the clothespin makers in business, while the little wooden pegs have become craft items for the rest of us. All I know is I haven’t climbed between sheets dried outdoors in decades. When I drive past an Amish farm on a Monday, the clotheslines are filled with navy blue shirts and overalls of every size. I think about those clothes all smelling like sunshine, reminding me of my childhood bed linens of aromatic fresh air and green fields. No,

I’m not willing to become an Anabaptist just for fresh smelling sheets. I know my limits. I NEED my ice maker and my curling iron. But oh, those shirts and overalls …

I miss the gasman at the Sunoco station where my mom filled her tank a few times a month. He wore navy coveralls over a striped collared shirt and a black leather bow tie. Always. He was clean shaven, and when he passed my open window on his way to the gas tank, he smelled like garage oil and aftershave. He checked the oil and water under the hood, washed the windows front and back, and pumped our 19-cent gas. He set the gas cap upside down on the pump so it wouldn’t be misplaced. And then I think of my air-conditioned Honda with its sun roof, blue tooth, and fabulous mileage. It doesn’t smile, though.

I recently discovered that our TV doesn’t have manual controls. I received an important business phone call while the television was on and I couldn’t find the new tiny remote. I couldn’t turn off the TV, I couldn’t even turn it down. Fuggedaboudit. Defeated by my big black box, I gathered my work papers and hustled out of the room to talk.

Our computer driven world is racing forward so fast it’s leaving some of us golden oldies in the dust. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing to give up my laptop, cell phone, or smart TV. But more of our old ways of doing things are being relegated to the memory bank… almost daily.

I am beginning to understand how the dodo bird must have felt.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.


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