Simpler Times

Daily we attempt to navigate our complex world of instant messages and nanosecond computing, juggling our smart phones and tablets, never being separated from our cell or the world will surely end… And you wonder why we have migraines and anxiety attacks? Stress lives here. Slow your world down!


I am as guilty as anyone else, I MUST respond immediately to text messages or email. This is not because anything will be critically affected by a few minutes delay, but simply because internally, I am driven to respond as surely as if it were a ringing telephone in a movie theater.


This has not always been so, I was an adult long before the internet age, and even before cell phone days if you young people can believe that. So far back that we had a single rotary dial telephone unit hooked by a wire to the wall. Somehow we not only survived, but we were happy. Our lives were much simpler then.


Just yesterday I chanced to overhear a comment from a child that gave me pause. A young girl, about five I would guess, got very excited when asked if she wanted an “apple”, clapping her hands and bouncing like she just got a pony. When the piece of fruit was brought to her she asked what it was. To shorten the story, she thought that she was to receive an iPad like they have in school and was extremely upset.


Even our vocabulary has gone into hyper-drive, as evidenced by the fact that you understand what hyper-drive is. An apple isn’t a piece of fruit, a cell isn’t a very tiny division of an organism like your body, although there are those who will argue about a cell (phone) being a part of some people’s bodies.


Here is a fun link for you:


So let’s set Peabody’s “wayback machine” (just Google it) and pop back to simpler times when I was a boy in search of entertainment.


When there was no computer, no video games, no cell phones, you were not permitted to talk on the telephone for amusement, and the television viewing was strictly controlled, what did a young boy do?


You went outside and found entertainment. If I was lucky and beat the other kids to them, I would collect empty bottles and haul them to the store to cash in on the deposit of two cents each. Just ten bottles and you had twenty cents! Before you scoff at the amount, read on.


With my hard earned cash in my pocket I went next door to Johnson Street Drugs and felt large, because I was a “paying customer”, as opposed to just a kid there to hang out for free.


At the soda counter you could order a glass of coca cola for five cents and if you had the cash, for two cents more you could get flavor added like vanilla or cherry. The older boys always splurged the extra money when they were there trying to impress a girl and paid for them to have cherry or vanilla added, while the boys drank water.


For those of us too young to worry about impressing the ladies, our biggest quandary was did we spend the next ten cents on an ice cream sundae or purchase the latest DC or Marvel comic book calling to us from the rack strategically placed between the door and the soda fountain.


There were ways around the dilemma, to have your ice cream and your comic book too. One could spend more time collecting bottles and thus bring a larger cash reserve. Or the usual tactic of eating the ice cream and then selecting the latest Superman from the rack and sitting down on the floor between the book rack and the front window, out of view of the proprietor, and read as fast as you could.


I could consume a comic book well before the druggist was forced to notice me by some grumpy adult who told him that a vagrant child was stealing books. Others didn’t read as fast and took two trips to finish.


I will forever remember the “coolness” of the owner, who was also the druggist, and at times the soda jerk (again Google it) when needed.


He once told a particularly grumpy and smelly (too much perfume) lady who was complaining about me reading a comic book after my ice cream sundae, that I was “merely a customer perusing literature to aid digestion”.


The lady responded loudly with “Well, I never!” To which my hero replied, “Well, you should!” The customers behind her laughed, including a young woman who was later to be one of my teachers.


The woman left in a storm cloud and the druggist went back to work whistling a happy tune. I had been trying to make myself invisible, or at least as small as I could get during the encounter but soon realized that I was not in danger of being tossed out on my ear.


After that I put in the extra work and collected enough bottles to have my coca cola, plain mind you, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, my ice cream, and walk out the door with my very own Fantastic Four in a paper bag under my arm.


We can identify that as the beginning of my downfall. Had I just been content to be a vagrant reader, I wouldn’t have been consumed by the habit of book ownership which afflicts me to this day.


Those were simpler times, uncluttered by the demands of “instant life.”


Every once in a while we need to remind ourselves that it is OK to not respond, to slow down, to think for a while without consequence. The earth will continue to revolve, the sun will rise and set, and whatever whoever that is making the electronic noises wants, will still be there awaiting an answer.


Eat some ice cream, read a comic book. It can all wait.


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