Friday, June 25, 2010

The Good Old Days

Working on my book in the cool, air-conditioned comfort of the house is an escape from more than the heat. I can see how people of a certain age might prefer the past over the present. A nostalgic view of the good old days is infinitely more appealing than present day reality.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about my current personal circumstances. My life is rich with blessings too numerous to list here.

I'm talking more about societal change and current events. The world is not the same place it was even 25 years ago. Are we better off? In some ways, yes. But overall, even with all the advances, I'm not so sure.

Return to ANY attraction in the United States you visited more than 25 years ago, if it's still there. It doesn't matter what it is--national park, museum, amusement park or vacation spot. I guarantee you the quality of the experience has declined.

You'll pay out the nose and be herded along with a huge group of equally disappointed and often ill-mannered tourists. They'll crowd around exhibits, heedless of those around them. Get close enough to actually see and someone will soon shove you out of the way. You end up paying a ton of money to see people looking at things you can't actually see yourself.

God forbid you get hungry or thirsty. The options are nearly identical no matter where you go and completely bereft of any nutritional value. You'll stand in long lines and pay a small fortune for a bottle of water and a lukewarm hotdog on a soggy or chewy bun.

The quaint seaside restaurant you loved 25 years ago is still there, but has expanded and now caters to tour buses. The food resembles the sumptuous fare served long ago in name only. Get 'em in, get 'em out, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

Remember helpful sales people who actually knew something about the stuff they sold? Or how about when flying was a fun and relaxing way to reach your destination? Or how about customer service anywhere, really.

Today individual chain stores are managed by people who don't care. Surly kids with bad attitudes got fired when I worked at those places. Now good workers are so hard to find, just showing up is good enough.

Dad grew up with a kind of freedom I never knew. I grew up with a kind of freedom my niece and nephew will never know. We did our own thing in ways no longer possible. We had to come up with our own ideas for how to fill our time.

Today you even join groups to do your own thing. Nobody is alone with their thoughts anymore. Can't have that. Gotta stay plugged in to something.

I think I'll answer the siren call of my book. It's nice looking back. Hard to believe I haven't always been...

The Crotchety Old Man

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