How we used to do things

Maybe it’s interesting, maybe it’s not, but daily life has changed on a tremendous scale in just my adult life. And the old everything was not best. Some of the past was better. Quite a bit was worse.

Halloween of old was much, much better.

Halloween drove me to think about this. While it is no secret that I am not very good at relating to small children, I always expected to have my redemption at Halloween. When I became a homeowner, I hoped to have fun, putting on a mask, scaring the kids a little, but always giving out the good candy. No candy corn or apples here. No way.

By the time I was in a position to do Halloween, though, it was gone. No longer did free-range packs of kids have to come up with their own strategies for canvassing the neighborhood and obtaining the maximum quantity of unhealthy snacks. Nope. They’d be escorted by parents in all cases, squired around, and generally would not be permitted to have adventures or be independent. Or they’d be hauled to the controlled environment of ‘trunk-or-treat.’

Because everyone in our society magically changed into a rampaging pedophile or sicko. If you dared let your children out of your sight, before Halloween night was done, they would all be assaulted, traumatized, and/or seriously harmed by the drugs, razor blades, and other unnatural additives The Enemy (by definition, everyone else) would foist upon the poor tykes. It went along with the Rise of Fear. Fear everything! Everyone will harm you! No one is good! Everyone but you is a menace!

Therefore, I buy a lot less candy, because at most my doorbell will ring three times. Even so, I will make sure the electric pumpkin hasn’t picked this year to stop working, and will drag out a long extension cord to operate it. I will have my lights on and will answer my door in my mask, and will give out the good candy. But it got me thinking about how much has changed.

Today, when you want an uncommon book, you comb the online used book outlets for it. And if you forgot its title and author, you do a few searches and find them. In my teens, you combed actual used bookstores for it. If you got absolutely desperate for it, you paid a search service through the nose. I did that once. It worked, but it was a long process.

Today, when you write a college paper, if you wish you can hire it done online, or look at other thoughts online. If you choose to do your own original work, you do it on a computer. In my late teens, you had to mull until you came up with a good thesis for your paper. Then you went to a library to research it, noting reference information. Then you began to type it on an electric typewriter. Often you would retype the paper through three drafts.

Today, when you get pulled over, if you have sense, you behave as if the officer will draw a firearm on you at the first sign that you do not fear him properly. You volunteer nothing. You admit nothing. In my late teens, the officer didn’t treat you like an escaped nun murderer unless you got surly. Honesty and courtesy made a difference.

Today, when you have to meet someone somewhere, you can be in easy touch up to the moment of contact. You can quite literally talk your guests all the way to where they can see you standing on your porch, waving. In my teens, if the person did not show up, all you could do most of the time is wait, wonder, and worry.

Today, public universities consider it their primary duty to ‘build their brand,’ with sports as just part of this ‘brand.’ They have become corporations with partial tax funding. In my teens, public universities’ primary duty was to offer higher education and good football to residents of their states. They would never have admitted that first part, though.

Today, the effort is in the direction of finding ways to make sure people who will vote against one’s side do not vote at all, or will not be allowed. In my teens, the effort was to try and get them to care enough to vote. However, today, a lot of people vote by mail. In my teens, that was called an absentee ballot. For example, if you were at college, and your permanent residence was technically with your parents, you got an absentee ballot. Well, really, you did not. Hardly anyone bothered.

Today you can have, almost immediately, anything you can afford. In my teens, you often had to go find it. Hours on the phone, or driving around. Usually you didn’t find it.

Today, a house with less than three bathrooms is something of a hovel. In my teens, two bathrooms were a bit ostentatious. I wonder what it’s like to grow up never having to hold it in desperation, waiting for a family member to finish on the commode.

Today, the weather forecast for the next month can be accessible from the top of your browser, and it has a moderate chance of being correct. In my teens, the weather forecast for the next day was accessible from the TV set around dinnertime, and you would be lucky if it were correct.

Today, military service is deified, worshipped, sainted, with all uniformed members anointed as automatic heroes, yet we do little tangible for them once their service has wounded them. In my teens, you went in the military if you were an idealist (rare) or saw few better prospects (common), and you were heckled for it. But when you got out, if your service had harmed you, there was a better chance we would help you.

Today, schools’ first priorities are security, avoiding liability, and complying with state-imposed testing standards. In my teens, schools’ first priority was teaching you things, or if you refused, passing you anyway just to be rid of you.

Today, everyone is afraid. The neighborhood is dangerous. The school is dangerous. The food is dangerous. The city is dangerous. The road is dangerous. Other people are dangerous. In my teens, we lived under the fear of a sudden mass nuclear strike in depth that might incinerate all our major cities and destroy society as we knew it. Some of the other dangers were also much greater. And yet we were not so afraid.


2 thoughts on “How we used to do things”

  1. Do you know, I still remember something you mentioned when I was beginning nurses’ training. I think I expressed my trepidation of the whole experience. You said, “Respect all. Fear none. You can handle them.” I wish you knew how many times just before entering a patient’s room, or getting quizzed and/or remonstrated by an instructor, or responding to a disgruntled family that those words went through my mind. More often than not, I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and dived into the situation. They were my motto through school. I scribbled them on a piece of paper and hung it by my desk! (It’s still there, which shows either my appreciation for it or just plain laziness.)

    I worry. Quietly and about everything. I want to be a person who, when confronted with Ebola, growling dogs, or possible unknown attacks thinks, “Respect all. Fear none. I can handle them.” And then faces life without fear. Or, at least, controlling the fear. 🙂


    1. Well, Abi, it looks like you lived by them well, which is an accomplishment worth respect. I am glad they helped. I too worry, far more than most people would admit. I do my best to refuse to let it limit me, though, which is what you are talking about. There are some things that are quite sane to fear, and yet there are those who do not fear them. That doesn’t take a lot of guts on their part, because nothing needed to be overcome. My greatest respect is for those who recognize fear, stare it down, and go about their missions anyway.


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