Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Building a bridge to the 20th century

I talk about simplifying my life and cutting back on expenses, telling myself how easy it would be, but when put to the test I am as big a wimp as anyone.

In July, when my Droid phone was on the fritz (which is to say about a month after the warranty expired), I discovered I had the opportunity to exchange it at the store. I had a choice: a new Samsung smart phone with all the latest apps or a $39 flip phone that would allow me to call and text. In addition to costing less, the flip phone would have saved me $30 a month and marked me as an old school iconoclast. I chose the Samsung, loathing myself as I signed the contract yet feeling helpless to do anything about it.


If I can't do something as simple as trade down on a cell phone, do I have the guts to get my house in order? And if I don't, what does that say about my generation and the future of this country?

I think back to the lifestyle my parents had when I was growing up in the 1960s. We lived in the suburbs, in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. We had one car. We had one TV, a black-and-white GE set that was in my bedroom the day John Kennedy was killed (I was home sick from school).

My dad, a teacher, carpooled to work three days a week. On the days he drove, my mom stayed home. My mom packed his lunch, as well as my sister's and my own. If my folks had a charge card, it was probably for John Wanamaker or Strawbridge & Clothier, and I would guess the credit limit was with $100. I have no doubt it was paid off in full anytime there might have been a balance at the end of the month.

Although we got the paper, we didn't get Time, Life, Look or Newsweek. I read those at the neighbor's house down the street or at my grandparents'.

We hold those times times up as idyllic, but I wonder how many of us would choose to live that way today? I have considered the notion of dialing my lifestyle and expectations back to 1968 and keeping a diary. It might be an interesting blog, but I'd have to type my posts on my old manual Olympia typewriter and mail them to the 21st century.

Given my smart phone experience, I doubt I have the nerve.


Dave Menser, a teacher who carpooled and brown-bagged his lunch every workday for more than 30 years.

2 comments:

  1. I think we like to think of previous times as better times, and attach words like "simpler" to them to give them some feeling of homeyness because most of us think back to our childhood for comparison. But, of course things were simpler for us then - We weren't the ones worrying about bills or the economy or the community or anything else, actually.

    I do like the idea of you doing your blog on a typewriter, though. You could just scan the images :) eeheehee.

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