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.|