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The way we were was better

March 26, 2011

At a gardening event the other day my friend, Charlotte, told me that the price of a pound of zucchini has crept past the cost of a gallon of gasoline.  That was shocking news to this zucchini lover.
I think I paid 88 cents a pound for zucchini last year, and I paid $3.45 for fuel today.  Made me want to stuff three zucchini in my gas tank and drink a gallon of gasoline.
At that very moment, three of my colleagues were trying to figure out how to activate the newfangled pump on a bottle of hand sanitizer.  It took three of us to figure it out and it froze up after a few squirts.  Whatever happened to bottles with caps you unscrew and squeeze? Was that so hard?
Suddenly, my new “smart phone” rang, and the caller said I had called her and got her answer machine.  She listened to my entire recorded conversation with Charlotte about the price of zucchini and our struggle with the mechanics of a bottle of lotion.
Apparently my POCKET had unknowingly redialed my last call and would have recorded the remainder of my day if she hadn’t gotten bored and hung up.
My old “dumb phone” allowed me to do three things: call people, receive calls, and have a conversation. It NEVER would have dialed up someone without letting my FINGERS do the walking.  My smart phone can reveal to the world my deepest secrets without my permission.
In my opinion, technology has crossed the line of decency. Suddenly, I  feel like a blubbering luddite in a digital world. I just want my old life  back when you didn’t have to hire an interpreter to read the directions to a new toaster oven.
I yearn for the days when you could twirl the dial on your oven and reach 350 degrees without being digitally sent back to zero.  
What did we do before e-mail, or instant messaging, or Google? Sometimes I think my ability to concentrate is being nibbled away by the internet; other times I think it’s being gulped down in huge, Jaws-like hunks.
In those quaint days before the internet, once you made it to your desk there wasn’t much to distract you. You could sit there and work, or you could just sit there gazing out in space.  Does anyone still gaze?
Now days,  you sit down and there’s a universe of possibilities at your fingertips to tempt you. To think that I can be sitting here, trying to write something about yearning for the old days,  and, a moment later, on the merest whim, I can take a virtual tour of the Vatican.
But what I miss most of all, is the nice man who used to pump my gas, check my oil,  and wash my windows – all for 35 cents a gallon. I think they called it “SERVICE” station back in the day - when fast food was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and you would never have eaten it in the car!
Emily Jones is a retire journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at

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