The age of convenience

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sometimes when I’m in a reflective mood, I like to regale my daughter with stories about how things were when I was growing up back in the dark ages.
I usually get the same response. Her eyes will glaze over, followed by a large yawn. Then, I’ll hear her mumble something like, “Hold that thought while I respond to this text.”
She may even come up with something wittier, like “What do you mean ‘how things were when you were growing up’? You haven’t grown up yet!” The truth stings.
I can’t blame her. I gave my elders the same routine when they told me stories of getting up at 4 in the morning to complete farm chores before walking 10 miles barefoot in blinding snow just to return a Coke bottle for a penny deposit.
In the off chance that she’ll actually read this, I’d like her to know that there really was a period before this “Age of Convenience” when our society took its time performing life’s tasks. We enjoyed things a little more.
For me, that time was called the 1960s. I heard a child once refer to it as “the olden days.”
There was no instant anything; no mouse clicks, no finger swipes, no punch-of-a-button immediate gratification. Results took time. And most of the time, they were so worth it.
Clothes that nowadays dry quickly in a marvelous invention appropriately called the “clothes dryer” hung out on a wire line in our backyards, sometimes for hours in the bright sunshine. They smelled simply incredible when you finally retrieved them.
She rolls her eyes when I recall that “You couldn’t wait to bury your nose in a pile of freshly dried clothesline laundry.” But it’s true. Again, the wait was always worth it.
There were no DVR’d or streamed videos to provide non-stop, instantaneous television entertainment. Our TV world consisted of four, maybe five viewable channels that actually signed off at night.
On Saturday mornings, I waited patiently in front of a TV test pattern at 6 a.m. for the day’s cartoon programming to begin. Looking back, it’s odd that my parents had to practically pry me out of bed six mornings a week, but on Saturdays I would actually wait in front of the TV before sunrise for my favorite shows.
After a brief sign-on announcement, there in glorious black and white were my friends Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner and Tweetie Pie. I sat far closer to the screen than any optometrist would recommend. And yet again, the wait was always worth it.
If you missed an episode of your favorite show, you simply hoped the network would rerun it sometime in the summer. Otherwise, your chance to see it was gone forever. Boxed set DVDs were decades away.
I think the word “microwave” existed as far back as World War II, but no one in the 1960s suspected that we would someday use these microwaves to provide quick and easy hot meals in a fraction of the time.
But in my young world, most cooking instructions contained the phrase “bake in a pre-heated oven on 350 for 45 minutes to an hour,” or “simmer on a hot burner for 40 minutes.” Trust me kids, nothing tastes better than a meal you have to wait at least an hour to enjoy, as the smells permeate the household.
Restaurants were few and far between back in the days of crew cuts. Eating out was a treat, usually reserved for Saturday nights, and more often than not involved a building called a “fish camp” or “burger joint.”
No ordering online, no drive-thru windows. Fast food was a bologna sandwich. Still, we didn’t mind.
Life was slower. Our world was all about waiting for something to happen, then savoring it when it did.
The sad part is, we don’t wait anymore. I honestly believe we’ve forgotten how. Each passing generation has grown more and more impatient, to the point that we demand almost everything now.
Anticipation is no longer a part of our experience. Is the word even in the dictionary?
Even when we have what we want, we don’t savor anything. Food is eaten quickly, often on the run. We hate being troubled by commercials in a TV show, so we DVR it and fast forward through them, all to save the time we’ll spend rushing through something else.
I remember a chapter in one of my social studies books in elementary school that told us what life in future generations would be like. Aside from getting a few things dead wrong, like predicting flying cars and a “20 to 30 hour work week,” the writers were surprisingly accurate.
They told us life would be much more “convenient,” and in our “wonderful new push-button society” we wouldn’t have to wait for anything.
Now, for the most part we don’t. Happy?
Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.