I remember a time before cellphones. I remember when you wanted to warm up a can of SpaghettiOs, you did it on the stove top.
I remember when the TV stations went off the air at the end of the night, playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to lull us to sleep.
I remember when 8-track technology was newfangled.
I remember busy signals.
My heavens, how the world has changed. What WILL they think of next?
All of this? Things my mother might have said, or some old broad smoking in a hospital waiting room.
Seriously, smoking inside a hospital. Can you imagine it? I remember it. When I was in high school, we could smoke right in front of the doors of airplanes, too. The first few times I flew, I lit up and used the little ashtray built into the cushioned arm. Nobody gasped or tried to have me arrested. You could sit in the nonsmoking section if you wanted to, but dude! You're in a tube!
I remember when all the stores were closed on Sundays. Except Laverdiere's Super Drug Store, that is. If you wanted to shop on Sunday, you did it at Laverdiere's. When Rite-Aid came along, we all thought: Heavens! Who needs another drug store?
I remember driving all over Hell to find a phone booth when I needed to make a call. I remember calling collect or jamming dime after dime into the little slot. Seriously, it used to cost a dime to make a phone call and we complained about it all the time. Like, Jeezum. What do they think we are, made of money?
I remember the early days of the Internet, when people started to say w-w-w like they had a bad stutter. What the hell is "w-w-w," we wondered? What the hell is "surfing the 'net?"
The very first time I sat down at a computer connected to the Internet, I pressed one key and a whole bunch of porn popped up. I thought: There are dirty pictures on computers now? Oh, this will never last. We'll be back to stashing magazines under our mattresses in no time.
The first time I got something useful out of the Internet, it was information about parvovirus in dogs. I was about to run across the street to a library when some founding geek said: "Hold on there, Champ. Let's try the Internet."
When 90 pages of info on parvovirus came shooting out of the printer, I thought I'd witnessed the very pinnacle of human technology. I mean, wow.
I remember pagers. For a time, only important people, like doctors or drug dealers, could afford one. Then the price came down and everyone had one of those magical boxes and, how useful, huh? A hellish series of chirps, a phone number displayed on a fuzzy gray screen and you were in business. All you had to do was drop everything and go running around in search of a phone booth. Which, by then, cost 25 cents. I mean, come on! Do they think we're made of money?
I remember missing a hot movie on CBS and understanding completely that I was crap out of luck. I mean, they might show the movie again in a year or two and that's the best I could hope for. Then some genius invented the VCR and we all thought: Oh, it doesn't get any better than this. Why, we can even set the timer so the thing starts to record automatically. Hello, Jetsons! We have finally arrived!
Then compact discs came along and we all pawned our VCRs. They looked like relics from an archaeological dig, even though we'd bought the machines just a couple years ago. And those tapes! Holy crap, they're gigantic! You needed to build an addition on your house just to store your copies of movies such as "48 Hours," "The Breakfast Club" and the dirty ones you picked up at The Treasure Chest. Oh, don't act all innocent there, Randy McPervert. We're all adults here.
I remember cassette tapes and how everything would be fine until your car hit a bump and there was some hellacious scream from the radio. A few seconds later, all that fine ribbon would come shooting out of the little slot like electronic vomit. You'd have to dig out a pencil and try to wind it back up. It would never sound the same again, though. There would be this little clicking noise right in the really rad part of "99 Luftballons," the part where Nena (she's so hot) started singing about Capt. Kirk.
Before the cassette ribbon started shooting all over the place, there were round plastic yellow things we needed to center our 45 records. Our 45 records, for crying out loud! A buck plus tax at Deorsey's. They warped if you left them in a hot room too long. They sounded like crap if you had lint on your needle. If you couldn't find the yellow plastic thing, you had to eyeball it and hope for the best. The best was never good enough. Without the yellow plastic thingamahoo, it sounded like someone was poking Shaun Cassidy in the Adam's apple as he sang "Da Doo Run Run," which totally wasn't my record. I was holding it for a friend.
I remember when Asteroids wasn't nostalgia, but a spanking new game down at the Dream Machine arcade. You could put your initials up if you got a high score. We always tried to make dirty words out of three letters. Then Pac Man came out and, holy hell! Look at those graphics!
I hate to say it — I used to roll my eyes at old people who did — but, my God! Where did the time go? How did I become one of those creaky bastards talking in a rattling voice about how back in my day, if you didn't have an aerial antenna on top of your roof, you were nothing. How is it that I recall that if you didn't get some cash out of the bank on Friday, you were screwed for the weekend. ATM card? What the hell is that?
I remember writing letters in ink, stuffing them in envelopes and mailing them off. Stamps were 15 cents, I believe. I remember how if a friend moved away, you'd correspond that way for a little while and then it would seem like too much work. Goodbye, old friend. See you in the next life. I mean, it's not like we can stay in touch through some magic box sitting on a desk or right there in the palm of our hands. Ha ha! What a fantasy!
I remember how, if you liked a song, you either went out and bought the 45 (the LP if you were rich) or you called a radio station and requested it. If it was an older song, well ... You might hear it on the radio sooner or later if you sit there listening around the clock. Probably not, though.
Plucking music out of the air still freaks me out. Some obscure thing released in 1972? No problem. Sound Hound, download, transfer to the smartphone. One minute after thinking about that song, you're listening to it while texting with a friend in Australia.
Shannon was a dog, did you know that? Poor mutt drowned because she always loved to swim away.
I remember when a tablet was a pill, probably Anacin, Bufferin or Bayer. I remember when a smartphone was one with an extra long cord so you could do the dishes while talking with Aunt Cloris in Utica. It's 50 cents a minute long distance, Missy, so keep it short.
I remember when coffee was a bunch of crystals spooned into a cup and then soaked with hot water. You had to wait for the water to boil in the kettle. How the hell did we survive that?
I remember when the only way to get news was to: A. buy a newspaper, B. watch the TV news at 6 and 11. You could get the weather by calling a recorded line, but you had to wait through the stupid bank advertisement first.
I remember how if you needed to know the capital of Wisconsin in the middle of the night, you either consulted your Funk & Wagnalls or, if you didn't have a set, you waited until the library opened up. If you needed a map for a trip, you called AAA and they would send you one. Through the mail. It took days to reach you. Days!
And after that trip, you would come home and bring the film from your camera to a developer. Probably the FotoMat, very convenient. In three to five days, you'd have glossy copies of all your pictures, including four or five that featured just your ugly thumb. You never knew how your photos were going to come out — waiting for them was part of the thrill, am I right?
If you wanted to share your photos with friends, you had to have copies made, which would cost an extra buck or two. When Polaroid came out with their "instant camera," we thought it was borderline sorcery. Then we shook our pictures for a minute or so until lovely images appeared. Of the backs of our thumbs.
I remember ...
But of course, we could do this forever. Thankfully, there are many of you who recall much more than I do. Party lines? I never used one. Radio shows instead of TV? What are you, two hundred years old? Pong?
Crap, I remember Pong. A pixelated ball bouncing back and forth between two pixelated paddles. Invite the neighbors over because the LaFlamme boys have gone hi-tech!
I mean, gee whiz.
The capitol of Wisconsin, by the way, is Madison. Put THAT in your Funk & Wagnalls.