Thursday, April 11, 2013

Would You Go Back To Simpler Times?

Before Nikes . . .

The backdrop of my first novel One Last Shot was a 25th high school reunion.  It wasn't too long after my 20th when I started working on the novel, so a lot of that nostalgic feeling you get at reunions was still fresh in my mind.  I explored some of that in the novel.  A common comment at my reunion was "boy, if I could just go back to high school, knowing what I know today . . ."

That just strikes me as funny.  It doesn't make any difference what era you grew up in, people have a strange way of painting the past in rosy colors.  Do you really want to do it all again knowing what you know now?

How many phone numbers do you know today?
I see several problems with this, and I'm going to pick on a good friend of mine to illustrate my point.  He's a guy that said he'd like to go back for a do-over, but I just don't see how that would work for him.  He's always been addicted to technology (even back in the 80s he was all over the new gadgets).  I had lunch with him a couple weeks ago, and a he was so distracted at lunch he couldn't follow a conversation.  He'd forgotten his iPhone at work.  He was worried about it.  What if it rang while he was gone?  Or what somebody posted something on Facebook?  Or *gasp* he got a text?  What would that mean if he wasn't instantly updated?  I think he'd be more comfortable eating in a restaurant without pants than being without his iPhone.

He's going to go back to 1980?  Back to rotary dial phones?  Back to when nobody had even heard of voice mail, and if you were lucky, you had an answering machine?  He wouldn't survive a second time around. He's that guy that calls you two minutes after he texts you just to make sure you read the text.  The simple idea of having to lick a stamp and mail something instead of hitting "send" would kill him.

I think that's the most stunning difference--we are never without our phones.  Back then, we actually used to leave the house for an entire day without a phone or any way for somebody to contact us--and we didn't think twice about it.  If something came up, you'd just swing into the gas station and use the payphone.  All of us knew twenty or thirty phone numbers by heart because our phones didn't remember them.  These days, I sometimes have to stop and think when I'm asked my own phone number.  And back then, an instant message was something that was passed to you during study hall folded up in the shape of a little football.

Before he jumped the shark . . .
And I'll tell you another problem my friend would have--going back to the 13-inch black and white television you had when you started high school?  Back to the rabbit ears and three channels (four on a clear night)?  Mr. Home Theater would never make it back through Beta, VHS, and DVDs to arrive back to the "land of Blue-Ray." 

And he'd be willing to trade the 1,500 songs he proudly brags about on his iPhone for the eight or ten he'd get from a fuzzy cassette tape on his Sony Walkman?  And then spend thirty years listening to music he already knew, and watching television he'd already seen?

Just think how frustrated you'd be going back and doing it all again.  And think about what else that means.  You don't marry that first husband or wife (and maybe even the second one) because of what you know now and didn't know then.  You could never fall in love with them again--you'd be made about things they haven't even done yet.  That means you don't have your son or daughter that you're rather fond of.  You could avoid all those mistakes that made you who you are today, but what would you be giving up?

How I misspent my youth . . .
I was really thinking about that when I was working on my first novel--would I avoid those pitfalls, and repeat them knowing how they'd turned out in the long run?  I really struggled with that one.  I truly believe if I woke up again in 1980, I would intentionally repeat some of those mistakes, and there would be some I wouldn't be able to force myself to repeat.  But I'll tell you one thing I'd sure be doing.  I'd be investing every cent I had in Apple and Microsoft and a few others.  At least I'd know that after I survived the second go around, I'd be rich.

There are a few things I miss from the 80s.  There are a few people I'd like to see again that are no longer with us.  I miss the music.  There are a few musicians and bands I like today, but for the most part I think it's mostly garbage.  There was so much more variety back then.  I definitely miss MTV and music videos.  And I miss the optimism from that era--anything was possible with enough hard work and determination.  We seem to have lost that whole idea these days.

You know, all things being said, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.  I think my wife is, too.  I asked her the other day if she'd go back to high school and do it all again.  She said, "I don't have that kind of time or energy to spend on my hair." 

~TEC

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