Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Good old days lacked conveniences

March 5, 2008

It was a cold night with snow as I sat in my warm living room. I had been watching a college basketball game on TV and enjoying popcorn prepared in a microwave oven. When the telephone rang, I could see by caller ID that it was an out-of-state-firm probably trying to sell something so I paid little attention. I turned up the three-way lamp and settled back with my book.

Yet I couldn't help but think of a recent conversation I had with a friend. He was complaining about modern society and added that he would have liked to have lived a century ago. Well, I thought, not me, I enjoy the modern world.

I did have a fire in the fireplace, but it really wasn't so much for warmth as it was for enjoyment. On the other hand, Jean had grown up on a farm and for much of her youth her family did not have natural gas for cooking or heating. This meant that when coal was scarce my late father-in-law had to spend considerable time in the summer and fall chopping wood, which had to be carried into the house and the fire started. I do cut wood from fallen limbs, but I use a chainsaw and the work is easy when compared to the hand saw and axe he used.

My early years were spent in a home with a coal stove. While coal might have been better, you had to have the coal delivered and stored. Next you had to load the stove and take out ashes. The major problem with either a coal or wood-burning stove was that it heated only one area of the house. If you were close, you were too hot; if you moved away, you were too cold. No, I will take the modern world with hits central heating and air conditioning anytime over the "good old days.".

Growing up without indoor plumbing, taking a bath was a major task. You had to haul in the tub and heat the water. I'm not even going to mention trips to the outhouse on sub-zero days. No, I will take the modern world with hot- and cold-running water at your fingertips.

The more that I thought about it, there are so many modern gadgets that make life a lot easier and more fun. For example, I love remote controls. While changing channels without getting up is great, my favorite remote is the one I use to open the garage door. When we first got married, we thought that just having a garage was great. Then, we wanted a double garage and easy access. I remember leaving the garage on a rainy day, backing out and then getting soaked as you jumped out of the car and hustled to close the garage door. Yes, I appreciate automatic garage door openers.

The modern kitchen has so many neat appliances. My favorite is the toaster, although I like the microwave, too. Since I am culinarily challenged I like appliances simple enough to operate that even I can use them. If Jean is gone, even I can prepare a simple meal.

I also like garbage disposals and dishwashers. I remember in the old days, we had to wrap the garbage and put it in a trash can. Yes, I know that you can jam a garbage disposal with an errant spoon, but that can be remedied with a simple tool and a little work. Dishwashers are simple to use and they do a great job.

Another favorite kitchen gizmo is the can opener. Do you remember the old hand-cranked can opener? Now just a simple flip of the switch and the can is open and the contents are ready to heat in the microwave.

I like computers, too. Yes, I am aware that there is some bad stuff on the 'Net, but you don't have to go there. I like the convenience of getting an e-mail announcing a meeting and then being able to reply and give my RSVP. Word processing is a modern marvel. You can correct a manuscript easily. In the old days, there was White Out and erasers. Now you can produce a clean, neat copy quickly.

Modern TV is great for sports fans. There are so many great games on TV and all brought to you in living color. There was a time when color TV sets were tremendously expensive, but now they are much more economical and the average home has at least two sets.

We have medicines that improve our quality of life, too.

I love living in the modern world and I can't help but wonder what the future will hold. No doubt, in 50 years much will have changed. For example, someone will invent a silent vacuum cleaner operated by a robot. Possibly, the robot could be programmed to wash the car and mow the lawn, too. Hey, maybe this robot could go out and get your newspaper every morning, too. Well, that is, if newspapers exist 150 years from now.

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