Most of my columns take our readers back in time to days and events that I wish that I could relive. My past columns have focused a great deal on family life, childhood days and life experiences and events that I enjoyed.
Today’s column takes a slightly different slant. I was searching the Internet for the resolution to a particular problem when I came across an article that was right down my back in the day alley. The article focused on things that we do today that were so much more difficult to do in the past.
So, today my attention is on things that we now routinely do with ease that were so much harder to do, back in the day.
The article referenced in the previous paragraph, helps to assure that we are all on the same page with regard to the focus of today’s column. This article “48 Things That Were Way Harder Back In The Day” by Lauren Cahn, and titled appeared in Reader’s Digest has numerous examples. Let me share two with you.
Cahn identifies a situation that most of us encountered in the past and often face today. She mentioned the frustrating feeling of stopping at a gas station in the past for directions. Usually this encounter involved a conversation with the gas station attendant who instructed you to go several blocks, turn right, travel five more blocks and then turn left. Sometimes, you were given a map that you struggled to understand and use to navigate to your destination. In some cases, you stopped someone walking the street or blew your automobile horn to ask another nearby automobile driver for assistance. In cases of a long trip, you may have visited a travel agency where your trip was mapped out for you and your route highlighted with a marker. Then there was the back and forth with a passenger, if you had one, who was sure to give assistance. Today, many of us have some type of navigation system built into our automobile, a handheld type, or an application on your mobile telephone. While getting lost is still possible, getting directions is certainly not the difficult task one faced in the past. As a second example, Lauren Cahn cited the challenge we faced when we were interested in getting rid of household or personal items. You must recall placing an ad in the newspaper. I recall that some people used their work location to get rid of unwanted items by placing notices on the lunchroom bulletin board. Word of mouth was another way to advertise items for sale. Today, you have other options; yard or porch sales, notices on Craigslist or you may turn to a consignment shop. The Internet has made it quite easy for an individual to post information on-line and handle most of the sale or exchange process on-line. The alternatives people now use to get rid of unwanted items, differs quite a bit from back in the day.
As I thought about things that are much easier to do today, my mind immediately went to applying for a credit card or for a loan. Some of you are old enough to recall the days when you physically met with a loan officer or an individual authorized to approve a credit application. You filled out a long application asking for what appeared to be your entire life story. Back then, pay stubs were required. Once the application was submitted, there was generally a wait of a week or more before you learned if your application was approved or denied. Today, it is a different story. Your name and social security number provides your credit score and a decision is made. The week long process of the past has been reduced to a few minutes.
Banking is an interesting subject to examine when we consider the ease with which one can carry out banking activities today as compared with the past. Some of you recall, back in the day, getting your pay check, rushing to the bank, standing in a long line, depositing it and in some cases, waiting for the check to clear. Nowadays, you can avoid going to a bank altogether. Checks are directly deposited by your employer into your bank account in the evening and the monies are available for withdrawal or for writing checks the next day. If your job does not offer direct deposit, most banks today have an “app” that enables you to make deposits. By direct deposits or use of an app, you can make financial transactions with an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) machine within twenty-four hours of the direct deposit or app transaction. You can also easily access your account on-line to check your balances. An ATM machine is now a convenient way to make withdrawals; this is especially true during non-banking hours or when you are not in close proximity to your own bank. I know that some of you recall instances of being caught with no cash and your bank was closed. In reflecting on the banking experience, I could not help but to think about paying bills today. How many of you remember the days when you had a coupon book or when a statement came in the mail and you sat down and wrote a check for payment of the bill? You must recall addressing an envelope, if one was not provided with the payment coupon or statement, completing the payment coupon, placing a stamp on the envelope and then mailing it. The big challenge, of course, was making certain that it was mailed in sufficient time for it to be received by the creditor by the due date. As you know, late charges were accessed when payments arrived late. Today, paying a bill can be a simple process; it requires going on-line, accessing your account, entering the appropriate information, hitting the payment icon and immediately receiving proof of payment of the bill. The process takes minutes and you have verification that your payment was made and received on time. These are the way things are today but not what we experienced, back in the day.
While I did not wash clothing, I can still see my mother gathering together the family’s dirty clothing and lugging the laundry basket to the laundry room. Did any of you do as my mother and wash clothing by hand while using a scrub board? I remember the time when she did not have a double tub, thereby requiring clothes to be washed in one tub, placed on the side and then replacing the wash water with clean rinse water and placing the washed items in fresh water to rinse them out. Some of you probably have never thought about rinsing out a sheet by hand; obvious an arduous task. Then there was the task of taking the washed items outside to hang on the clothes line to dry. Today, we have automatic washing machines and dryers. Washing clothes is no longer a day long task but one that can be performed during a relatively short period of time; in fact, while the washing machine takes care of the laundry, other tasks can be performed around the house.
A few weeks ago, I decided to watch college football on television. As I moved in front of my television, I concluded that a bag of popcorn would be ideal as a game time snack. I was not confronted with heating up oil in a large pot, putting a handful of corn kernels in the pot and waiting to hear the popping. If you were around during those days, you may recall that your kitchen smelled for days. So, what did I do? I placed a bag of popcorn in the microwave and in less than five minutes, had popcorn to enjoy while watching football, clearly not something I could do, back in the day.
There are many things from the past that were difficult to do that can be carried out with relative ease today. Here are a few more from Lauren Cahn’s article and others passed on to me by friends and colleagues. You must recall going out to shop for clothing or purchasing gifts for special occasions. Today, you can stay at home and visit the Internet to purchase almost anything you desire. Shopping on the Internet or in person did not exist and payment with universal credit cards was something that was limited when I came out of college in 1962. Did you wash dishes last night? If you did, I suspect that many of you did not do what most people did in the past. In the past, dishes and glasses were stacked on the counter while you prepared dishwater and then you began the task of washing, rinsing, and drying the dishes. Finally, you put the dishes away. Last night, you probably removed the dishes from the table and simply placed them in the dishwasher. The dishwasher then washed, sanitized and dried the dishes. Again, while this was happening, you could be addressing other tasks. Is your automobile giving you trouble? In the past, you took it to a service station, left it and waited to hear an identification of the problem and the generally exorbitant price to repair it. Today, the mechanic completes the diagnosis by hooking your automobile up to a diagnostic machine that tells it all. At the same time, a price to fix the problem is provided to you almost immediately. The price can still be considered exorbitant but at least, you know the impact on your wallet or pocketbook immeidately. Then you may recall the days when you missed a telephone call because you were not home. Eventually, telephone answering machines were introduced; then the opportunity to receive voice mails. Call forwarding became another option where you could forward your calls to where you were going or even to your mobile telephone. Of course, the mobile telephone eliminated missing telephone calls at home as you can stay in touch with anyone, with telephone calls or text messages, something that was unheard of, back in the day.
Here is one item that appeared in Lauren Cahn’s article: scoring a date or hooking up and checking out a potential date’s reputation. Getting a date involved work in the past. If you were around back in the 50’s and 60’s, getting a date involved work. You will recall going to bars, to parties, joining clubs or relying on friends that would set you up with their friends. After meeting someone that was of interest to you, there was the task of checking them out. So, how did you get the dirt on a perspective girlfriend or boyfriend in the past? This was a real challenge. Today, in meeting someone or checking them out, one can check out dating sites that are found on the Internet. There are dating apps that some people find useful. Certainly, social media such as Facebook, Instagram and others place a role in the checking out individuals of interest. As for checking out a potential date, today you can Google them. Clearly, getting the dirt on your date is far easier than was the case, back in the day.
The things that were more difficult or challenging to do in the past could be exhausting. Until I read Lauren Cahn’s article, I had not given much thought to this matter. So, today or as you go into the next several weeks, just for the sake of it, identify those things that were difficult to do; things that were challenging; things that you are happy that you do not have to cope with in the same manner as you once did, back in the day.
Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA 19146