Thursday, February 17, 2011

Remembering rabbit ears (Back in my day...)

You know what they say: don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his loafers. Or maybe it was judging a woman by the color of her pocketbook? In any case, I say don't judge a person by how outdated they seem.

Take for instance the way I used to roll my eyes every time my grandparents would sit on their davenport wearing a housecoat before going to get some oleo from the icebox.

"Grandma, you're on a COUCH wearing a ROBE and it's MARGARINE in the REFRIGERATOR!"

But my parents were only so much better, because while growing up in a world of cassette tapes, they still called them "records" and said things like "pedal pushers" and helped classify my friends as "jocks, nerds, or burnouts." (This was way cool...NOT!) I swear at one point they even tried to put letters in our phone number.

And so it goes that I now find myself having aged well beyond my time, purely based upon the things that my children ask me about. Today's youthful generation has something different than the rest of us had, which is the possibility of time travel through something as simple as television.

With just a push of a button they are whisked back to the obscure years where life was practically alien, such as the 1980s. It so happens that we recently watched a number of episodes of a British show that took place in the late 80's and I spent half of the time explaining the foreign objects. And by foreign, I don't mean British. I mean antique.

Nothing has ever made me feel so old, not even the gray hairs that sprout overnight after conferring with the wrinkles around my eyes.

Among the things that I had to explain are:

TV Antennas. Said one child, "what is that?" to which the other answered, "that's the thing to change the channels." I wish I was making that up, but instead I listened and then attempted to clarify the lack of cable and was glad I didn't call them rabbit ears because that would have definitely led to a long and frustrating conversation.

Even worse was that I had to correct her assumption by explaining that people actually had to get up off the couch to change the channel, which was probably a hidden agenda of some people: having children willing to dart up to the UHF dial.

Phones with cords and payphones. Because the show took place in England, the payphones looked a little different. But it took time to explain that if a person wanted to make a phone call, they would actually have to go in search of these booths, potentially wait in line, and hope that he or she had correct change right there on the spot. "What would you do, mom? You never have money."

Besides the payphones, telephones back in my day were laborious and constraining. Five (click click click click click) two (click click) etc. and then 10 minutes later you had the mobility of a three-foot radius circle and whatever you needed was exactly four feet away.

Finally, cameras that used film. The instant gratification of being able to see the photograph you just snapped never ceases to amaze me. Show me a kid who is in the vicinity of a digital camera, and I'll show you a kid who will stare at you jaw-dropped and bug-eyed when you explain that when you were a kid, it sometimes took an entire week to see the picture.

And there was this stuff inside called "film" that was a fickle thing -- sometimes you'd forget to put it in and have giant memory gaps from the hundreds of pictures you never really took or else exposed shots of a bright light because someone opened the camera.

Oh, it was rough back then, when I was a kid, when I had to while away the days as I waited for my film to develop. Next to the phone I sat, only to get up and change the channel and adjust the antenna. I'm just lucky we had a comfy davenport.

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