Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thirty years asleep

I read an article in The National, a publication from the United Arab Emirates, about an Emirati woman who awakened from a coma after nearly 30 years. Can you imagine that? It got me to thinking whether someone in that situation would find the world a better or worse place after 30 years.

Just think of what has transpired over the past 30 years. There was no such thing as a smart phone. The plus side is there was also no such thing as a selfie. ‘Friend’ was not yet a verb. Not only was there no Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg was only 4 years old. You didn’t have to take your shoes off to fly. You could still smoke on an airline flight longer than two hours as well as in most restaurants. There was no such thing as iTunes or downloadable music. CDs had pretty much overtaken vinyl. 

You never saw 20-somethings with their ubiquitous water bottle. Somehow we made it through the day without constantly staying hydrated. You got your phone messages on an answering machine. If you had a cell phone you were excited because it had just been transformed from the brick to the first ‘pocket size’ phone. That ‘pocket’ was a jacket pocket. It could be yours for the mere price of $3,000.

There was no Internet dating. You actually had to engage in a conversation with someone in person. No texting. No OMG or LOL or the dreaded LMAO. You also had to know how to spell, or have a dictionary in book form handy. Oh, and if you wanted to read a book you had to carry a real one. If you wanted to get somewhere new you needed a map. Yeah, one of those things that folded up like an accordion and tucked away in your glove compartment.

If you wanted to see a movie other than what was on HBO and Showtime you had to rent it. On VHS. That was this plastic rectangular thingamajig with video tape in it that….oh, never mind. Binge-watching wasn’t a thing. If you wanted to hear a radio show you had to actually listen to the radio.

We still had something called the incandescent lightbulb. I really miss those. Only sailors and bikers had tattoos. Only men went to the men’s room. And only ladies went to the ladies’ room. To pay your bills you had to buy envelopes and stamps.

The Twin Towers still stood proudly in New York. Al-Qaeda was only a year old. ISIS was still ten years away. It was the Russians we were scared of. If we’d only known.

Over the past 30 years the world has become a much scarier place. It’s also become a much more exciting place. Life is easier for hundreds of millions more people. Thirty years ago about 20 percent of the world’s population was undernourished. Today that figure is around 10 percent. Things like instantly finding information, staying in constant contact with friends and family, and being perpetually entertained are all taken for granted. There was no Amazon. You actually had to go to a store. Yeah, I know. 

We like to talk about the good old days as if things were better. They were only because we edit out the bad parts. For the young, these are the good old days. We may endure recessions and terror attacks and natural disasters, but one thing has always been true for America. Its brightest days always lie ahead, not behind. Remember yesterday. Live for today. But always dream of tomorrow.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning talk radio show, 
The Phil Valentine Show. He's also co-host of The PodGOATs podcast.

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