[Before I begin: I've always hated the telephone, except from about 7th to 10th grade, when it was somehow exciting to talk about nothing much on the phone with my friends. I think of my cell phone now as my smallest camera, and for that, I'm VERY grateful. It's also helped me on more than a couple of occasions when I had car mishaps or minor emergencies. But for the most part, I still don't like phones of any kind.]
What did we do way back then, before cell phones? (Or B.C.P, as today's texters might put it?)
We got lost--a lot. But eventually, we found our way. Usually with a rumpled map from the glove compartment and perhaps a nervous prayer.
We read with real paper pages to touch and to turn. Sometimes we got paper cuts. (Those were the worst!)
If we wanted something new to read, we went to the public library and wandered around in the quiet stacks that smelled (wonderfully) of very old books.
If we didn't know the meaning of something, we looked it up in Webster's or the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or we'd ask the librarian to help us find a book about it. She used the Dewey Decimal System, scribbling cryptic notes on little scraps of paper and leading us to our book like a mother duck guides her ducklings along a pond.
If we wanted to take a picture, we'd dig out the Kodak Instamatic, check if it had enough film, and hope the picture would come out the way we intended. We'd hope "the people at the lab" would develop our pictures soon and send them back to us, a thick envelope in the mail amidst the handwritten letters.
There were many awkward moments while waiting in long lines, staring up at the ceiling or pretending to think about our private concerns instead of our discomfort at standing so close to complete strangers. Occasionally, we might glance at them and say "good morning", or make a trite comment about the weather, or laugh about how men never had to wait in line for restrooms.
We thought our own thoughts instead of jumping from news flash to news flash about celebrities making questionable decisions.
Nobody took selfies. Daily self-portraits would have involved tripods and a rather embarrassing amount of vanity. We took photos of family vacations and random objects that did not include what we were eating for lunch.
We noticed our surroundings more, and things moved slower, although they didn't seem slow at the time because there wasn't anything to compare to it. The rest of the world stayed in the distance, like Mars or the Big Dipper--there, but very removed from us.
We played cards and board games and went outside to look for neighborhood kids who were also outside and wanted to play kickball or hide-and-seek. There was no such thing as a "playdate" pre-arranged by moms. Kids rang doorbells instead and asked if their friends could come out to play. Parents stayed inside and did parental things, or worked on their gardens.
Barbie Dolls were all the rage. So were tree houses.
We watched shows on TV sets that had wire antennae, channels on dials, and no remote controls.
If we wanted to play video games, we went to an arcade or to the cool kids' houses who had Atari systems in their finished basements. It was more of a loud social gathering, and potato chips were usually involved. Occasionally, a mom would come downstairs, proffering cookies and "checking on things."
For music, we played vinyl records on turntables, and we had to place a needle precisely onto a groove to get to the song that we wanted to hear. Sometimes, we missed the mark and gritted our teeth at the terrible scratching sound.
At restaurants, people who dined together actually spoke to each other and looked at each other. We glanced at the people around us at other tables, who were immersed in their own conversations.
We took long walks unencumbered by devices. We were unreachable for the duration of the walk. Imagine having to wait until you arrived home to call somebody! We turned a rotary dial instead of tapping out the numbers like a magician.
Imagine fishing around in the bottom of your purse or your pocket for a dime (usually covered in lint and gum wrappers) to put into the public telephones (which were often gross).
Imagine a whole day at the beach, undisturbed by the world outside the beach.
Imagine going to sleep and really going to sleep, not surfing around the world to follow petty stories from your pillow.
I am showing my age for sure, but in many, many ways, I miss life before cell phones.
Before you go...
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