Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hailing to the Past

In Alvin Toffler’s famous book Future Shock, he discussed the ever-increasing pace of changes over a person’s lifetime in the last two hundred years and its effect on people and society.  For example, my grandmother, born at the beginning of the 20th century, found modern life quite confusing even if she did somehow cope with it.

Watching people around me with their omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent smartphones, I started to recall the world of communication when I was growing, taking into account that I am 50+ years old.  I by no means imply that my childhood was the good old days of communication, but only how different life was some 40 years ago.
All phones were line phones, literally.  You had to sit next to the phone, no moving around.  In some countries, like Israel, customers had to wait two or more years to even get a line.  If news was urgent, generally deaths, people actually send telegrams.  The classic Yves Montand routine about the romanticism of the latter has aged well:

Outside the house, options were limited.  In the United States, local phone calls were 10 cents (as were candy bars for matter) if you were lucky to find a working phone booth.  In Israel and some European countries, they had special coins, called assimonim in Israel and jetons in France.  People used to walk around with pocketfuls of them in their pocket or purse for emergencies.  They were also considered less susceptible to inflation, making them a good investment.  Otherwise, husbands did their grocery shopping literally alone and made their own decisions, without checking with their spouses, believe it or not.  People talked in the beginning of the day, informing each other of their plans and actually waited until the evening before discussing the day’s events.  Women went to the bathroom to powder their nose (not really), not to discuss the date on the telephone. People talking out lout to themselves in the streets were considered abnormal, not normal.

There is an old Israeli joke: Why do Israelis ejaculate so quickly?  So, they can run and tell and friends.  Today, you don’t even have to run.  It is completely irrelevant whether today’s world is better or worse.  These changes over time, like differences in culture, are neither good nor bad, but merely different and food for thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment