Boomer Blog: Living with progress


I am not sure the divide between fervor for progress and yesteryear yearning is based completely on age. Some of my peers have all the latest gadgets, while there are people younger than I who prefer a less trendy way of life. I tend to straddle the gap.

According to countless promos, the “new” season of several cable television programs will start soon. I have figured out that a cable “season” consists of 10 or 12 episodes, each shown over and over before, during, and after the hiatus between “cycles.”

It all seemed easier when I was a kid. Then production companies filmed 30-39 episodes of shows such as “I Love Lucy” or “Gunsmoke.” After school started in September, the new season of our favorite programs also began, with reruns airing the following summer. Although broadcast channels still loosely follow that classic scheduling system, there seems to be no standard debut date or rerun schedule anymore.

Choosing a network or channel was simpler, too. Our antenna allowed two options: CBS on WHIO’s Channel 7 or NBC on Channel 2 with WLWD. My mother complained about Ruth Lyons and her “50-50 Club” on Channel 2 but liked to hear Bob Braun sing. Her favorite soap operas were on Channel 7, where my parents preferred Don Wayne and Walter Cronkite for local and national news. And my father listened to weatherman Gil Whitney because he used wooly worms to predict upcoming winters.

Back then we complained about reruns. Today probably half of all programming is reruns, or “encore episodes” as they are sometimes called. I mean, I have seen some episodes of “Cops” at least six times. And viewers can purchase entire seasons of favorite programs, a mind-boggling option: paying for reruns. But then, when pay TV was first mentioned as the wave of the future, many of us sneered in doubt. Now I write a monthly check to Time Warner.

I come down firmly on the side of modern technology with regard to advancements in typing. In my early teaching years, typing tests on those purple ditto masters was fraught with difficulty. Corrections, managed with cellophane tape or a razor blade, were a nightmare. More than once, I ripped an almost-completed but flawed test from my typewriter in a fit of frustration.

These days I have come to count on the many ways typing has become easier: choice of font style and size far beyond “Elite” at 12 points and “Pica” at 10 points; automatic spelling corrections without erasers or Wite-Out; saving work to accessible files with nary a sheet of carbon paper in sight.

There are times, however, I regret having given away my typewriter. Although most applications can be completed online, occasionally I need to be able to type a paper form. And I want to type envelopes. I am not sure if it is my printer or myself who flubs every third envelope for outgoing mail. I would just like to roll any sized envelope into place and simply type the address of a friend or a company.

I definitely lean toward the bygone days of gas stations, which today are essentially snack stores that coincidentally sell gasoline. Since the Swifty station on the south end of Urbana closed, there is no place left in Urbana where an attendant will pump gas for customers. I had to have a lesson from my sister before I could branch out on my own at a self-service pump.

In the years before we could purchase pizza, coffee, and a self-pumped tankful of fuel all at the same location, a young guy would fill the tank, wash the windshield, and offer to check the oil. Service stations were aptly named then, especially when a driver might actually receive a helpful answer when asking for directions. Today the person in the little glass cubicle or behind the counter is merely a cashier who undoubtedly thinks every driver has a GPS.

In a related case of conflicting reactions, I am glad that several types of businesses provide drive-up window services. The girls at my bank drive-thru are friendly and efficient. I occasionally use the prescription pick-up window in West Liberty. And I have returned library books and paid utility bills through outside deposit slots.

Anymore I order food from my car at fast food restaurants very infrequently, but I nonetheless object to the manner in which change is returned. Of course, most window workers are not actually counting back change; they are simply returning the amount showing on the register. They first place bills in the out-stretched hand reaching up from the car window and then lay the coins on top. Too often those coins slip off the paper currency, so it is not unusual to see random nickels and dimes strewn in front of any drive-up window.

My solution to the struggle between the conveniences and annoyances of modern life is to like what I like and be mildly cranky about the rest. After typing and saving this column, I will stop at the pump and try not to spill too much gasoline. Later I will settle down with my cup of fiber-rich chili, for which I paid with correct change at the pick-up window, and use my remote to click on the latest “House Hunters” marathon. Now that is living with progress on my own terms.