Monday, September 24, 2012
The more things change, the more they actually DON'T stay the same
JAN BROGAN - We often talk about how great things used to be, and how today's rude drivers, bad manners, cell phones, etc. annoy us.
It's not that I can't complain with best of 'em, it's that every once in a while it's a good idea to take deep breath and put it all in perspective. One thing I've learned in historical research, especially when I was looking back at the 1970s, is that some things actually improve and we don't notice We all have a tendency take the improvements for granted and whine about what's not up to par.
I hear a lot of people today complain about young kids in the workforce. They can't write complete sentences. Their spelling is atrocious. They can't take criticism because they have been praised all their lives.
But I've been working on a writing project, interviewing eighteen people under thirty. What I've been struck by is their dedication. What I've also noticed in this group, and in my kid's graduating classes, a lot of young people have a strong sense of "giving back" and doing something worthwhile for the world. All the emphasis on community service in high school and college - that I thought was a lot of resume padding - actually had an effect. These kids are willing to work for very little money to take jobs in really rough places to try to make them better.
In my generation, a lot of people talked about saving the world, but in this generation, a lot people are actually making sacrifices to try to do it.
So that's the one thing I've noticed is getting better today, (that and the ready availability of really good coffee) So how about you, what's the ONE thing you notice is improving?
HALLIE EPHRON: So Jan goes right to charity and good works. Where does my mind go? Food! Oh, gosh, I can remember when eggplant was considered a delicacy in the supermarket, along with soppressata and fava beans. And the only breads you could get were "brown" or "white." Now, if anything, there are too many choices. Vive la global economy! Not to mention local farms.
And remember when you had to watch where you stepped on city streets? I never thought people would scoop their poop, but they do. Or not smoke. Remember when the minute the lights went out in the movie theater someone lit up? And how men in the work place used to think it was fine to say the most embarrassing things to women. And you not only had to deal with telephone calls from people selling you something you didn't want, they came to the door! Yes, some things have changed for the better.
RHYS BOWEN: I will blend both Hallie and Jan's comments and say that we are more aware that we live on a fragile planet and have to husband resources. Until recently the earth was seen as a big candy store from which we could take what we wanted. Now we're recycling, conserving and going back to local farming. All good things. As is the whole world speaking English, making travel so easy.
Smaller good changes? Women not having to sit under a hair dryer in rollers, no more recipes that include cool whip, jello or cream of mushroom soup.
LUCY BURDETTE: Rhys, you're right about conserving resources. It wasn't too long ago that bringing in a reusable bag to the grocery store was considered the territory of a nut job. Now everyone has cloth bags--hurray!
But Hallie's right about food, as usual. Farmer's markets everywhere...and no one would consider serving slimy chop suey out of a can, the way my mom did. Do you remember that stuff? The only thing edible was the crunchy noodles that you sprinkled on top.
And although I know some people love old cars, I have to say new cars have improved a lot--more comfortable, safer, better mileage...I wouldn't go back to my old Dodge Dart!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I agree with all of the above (except I am terrible at actually remembering to take my reusable bags into the supermarket...) but Rhys's comments about sitting under hairdryers in rollers cracked me up. I would add, having come of age in the era of the blow-dryer, that I think flat irons for women's hair are a great boon to civilization. I used to iron my hair straight on the ironing board!
And I second no-more-chow-mein from a can, and at least fewer recipes calling for Cool Whip or Cream of Mushroom Soup.
But one of the changes I'm most grateful for in my lifetime is the ban on smoking in public places. Oh my gosh, especially traveling in the UK, where often there was no place to eat other than the local pub. You walked into a pall of smoke. Your eyes stung, your throat hurt, and then you couldn't get the smell out of your hair or your clothes... I consider Smoke Free a huge leap forward for mankind.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Absolutely agree with Debs on smoke-free. I grew up with 3 smokers - it's no wonder I love the outdoors, I started going out on my own at age 8! I would add nutrition labeling on food. I don't know what I did before that...I had a little calorie booklet that I bought at the market. And I can't resist the mention of technology. I've driven over 20 hours in the last 8 days and I don't know what I would have done without the GPS.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Ah, you don't have to get up to change the channel on TV? And you can watch whatever you want, whenever your want? Fine, maybe easier TV is not the one thing. ATMs? On-line banking? I just read an article saying that deaths from traffic accidents have decreased--because cars are so much safer. Oh--sunscreen!
JAN BROGAN - See, life isn't so bad, after all. Tell us Reds, what is the one thing you notice is getting better?