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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Remembering the Good Times


I got that e-mail again yesterday. You’ve probably seen it, especially if you have any joke-sending, spam-forwarding friends who see it as their duty to pass along their inbox clutter to yours.

The e-mail I’m talking is the “remember when” e-mail. As in: “Remember when we only had three channels to watch and we were damned glad to have them? Remember when we didn’t grow calluses on our butts playing Flame Throwing, Carjacking, Baby Eater video games but went outside and actually played sports?” I have been getting variations of this e-mail for years now, each one threatening locust storms over my house if I don’t forward it to my entire address book.

I want to find the authors of these crappy essays. Who’s responsible? I’ll tell you one thing. It wasn’t thought up by somebody who played stickball in the street. It was probably some disgruntled, overfed, chat-room-loitering loser who spends a significant amount of his regrettable life in front of a computer monitor. Which he certainly didn’t have when he was a kid, fortunately.

That e-mail makes it sound like everything “back when” was so wonderful, and everything now sucks. These bitter, memory lane essays are getting on my last nerve. I have prepared my response for the next person who sends it to me, and here it is.

Remember when nobody wore a bike helmet because no one even made them? Remember all your friends who had concussions, and that girl who received brain damage from a bicycle spill? Who could forget how we laughed, making fun of the way she talked?

Remember when there wasn’t anything called the Internet? Remember how many fun trips we had to make to the library or to a federal building to get a tax form we didn’t know we needed? Remember having to wait to get information mailed to us instead of downloading it immediately? Remember how much spare time that gave us to go fall off our bikes and become disabled?

Remember playing jacks instead of violent video games? Do you recall that time your dad impaled his foot on a jack and then backhanded you a good one for leaving your toys out? Yeah, that was the time you told everyone you got your black eye from a wild pitch in a Little League game. Oh, and hey, remember when there were no child abuse or domestic violence laws? Buddy, those were the days.

Remember when it was too obscene to see Elvis below the waist, but now we can have a huge collection of porn for every pervy sexual kink we think might be fun to explore? How cool is that? Wait, that’s not what I meant to say. That doesn’t belong here. Forget you read it. Elvis from the waist up: good. Porn: bad.

Remember when you had vinyl records to listen to? Remember wearing them out and having to buy them again? Think back on the times when you had to be in the room with the stereo to hear the music? That was so retro. Not like today, when you can wear 2000 tunes on your belt. Simpler times, my friend.

Remember when only Dad worked and Mom stayed home and took care of the kids and the house and cooked our meals? Remember that time school let out early, and we came home to find the Fuller Brush man zipping up his pants? What was that all about, anyway?

Did you forget about the times when playgrounds had iron jungle gyms and everything wasn’t wrapped in padding? Oh yeah, and remember that every pool had a diving board? Who could forget that guy who ended up in a wheelchair because he broke his neck after slipping on a diving board? He couldn’t take any classes on the second floor because there was no elevator in the school. He was so lucky, because he got to go home early. Damn that Americans With Disabilities Act!

We didn’t need expensive gas grills for a cookout then. All we needed was a hole in the ground, charcoal, and lighter fluid. Remember the time we poured gasoline into the empty charcoal lighter container? And ever since then, Dad has had to use eyebrow pencil! What a hoot!

Remember when candy bars were a nickel and popcorn at the movies was only fifty cents and drenched in real butter? Remember when there was no coronary bypass surgery, and you could just die fat and happy?

Remember when we repaired our appliances and never threw them out? And no matter what, they still broke again not long after they came back from the repair shop. Man, that used to tick Dad off! Not as bad as the eyebrow torching, though. Ha-ha!

We didn’t need seatbelts and airbags back then, because we were too busy jumping back and forth between the front and back seats and driving Mom crazy. Remember that month she stayed in the relaxation hospital and never got mad again, because of the pills she brought home?

Remember when someone at school was bullied, they just moved to a different school district? Like that boy who played the flute?

The games we played required physical fitness, not just manual dexterity. Games like Lawn Darts, Super-Projectile Version. Remember Slip-n-Slide Into the Street Before Oncoming Traffic? And who could forget Trampoline Jump To Your Death? So maybe they were a little dangerous. That was just part of the fun.

Remember when we had a report to do for school, all we had to do was go to the library and open the World Book Encyclopedia and just copy it down on notebook paper? Now you have to know how to type, use a mouse, cut, paste and format.

Our cars had fins and steel bumpers that you could open a beer on. Maybe even several beers. And no one got pulled over for drunk driving. Or if they did, Officer Friendly, known by everyone in the neighborhood, would just laugh and tell you not to do it again.

There were no shootings in our schools. Only random acts of vandalism and the sanctioned corporal punishment laid on you when you got caught. No one even thought about taking a gun to school. Except, maybe, the teachers.

Think back on those times when love conquered all and life was sweeter and kinder. Send this to twenty of your friends or I’ll send over my big brother to push you off your bike.

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