Is modern technology getting the best of me? This is the question I asked myself the other day when I decided to use the bathroom in Aldi’s. There was no shelf to put my purse although I have to say it was a modern, large bathroom, certainly not reminiscent of the outhouse we had on the side of our farmhouse that we used if the regular bathroom was in use, but there was no shelf for my purse. I put my purse in the sink and after settling myself comfortably to take care of business I realized that I heard water running, then stopping, then running. I jumped up realizing that the automatic faucet was being “turned on” by my purse. As I launched myself off the throne to rescue my wet purse, the toilet flushed itself. Unnerved I was standing there with a dripping purse checking to see if my cell phone survived in its outer purse pocket, and I hadn’t even done what I set out to do.
I started to remember the good old days which probably weren’t really that good. Washing clothes in the winter was a bit like going to Alaska. After the machine jerked the clothing in two different directions, each piece would then be picked up by hand and put through the wringer at the top of the machine. Then, even if the temperature was below freezing, my mom would be outside with her gloves hanging the clothes on the rigid clothesline to dry. Often she brought them back in stiff as a board and able to stand up on their own. I used to get cold just looking at the frozen shirts and underwear.
Modern machinery to us was the tractor my father borrowed to roll over the soil for our garden. Everyone’s lawn mower was the kind you had to put your entire weight behind to get it to move. No one who mowed their own lawn would resemble the skinny weakling in the back of our comic books who was constantly being threatened by Popeye-like beach thugs.
We treasured the old. Our favorite hide-away was the attic with its coffee grinders and old barrels. We were seldom allowed up there which made the attic’s treasures all the more alluring. I always made a dash for the hand-wind-up Victrola that we pumped enthusiastically to hear our parent’s collection of 78 records. My favorite song was The Trolley Song:
“Clang, clang, clang” went the trolley
“Ding, ding, ding” went the bell
“Zing, zing, zing” went my heartstrings
For the moment I saw him I fell
“Chug, chug, chug” went the motor
“Bump, bump, bump” went the brake
“Thump, thump, thump” went my heartstrings
When he smiled, I could feel the car shake”
At the age of six, this was heady stuff convincing me that young women were in danger everywhere they went of turning into a bowl of Jello with a complete loss of mind. A woman could lose her heart to some stranger. Maybe Jack the Ripper. Children, my mother told me, well that came later, and they were delivered by a stork. My younger sister tried to disabuse me of this picturesque vision when I was in seventh grade but I didn’t believe her until I was in ninth grade.
Of course, we were more modern in our living quarters. Our party line would ring twice if someone dialed 4-5231. If the call was for our neighbor it would ring once and we knew not to pick up unless we were bored and wanted to be nosy. We owned a radio that had a spot of honor in our living room that our childish feet were banned from entering. My mom loved to listen to Arthur Godfrey. She often and loudly declared him an anti-Semite and although we weren’t sure what that meant, we knew it was bad and wondered why she lit up and danced around the kitchen when he played his ukulele. But then we didn’t understand any of the grown-up things like my mom whooping and hollering when Truman was elected president.
By the time I reached my teens, my parents had built a modern ranch house across the street and they purchased a black and white TV set. We were allowed to sit on the floor in the living room on certain nights. Ed Sullivan and his “really big show” was Friday night’s entertainment and the place that the Beatles made their American debut. Saturday night my parents, at my mom’s insistence, went out to mingle with other couples and make believe they were like the moneyed and carefree. We would watch Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco long past our bedtime. I especially loved Imogene because when I needed a haircut my father would put a bowl on my head and then my mother would clip off what stuck out. Everyone said that plain-Jane-me, with my bowl haircut, looked just like Imogene. That was as close as I ever got to Hollywood glamour.
I am brought back to reality by my dripping purse and I realize that while I don’t have to put my clothes through the wringer – only my brain from trying to learn social media, programming my cell phone and what to do in case my computer crashes. My almost-six-year-old granddaughter has loaded up my Ipad with free games she can play and Skypes my husband when the rest of her household is sleeping. When she whines and I tell her she sounds like a broken record, she looks at me with bewilderment and asks me what I mean. And I look at her and remember my six-year-old concept of love and hope that when she turns to Jello in 10-11 years, that she will keep her mind and fall for the right guy.