Is Today The Good Old Days?

by Dennis Machicao

Like most of you, friends are always sending me silly email jokes, pretty pictures, sayings and so forth. But the other day, I got this little vignette that peeked my interest and made me smile. As the oldest writer for Eco 18, I thought I might share it with you.  If you are of a certain age it might make you smile too, if you’re not, well then, learn and smile too.

“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

Ah, the good old days, right? Probably not with all the technical advances we have now a days.  But it is interesting when you think about it that our individual lives back then were more conservation minded even though we didn’t really realized it. Modern life has made us, in general, more wasteful and less active. It’s made things easier and in doing so we have paid a price or rather the environment has. Technical advances perpetuate our throw away society. Everyone wants the newest and latest cell phone, big screen TV, car, or gadget. I’m guilty of that too. Yes, they make our lives easier, but what happens to that old gadget replaced by the newest one? Don’t get me wrong, in our own way we were wasteful back then too. But modern life has sped up the process.

Take the remote control. That is so part of our lives that we even don’t think about it. Here is a radical concept. Back in the day, before remote controls, we actually had to get up off the sofa, walk to the TV, change the channel, adjust the sound, AND walk back to the sofa. You might not think this is a strenuous means of exercise, but try doing that a couple of times a night.

In the third paragraph of this piece the clerk tells the older woman: “Thart’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations”. Will the next generation say that about us?  Let me stop before I start sounding like Andy Rooney.

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