Those Were the Days

Jun 27, 2012
Chuck Sigars

I’ve been playing Cable Creep for the past couple of months, a game I understand and which serves essentially the same function as computer solitaire: It’ll do on a slow day.

I don’t care why it happens.  It could just be a glitch in the system.  It could be pure corporate Evil.  It could be Ebola, I don’t care.  It just happens is all I know, from time to time, not all that often in my case, and my cable bill will quietly adjust itself, go buy some new duds and charge it to me.  Services I don’t want and didn’t ask for are suddenly mine, and I make a call.

I get how people can miss it.  Services can blend together, trash and water and power, none of the bills with nice round numbers.  I can’t even tell you what I used to pay, just that it went up by around 15 bucks.  I called, got someone incompetent, thought I’d fixed it, and then the next month it went up another $28.  Game on.

I actually like this cable company, a small-ish one, not a major player, with a horrendous web site.  On the few occasions I’ve been down to their office, the people have all been capable and pretty friendly.  And even though I’ve played with services, I really only want one thing: Really fast broadband Internet, and that’s what they do.

We gave up cable TV 18 months ago, and regrets?  A few, too few to mention.  Not even regrets; wistfulness, maybe, mostly about PBS (can’t seem to pull that station off the air) and Canadian television.  We’ll probably miss our Canadian friends most of all this summer with the Olympics, but really, it’s the idea of the Olympics anyway, isn’t it?  We will survive with what we get.

But we hung on to our landline, since my last contract offered it for 10 bucks a month.  Sentiment for us, mostly, and laziness.  We’ve had that number for nearly a quarter-century, it has seeped into all sorts of places: Financial institutions, pharmacies, old church records.  Number nostalgia can be overcome, but figuring out who needs to know about the change?  Daunting.

Until I look at my old computers, remnants of the 1990s, sitting downstairs in a corner because I haven’t gotten around to taking out the hard drives with their important financial data and you know what?  We didn’t DO financial stuff online in the 1990s.  And anyone who only knows our ancient landline number doesn’t need to be contacting us.  An easy divestment, once you stop to think.

I’ve found myself lately grateful for changes, sort of a surprise.  And I think I owe it to “Mad Men.”

“Mad Men” is now over until next year, which is another thing to be grateful about, short seasons.  There are only a couple of these hour-long dramas that I pay attention to, and as opposed to the old days, when they stretched out 22 episodes over the better part of the year, now I get three months of weekly waiting, catching up, and then they’re gone and I can make better use of my time.  Call me a fan.

But mostly watching “Mad Men” has soothed my irritated soul, the one that gets all jumpy from references to “the good old days.”  First of all, I’m getting to an age when I remember the good old days, all wrapped in gauze with a rose haze, long summer days of riding my bike, playing Little League, buying soda in real glass bottles.  They were fun.

And that was because I was a child.  I wouldn’t fit on that bike, I don’t drink soda, and I’m pretty sure they won’t let me play Little League anyway.

My point is that most of us have pleasant memories of the past and miss the things that are gone, some of it honest nostalgia (I miss Don Knotts) and some a little complicated.  So maybe it takes a realistic television show about the fairly recent past to remind me that the good old days maybe weren’t quite so good, particularly if you weren’t a white heterosexual male.  Some good things have changed.

Some little ones, too, which I was mostly appreciating lately.  I like rechargeable batteries.  I like paying at the pump.  I like my electric lawnmower, which is quiet and bothers nobody.

I like GPS, which is a blessing to someone lacking an internal compass.

I like the fact that friends of mine with diabetes can take a pill instead of a shot.

And I like knowing that little girls can grow up to run ad agencies instead of being secretaries, how that’s a change from 50 years ago, and how there’s no going back to those days. There’s plenty to be cynical about in this world, but all in all I think I prefer it here as opposed to then.  Except for Don Knotts.  For some reason, I really wish he was still around.

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