Never that way again


I was reading something I wrote the other day. Basic plot went like this…

Terry, Justin and I had been planning a trip to Pennsylvania. Jay was heading off on a summer trip with a friend of his, so we had decided to grab Justin and go to Hersheypark.

For a wide variety of reasons that aren’t part of this story, my sister (Kerri) and her husband (Nick) were on a journey driving around the United States that summer. They were very roughly planning on bringing their trip to an end around the days we would be in Pennsylvania. Roughly meaning their schedule would have them crossing the state while we were there. Plans were made to meet up in Hershey.

Here’s a bit of a twist to the story. This took place about twenty-five years ago. No GPS. No cell phones. No navigational apps. No where-are-you text messages. Just hotel reservations made, meet up on this date, hopefully everyone is around in time to join up for dinner.

There is absolutely no way anything like this could take place today. No way. Impossible. Even with minimal phone contact, there would at least have to be a call or a text as the day started where the two parties checked in for rough estimates.

But none of that was really possible around 1996 or so. Back then, other than the phone in your house, you had the option of a payphone. That was about it for what was in regular use. Once you left the driveway, the world was a crazy and wide-open space.

And all of this got me thinking about so many things that will never happen again.

Would my grandparents drop by on a summer day unannounced… leaving a bag of tomatoes and cucumbers from their garden behind… if they had the ability to quickly check in and know we wouldn’t be home? Probably. But I don’t know for certain. And communication is just one of the ways things are changing.

The work world isn’t the same these days. For a work week, it used to be Monday to Friday, from 9 to 5. For many, it may still be close. But far more people these days are on a schedule that says you can work whenever. Grocery stores are open around the clock. Restaurant kitchens are still sending out meals after midnight. And, you can buy alcohol on Sundays.

I can still recall hearing about holiday shopping for some of the first times. Think about stores open on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings… for the last second purchases of vegetables that you forgot when you did the massive shopping for the holiday meal (or the batteries you need for the kids’ toys). A store open for a few hours because I needed turnip or butter? Well, that was just genius. But when I was growing up, you might have a hard time getting a cup of coffee to go on Thanksgiving, so these open stores were quite revolutionary. (Not quite as shocking today.)

Of course, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that my mother makes sense even when she sounds crazy. We’ll be talking about ordering dinner, and she’ll mention that it’s Monday so the restaurant is likely closed. And I chuckle and laugh and look at her like she’s nuts. After all, what type of place is closed on a Monday? But, it’s only crazy until no one answers the phone for our order… you know… because it’s Monday, and they’re closed. Old habits are, at times, hard to break.

They say the one constant is change. It’s inevitable. And, there is a lot of truth in the idea. I don’t believe I will ever again descend on a location hundreds of miles away with plans to meet someone with no contact at all the day of arrival other than seeing them show up.

However, the more things change…

Yeah. I still can’t always place the take out order I want on a Monday afternoon.


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