Monday, August 7, 2006

Some Little Things That Were Different When I Was Growing Up

I grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s, entering young adulthood in 1976. Most people can easily point to major changes in our society since that time, both technologically and culturally. Some of the most obvious technical changes are personal computers, cable TV, CDs/DVDs, cell phones, and the like.

But while riding around today, I got to thinking of the smaller, more culturally oriented changes; changes that I don't necessarily see as improvements.

While in the market today, the clerk attempted to hand me my change by piling the coins on top of the bills, which was on top of the receipt. More often than not, I drop part of the change as the precariously balanced coins shift at the moment the money changes hands. It only takes two seconds more to hand the change first, then the bills, but few clerks take the time to do it these days.

When I first entered the work world back in the 70s, it was standard procedure to hand the coins and bills separately. It's only been in the last couple of years that I've had to deal with precariously balanced coins-and-bills piles being pushed at me. Why the change, I wonder?

For the last twenty years or so, clerks have routinely handed you your receipt after you've paid. But when I was a kid, the practice was to staple the receipt to the bag. I can understand why they want to hand it to you, but I still don't want to hold it, so I tell them to put it in the bag.

The paper or plastic decision didn't come along until the very late 70s; when I was a kid, it was a paper bag or nothing.

In the late 70s, when I first was gainfully employed, it was standard procedure for an employer to call back all applicants when a hiring decision had been made. In other words, they called you when you didn't get the job as a matter of professional courtesy, so the applicant could move on to something else and not wait any longer by the phone in hopes of being hired. Nowadays, you have to figure it out for yourself that you didn't get the job.

Most school systems were more flexible about attendance when I was going to school, with the emphasis on whether the student could get the work done, rather than face time, per se. That is, if a student could meet the work requirements to pass their grade, then it was allowed, even if they'd missed more than the usual allotted number of days.

I always started the school year the week after Labor Day -- now, many schools start earlier and earlier in August. Indeed, the local schools are already in session as I write this entry. I can't understand the point of starting during the hottest part of the year, when neither students nor teachers want to be there, even if they do get out a bit earlier the next spring.

When I was a toddler, I remember riding in the car sitting on top of a tall couch cushion. I never had a car seat or a booster seat of any kind, nor did the law require them. Similarly, the cars in the 1960s had seat belt, but it was the lap belt only; cars back then had no shoulder harnesses. I don't remember seeing lap and shoulder belt combinations until the mid or late 70s or so.

What are some small-level differences in everyday life can you remember since your childhood?

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