Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Useless Things We Know

     B and I were in New York City for the weekend and went to the Rubin Museum which features art from the Himalayas. I stopped by a meditation booth, sat in a comfortable chair and listened to the recording of wind from the Himalayas. I was supposed to meditate. Instead, for whatever reason, I started recalling the initials of the people I used to work with at a publishing company some 20 - 30 years ago. In the office we used to sign off on papers with our initials, rather than our names, and I could recall the initials of almost every person in my division.

    I reprimanded myself for not being able to meditate properly, for exhibiting such a shallow Western mind. And, besides, what possible good can knowing all those initials do for me now?

     Later, when I got home, I began to think of all the things I've learned over the years, all the skills I've developed, that are now outmoded, out-of-date, completely useless. I'm sure you've got plenty of your own.

     For example, how to drive a stick shift. Nobody drives a stick shift anymore . . . it's an odd car company that even makes a stick shift anymore.

     Or know what a Nash Rambler is?

     Why you're not supposed to light three cigarettes on the same match.

     How to carefully place the needle on a record player between the songs on an 33 rpm LP.

     How about writing cursive script? Those beautiful flowing f's and s's and r's. Gone the way of the do-do bird. My fourth-grade teacher was so proud of the penmanship she taught us, using those guidelines on the chalkboard for upper case, lower case and descending lines in the q's and g's.

     How to change a typewriter ribbon . . . or use whiteout.

     How to maneuver the rabbit ears to get the best reception. Do your kids even know what rabbit ears are?

     How to refill a fountain pen, or replace the cartridge in a cartridge pen.

     That there's such a thing as an electric blanket. (What ever happened to electric blankets, anyway?)

     Where Route 66 goes? And what it means.

     Who the "nattering nabobs of negativism" are, and who made the charge?

      Do you remember the name of William Randolph Hearst's sled in Citizen Kane? I do, for whatever good it does me.
    
    And the problem is, you simply can't get rid of useless information. How can I prove it? Okay, I bet you can fill in the blanks about what she was singing when you remember:

     There she was just a-walkin' down the street, singin' . . . .

     Snappin' her fingers and shufflin' her feet, singin' . . . . 

     She looked good (looked good), she looked fine (looked fine) and I nearly lost my mind.

     Before I knew it she was walkin' next to me, singin'. . . .

     So I close with another the bit of useless information I remember from Latin class: Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
    
    

33 comments:

Mac n' Janet said...

I drive a stick shift, h ave never driven an automatic.

RJ said...

Electric blankets are doing fine. I use one every winter night. Just bought a new one from Amazon. Don't you know it is more environmentally friendly than heating the whole house....

Cindi said...

ROSEBUD.

I think of it often.

Stephen Hayes said...

Hey, I still drive a stick shift. I guess I'm officially a dinosaur.

DDD said...

Very interesting post. My son said the exact same thing...stick driving skill is useless
I drive a stick shift. I learned the stick shift at 35.
I bought another stick in 2014 for three reasons.
1. To prevent from losing the stick shift skill,
2. Stick shift is cheaper
3. Few people can steal my car(usually young teens try to enjoy a joy ride)
One day I was not able to parallel parking. My friend and passerbys offered to park for me, but no one can drive a stick.

John said...

I take it when you Americans refer to a "stick shift" you mean a "manual" ? Here in the U.K. Most people still drive manual transmission cars and lets face it's more fun! I still love the sound and feel of vinyl so placing that needle is still a skill that's used and incidentally vinyl and turntable sales are growing again over here after years of decline. Another forgotten skill is how to put film into a camera. Although we now mainly use digital, I recently gave my old film camera to an art student. She said you can't beat the look of pictures shot and developed on film. Reassuring.
Merry Christmas

Gloria Williams said...

I work in a car dealership, and get calls for manual transmission cars a lot. Who can forget Rosbud, do-wa-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy -do and the incredible comfort an electric blanket brings on a cold winter night? Guess I'm old enough to be considered "senior"? Damn, where did those years go???

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tom,
You just did it to me, now the Do Wah Diddy will be going thru my head all day....

Dick Klade said...

My favorite useless skill: Being able to set type by hand from a California job case.

Anonymous said...

My Wife in Texas and brother in Chicago drive stick shifts. My son drove a hand me down stick shift in High school. When he went overseas with the Air Force he was one of the few that could drive off base with a local car.

Tom Sightings said...

Truth be told, I drove a stick shift -- aka manual transmission -- from 1965 to 2015, when I finally gave up and joined the automatic universe. I remember when I bought my 2009 Acura I had to special order a stick shift -- the dealership didn't carry one in stock. By 2015 it was impossible to even order a manual. But come to think of it DDD, I never did have any of my cars stolen.

DJan said...

I drive a Honda Civic with a stick shift. I sometimes will rent a car when traveling, and I realize that driving an automatic is really nice, but I probably will never go back to it. At my age, I'm hoping my old car will "stick" with me until the end. :-)

Olga Hebert said...

Well, I remember all that stuff except why not to light three cigarettes with a match...which I am certain I never knew in the first place so it's not like I forgot.

Keep the Faith said...

My dad taught me to drive a stick shift. It was fun to be able to drive a car with a stick shift except when stuck on a hill at a light. With practice, I got really good at getting going without banging into someone.
Memories of days past are gifts because it ties us together with those who can still share them with us.

Jane said...

Doo wa diddy diddy dum diddy dum

gigihawaii said...

I tried to drive my boyfriend's manual drive, but gave up. It's been automatic transmission since then.

Anonymous said...

Bought my first automatic transmission car in 2007 when Lincoln no longer offered a stick shift (as had been in my 2001). You reminded me of a time in 1982 when I needed someone to drive my car (I no longer recall the reason). It turned out that the only other person in the office who could drive a stick was my secretary.

Never heard of the singing song.

Most useless old skill, now? Using a slide-rule. (Now, let's see, the hyperbolic tangent of....)
Cop Car

retirementallychallenged.com said...

Many parts of Route 66 are gone, and others are, sadly, disappearing. One of our best road trips was following (as best we could) Route 66 from St Louis to Flagstaff. Maybe one of these days we'll do the rest. It was so fun to see the old signs, diners and motels along the way - we even stayed in a "teepee" at the Wigwam Village.

I'm afraid that a lot of this "useless" info will die along with our generation (only to be replaced by new useless info).

norddesigns said...

Skills will never be useless. Having the skill to drive a manual is still important worldwide. All the other stuff? If you need to know it just Google it.

retirementreflections said...


Three cigarettes lit with the aame match is a superstition that one of the smokers would be killed. I believe that this superstition is about soldiers...by the time the third cigarette was lit, the enemy would have seen the light, aimed and fired.

Ahhh, this stuff is still fun to know!!

PS - I still have an electric blanket...I must be older than I realized (:

Anonymous said...

Wife and I are under 60. We own a stick shift car, know how to work a slide rule, and I have driven cars with a manual choke. The Movie Stripes introduced the Do Wa Diddy song to the next generation. I didn't know the three cigarettes thing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, an old boyfriend helped me install a manual choke on a car that hadn't one. Thanks for the reminder!
Cop Car

joared said...

I have all that useless information stored away, too -- had forgotten what I didn't need to know any more. I remember a stick on the floor used with a clutch, but those aren't available any more are they? How about a shift on the steering wheel? Then, my first car -- an old Chrysler New Yorker -- the last type car a new young driver needed -- was like a tank -- was among the first automatics where you had to release the pressure on the gas pedal in order for the gears to automatically change. Oh, yes, I have LPs -- superior fullness of sound to digital -- a few 45s, 78s, 8 track tapes, regular tapes, video tapes. Now you've done it -- I'll be thinking about all the other useless information I have -- given my years, there's lots of it.

Barbara said...

I've still got enough song lyrics taking up room in my brain that I could qualify for mensa if I emptied them and filled with usable information. I drive an automatic but I'll bet I could still drive a stick. My first car was a 1950 Ford with stick on the column. Hahaha. Your stick comment sure did raise a lot of comments. I bought my first electric blanket last year but can't say I really like it. Might be a southern thing. And I'm still baffled that kids don't learn handwriting. Not everything can be typed or texted.... or can it.

Alan G said...

Ah, the beloved stick shift. I have one of those beloved 5-speed Geo Metro's that I truly love. And to confirm your thoughts on the subject, it is the only car I can take somewhere, leave the windows down and the doors unlocked and never have to worry about someone stealing it...

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

They are not useless, only replied. So will we be some day.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

replaced, not replied.

still the lucky few said...

Add to this lithany the many dance steps a person our age has learned, and can still do given the unlikely opportunity! Who knows or cares about the foxtrot, the quickstep or even the waltz! I could do all of those and many more...now I only do them in my dreams! It was grand, as long as it lasted!

Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Oh yes, the dreaded stick shift- why yes I can! I hate it with a passion though and refuse to ever own another car that does not have power steering. It wasn't the straight on the go that I didn't like...it was the holding her steady on a hill that always got me...like at a red light? The worst.
As to most of your other rememberings (not a word, I know)- I do know and remember most. Handwriting was something I thoroughly enjoyed teaching my first graders, and I was raised on lps and 45s (which my granddaughter things are giant cds..go figure).
White-out was my nest friend in typing class, and I bet I could still change a ribbon, and also thread a reel to reel music tape.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Savoring Sixty said...

Oh my! I remember most everything on this list! Thanks for the memory jolt!

Sandy said...

My 37 year old son-in-law has only had manual transmissions in his cars.

gideon sockpuppet said...

I can drive a manual transmission car - three on the tree or four on the floor, and I can double clutch too. Some outdated skills I have are making homemade jams, jellies and pickles; and knowing how to count back change to a customer. Do you remember when beer parlours had sawdust on the floor and a separate entrance for ladies and escorts?

Jude

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