Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not Much Has Changed

     If you're a "Seinfeld" fan you might remember one episode, "The Face Painter," where George claims that toilet paper has not changed in his lifetime. It's paper on a cardboard roll, he says. But Elaine and Jerry disagree. They point out that now we have toilet paper in a variety of colors. It's softer. There are more sheets per roll. It's much different from the toilet paper they had as kids.

     I'm mostly in the George Costanza camp. In fact, we did have toilet paper in a variety of colors back in the '60s. I remember my mother putting pink and blue toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom, trying to impress her friends. And today we still roll it out just like we always did, and use it exactly the same way we used it 50 years ago.

     And it's pretty much the same with everything else. Except electronics. I'll give you that. Electronics have changed a lot. The personal computer. The internet. iPods; DVDs. Cell phones. I mean, even the calculator. We didn't have a calculator to use in high-school math class.

     But think about it. Not much else has changed. We live in the same houses -- with the same central heat, the same plumbing and electricity, the same roof. Many of us still have a septic tank. The one significant change is central air. But I like window air conditioners better anyway. That way there are no family arguments over how to set the thermostat. The people who want it cold can go in one room; the people who like it warm can stay in another.
1967 VW Karmann Gia

     Cars. There have been some modifications -- especially safety features like seat belts and air bags, and we have better sound systems -- but basically we put our stuff in the trunk; open the car door; slide in, start the car, and drive off to negotiate the same stop signs and traffic lights that we did in the 1950s and '60s.. Except the traffic jams are even worse now than they were then.

2010 VW Eos
     Clothes. Sure, the fashions have changed. But otherwise we wear the same cotton or polyester pants and shirts and dresses. We wear Nike instead of Keds. But, really, are they that different?

     Vacations. We pack the same beach chairs and coolers; the same suntan lotion, and go off to sit in the the same sand.

     Furniture. Except for the computer module, it's not any different.

     Entertainment. We have more channels on our HD televisions -- the electronics again -- but the TV shows are not that different. Isn't "Two and a Half Men" kind of like "The Odd Couple"? And "American Idol" like the old talent shows? Okay, we now have "Jersey Shore." But I wouldn't brag about that one. And movies? They just remade True Grit for cryin' out loud

     School. We still go to high school and play football and take SATs and apply to the same colleges. A lot of all-male schools and all-female schools went co-ed. But state universities, where most of us went, were co-ed to begin with. Harvard, Yale and Princeton were the most prestigious schools 50 years ago. They still are.

     Not to mention our emotional, psychological and intellectual lives. We're still arguing over creationisn and evolution, just like our grandparents were in the John Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1920s. We're still trying to figure out nature vs. nurture. We still disagree about abortion, which was supposed to be settled by Roe v. Wade in 1973. And of course, gun control. We were wringing our hands over guns in 1981 when James Brady got shot, and long before that, but as the Tucson shooting illustrates, it's still not a settled question. Race relations. Most people think we've come a long way; but that is subject to debate. Go to the Bronx, or to Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta or LA, and you'll see plenty of segregation.

     We've made some progress. Most of it good (except the traffic; and "Jersey Shore"). Let's not deny that. But if you're thinking the world is moving too fast; if you're afraid your skills are outmoded; if you worry you're being left behind, go take your dog for a walk. You do it the same way people were doing it 50 years ago.

4 comments: said...

Fashion I know, cars I don't. Fashion has changed dramatically, but what goes around comes around, and things are in and out.

Never watched Seinfeld until recently in re-runs. I will have to keep my eyes open for this one.

June said...

You're right on all counts.
And I can't believe I didn't see that Seinfeld!
I practically know them all by heart!

Dick Klade said...

Intriguing viewpoint. Quite different from what many, including me,say on this topic. I liked your post; lots of truth in it.

Hope said...

Very true...and an alternative way to look at life. I do have to ask when is the last time anyone saw colored TP, though. I only see white in the stores now. Am I shopping in the wrong places? I thought someone had proved that colored TP irritated the skin, wasn't green enough, caused cancer, etc.etc.