Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 5, 2012

Cathie Shaffer: Observations on modern life: 11/06/12

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

GREENUP — In this computerized, cell-phoned, technology age, it’s kinda hard to remember what life was like back before all these now-essential gadgets came into our lives.

 What started me thinking that way was a recent discussion with friends about handrails on stairs and grab bars in bathtubs. My maternal grandmother shared a home with our family from the time she adopted my mother to the day she died and she had her share of falls and scary moments.

The scariest was when she fell coming back across the road from getting the mail and broke her arm. The injury wasn’t the part that made our spines tingle; it was that she fell on U.S. 6, where semis and other traffic roll in a steady stream.

She could have benefitted from one of those personal alert systems, except they didn’t have them then. Her only option was calling for help as she crawled off the hot macadam.

Our small town phone company was one of the last in the state to convert to private lines. I grew up with party lines, where your call waited until whoever was using the phone was done — unless it was an emergency.

There was no expectation of privacy when you butted into someone’s conversation with “Please get off — I need to call the fire department.” News spreads fast in a small town, but especially when the person who heard your announcement was the self-appointed local news spreader.

We weren’t able to call my dad in the field and ask if he was ready for us to bring food to him. And he wasn’t able to call us at the house to let us know he needed a part. Instead, he’d climb in his truck with the broken part, drive home and send us to the closest tractor supply place to see if they had it in stock.

The convenience of ATMs is something I take for granted, although I well remember having to go into the bank in those pre-drive through days to take money from my account. And “banker’s hours” were observed, usually 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

One particular day, I went on my lunch hour to withdraw $200 to make a purchase. When the teller (who knew me well) asked if I wanted any particular bills, I said no.

The result?

I walked out with an envelope containing 100 $2 bills.

I am most definitely not one of those people who lament the changes the last 20 years have brought. I like being able to pay my bills with a few strokes of a keyboard and am thrilled that this winter, I’ll be able to start my new car from inside the house.

After four years of watching whatever I could get free with rabbit ears on my TV, I signed up for satellite service. And yes, I am enjoying the variety that small dish in the yard gives me.

I have to wonder, as my grandmother did when I explained to her the workings of portable phones and video game systems, what’s next. Futurists probably have it all figured out but I do believe I’d rather to continue to live in blissful ignorance.

At least until I figure out how that gizmo works that lets people charge other people’s credit cards with a small square plastic thing and a cellphone.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net