Growing up in the 80s and 90s was a special time. No smart phones, no ring tones, no streaming anything. Let’s take a moment here to look back at:
1. Old, dangerous playground equipment.
The slide was burning hot to the touch, a stovetop set to high all day under the summer sun, just waiting to greet the underside of your legs with first-degree burns as you enjoyed the ride. Everything in the playground was more dangerous. And they were different and unique, seemingly put together by the neighborhood handymen who in a burst of creative energy one Saturday morning emptied their garages of old tires, 2x4s, and chains and just nailed it all together. Everything is plastic now — unaffected by temperature, easy to disinfect, and bendable into all kinds of Safe-T-Shapes, the sharp, rusty nail heads of yesterday replaced with non-toxic washable adhesives poured from a cauldron of polymers and Purell. Now not only are our kids getting lame baby-approved fun, but just think what we’re doing to the tetanus shot industry
2. Finding a mix tape given to you by an old boyfriend or girlfriend.
Love Tapes are simply any mix tape carefully put together by someone who like-likes you. Yes, that blurry, distant boyfriend or girlfriend probably spent hours timing songs to fit perfectly on a side of a tape, painstakingly scrawled out love notes and drawings on stickers, and maybe, if you’re lucky, even sprayed it with a bit of perfume.
3. When a human answers the phone.
When you hear your office pals chatting all day you start noticing some voices rise higher than others. Sure, there’s tense phone calls home once in a while, but generally the biggest culprit of Telephone Anger is getting locked in a fierce battle with a voice-automated help desk. Yes, frustration fills the air anytime anyone rings up an airline, cable company, or government.
That’s when you overhear the painful ten-minute experience of Office Joe or Jane trying to talk to a computer. There is the extremely long pause before the stern “Option Seven, please” and “NO. SEVEN.” There’s the frustrated hanging up and calling again. And there’s the exasperated attempts to exit the system completely. “Main menu.” “Request agent.” “Main menu, main menu, main menu.”
4. Watching The Price is Right when you’re at home sick.
The Price Is Right is great when you’re sick because it comes along at 11:00am, which is about the time when your enthusiasm for missing school is sort of deflating into a boring day on the couch with a stomachache. By mid-morning, whoever is taking care of you has either headed upstairs or just put a blanket on you and gone grocery shopping. You feel too sick to do much of anything, so you just lay on the couch and flip channels endlessly, trying to understand why there’e nothing good on TV at ten in the morning.
Then finally — just as you finished counting the cracks in the ceiling, tried and failed to nap several times, and mindlessly gobbled down a pack of saltines — the clock strikes 11:00am and it’s time for the show.
5. Using Rock-Paper-Scissors to settle anything.
You can’t argue with Rock-Paper-Scissors. When it’s over, it’s really over. Sure, you can beg for that extension, but the victor never needs to take your bait. They played by the rules and they won.
It answers the little daily decisions that freeze us up. Which team starts the game? Who gets to shower first? Who pays for pizza? And who gets to change baby’s diaper?
These are all tough, challenging questions. And they are all easily settled once and for all with a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. But if you do enter the arena, then take my advice.
Just go for two out of three.
6. Changing the channel during a commercial break and then flipping back just as the show’s coming back on.
Before streaming, before PVR, there were commercials that you just couldn’t skip. You knew another show was on! So it was over to baseball during Full House ads. Or over to Cosby Show reruns during Fresh Prince breaks. And that created that beautifully seamless moment of flipping back to the show you were watching just as the commercials were finishing off. You played a risky game, friend. But you made it.
7. Before you could Google it.
Smack dab in the middle of the movie’s big scene, it always happens.
Everything gets tense for the big courtroom finale or championship football game, and then all of a sudden the defense attorney or opposing coach turns out to be that guy from some other movie and you just can’t stop thinking about where he’s from.
Wait, was he the prison guard in Shawshank? Or the lawyer from Miracle on 34th Street? Or, no, no, no, I got it. He’s the knife guy in From Dusk Till Dawn.
8. Getting the last copy of the video at the video store.
Oh look, shoot, there’s a giant empty wall of Dark Knight DVD cases. Wait, wait, there’s one left in the corner!
9. Pushing those little buttons on the soft drink cup lid.
There’s just something about the way they give, the way they turn white, and the way they’re permanently transformed for all eternity that just makes me itch for it. It’s just compulsive. It’s just instinct. It’s just AWESOME!