The other day, my daughter bit into a grape and pulled back in disgust like it was filled with parasites. It took me a minute to figure out what was wrong: She had never eaten one with seeds in it. In fact, up until that point, she didn't even know that was possible. I assume she just thought the whole grape was the seed ... or that she just never thought of it before, because really, who gives a crap?
But that's weird, right? I mean, seedless grapes have been around since at least the 1800s, but even when I was a kid in the 1980s, they were still kind of an oddity. They cost more than regular grapes, so they were something only rich parents bought. They were a luxury back then, but they're now the standard.
It's just one of the many things that fascinates me about progress in general. It leaves the upcoming generation baffled about a lot of the mundane things we take for granted. Things like ...
#5. Phone Books Are Just Plain Weird
I talked before about how alien old landline phones must seem to modern kids, but it didn't occur to me until I recently received my new phone book how weird it really gets. Because of the convenience and cost of cellphones, most people I know don't even have a landline anymore. I haven't had one in more than a decade. What's the point? Why walk over to a mounted phone when you have a way more accessible one right there in your pocket? Why give people two different numbers in order to reach you? I mean, drug dealers and businesses aside?
I mention businesses because there's a legitimate reason they still have landlines. You need a central spot for the phone, so it doesn't get lost. Imagine owning a business where you have to trust 20 employees to not lose or break a single cellphone ... or worse, having to provide all of them with one so you don't miss calls. The sheer amount of porn-related write-ups would be staggering.
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"Welcome to McD- holy shit, is that a leg?!"
Aside from that, landline phone numbers are public record, unless you pay to get yours unlisted. Businesses depend on that ease of access to survive. As individuals, that's the opposite of what we want. Today, if someone put your name, cell number, and address (yep, phone books list your home address, kids) into a book and then gave that book away for free to everyone who lived in your county, child molesters and all, you'd lose your goddamn mind. And rightfully so. But that's been the landline standard for decades, because back then, the worst thing someone could do with your number was carve it into a bathroom stall or write a hit song about it.
But even if the world lost their fucking minds and decided that we needed a cellphone directory, we wouldn't use books to do it. Not when every cell has a touchscreen and every WiFi spot gives you access to the internet. Search engines are now so tailored and refined that I don't even have to input the name of my town in order to get the results I'm looking for. "You are four blocks away from your nearest dildo tune-up garage. Here's their number, address, hours of business, types of dildo modifications they offer, pricing ..."
"Well there's your problem. You have a car stuck to your dildo."
Phone books are not only obsolete, but they're dangerous. We're living in an era in which identity theft is more common than jock itch. If I broadcast your name, number, and home address to multiple cities, I'd likely go to jail for harassment. But phone books did it as a service. Our kids will look back on that archaic system and think we were either all insane or incredibly ballsy.
#4. Riding In A Car (Even As A Passenger) Was A Huge Financial Risk
In the mid-1990s, I was in a pretty bad accident. I was in the passenger seat of my friend's truck, going down a gravel country road, when we hit a series of bumps. It caused the truck to fishtail into a ditch and flip. We were only going about 40 miles per hour when it happened. Neither of us were wearing seat belts because his truck was a "classic" that was made before vehicles were required to have them. And that's how I got my super powers.
Seat belt laws in my home state didn't go into effect until the late '80s, and even after that, most people still refused to wear them. The same thing happened with mandatory insurance. The law was enacted in 1990, but most people refused to wear them. Insurance just looked weird when combined with our Madonna cone bras.
Now imagine a scarf made out of insurance. Weird, right?
On top of that, airbags weren't common until the '90s, and they weren't even required on light trucks until 1997. Since most people buy used vehicles, that meant it was well into the 2000s before the majority of the country's drivers had them. When you take all of that into consideration, it meant that every time you got into a car, you were putting yourself in financial peril.
If you got hurt in an accident and you weren't covered by insurance, you just hit the Get Dick-Slapped Into Poverty By Medical Bills lottery. All of your car's damage was your responsibility. And if another car was involved, you'd better pray it was their fault -- otherwise, you're now responsible for their repairs and medical bills as well. Of course, if it was their fault and they didn't have insurance either, you'd better duck, because the dick slap is coming back around.
FOR GOD'S SAKE, MAN, DON'T OPEN YOUR MOUTH!
Now, there's only one state that doesn't require mandatory auto insurance (fuckin' New Hampshire ... pfft). And only one state doesn't require seat belts ... seriously, New Hampshire again? Jesus. What the fuck? Anyway, the point is that in all states that aren't New Hampshire, we can get in our cars and just crash into shit like crazy without having to worry about filing for bankruptcy if something explodes.
#3. Long-Distance Relationships Used To Be A Bad, Bad, Bad Idea
When I was in elementary school, we had a pen pal program, wherein you'd basically draw a name out of a hat and write that person letters. Most of the kids were from other countries, so it was kind of neat to say you made a friend in Australia, which is the only other country outside of the U.S. Of course, since envelopes and stamps cost money, most of us gave up correspondence after a few weeks, and that was that. Fuck that other kid. If he wants to hear from me, he can get a damn job and pay my damn stamp bills.
It was even worse when you made a romantic connection. For some kids, it was finding a hot piece of camp ass and then losing contact when you parted ways at the end of the summer. For me, it was because I moved around a lot. I lived in a farming network of five or six towns that were all 15 minutes' drive from each other ... which doesn't sound like much, but when you're as "toast this bread so it doesn't taste as stale" poor as my family, we might as well have been pouring gold directly into our gas tank. Visiting a girlfriend that I'd made in my last school was not an option.
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"If only there was a way to bridge this six-inch gap between us."
So we wrote letters. For a few weeks. Then it was that whole job, stamps, fuck you bit. If we had a phone, we could have at least called each other ... but then again, that was back when phone companies all had ridiculous long-distance prices. And those long-distance plans bent you right over and dry-fucked your wallet until the friction made it burst into flames. So no, calling was also not an option.
Back then, it was nearly impossible to keep a long-distance relationship going, because even if you did write every day of the week, it's just a letter. You need more contact than that. I'm not just talking about crotch stuff -- just seeing their facial expressions during a conversation is huge for a relationship. Take that away, and your contact is several steps lower than an email.
Skype changed all that. Yes, long-distance relationships still have that whole "no touchy, no feely" problem, but that's a hell of a lot more bearable than checking an empty mailbox seven days in a row before finally seeing a letter, then knowing it'll be another seven days before you hear from them again. And with texting, Snapchat, Vine, Twitter, Facebook, email, instant messaging, webcams, phonecams, and even online video games, you can quite literally spend every waking hour with your significant other.
"Yeah yeah, I love you too. Now shut up and heal me."
The point is that long-distances don't mean "inevitable doom" for relationships anymore. In fact, they're quickly gaining steam as the predominant form. And it makes sense. It's so much easier to talk to someone when you can craft what you want to say, rather than stammer out a nervous, sweaty stream of nonsense on a first date. Then, after you get comfortable with them, talking in front of a camera is no big deal. Then, it's just a case of "Do I show him my boobs now, or do I go the safe route and wait for him to whip out his big ol' floppy hog first?"