In simpler times
Once upon a time not so long ago, earth looked quite different to the children that roamed it. Take a kid from the 1970s and propose wearing a watch that could locate you anywhere; suing their teacher for expelling you from class for misbehaving; or even that there were multiple TV channels that played nothing but cartoons all day, and they’d think you’d fallen off your bike head first (sans helmet, naturally).
Things were a lot simpler back then.
Child safety measures weren’t invented, whether for detergents or cupboards filled with sharp objects. Inane product warnings telling 2-year olds not to smother themselves with this plastic bag would fall into the same category. We’d go biking, and there would be no helmets, let alone knee and elbow protectors. In fact, we’d even hike. With strangers.
Speaking of cars, we didn’t wear seat belts either, and the only air bags we knew were of the aforementioned kind which now bear warnings telling us to not choke ourselves (or others) with them. Preferably, we’d sleep on the parcel shelf. There would be no DSes or PSPs; with a little luck, we could sneak in a magazine if we wanted to get nauseated. Video was something we’d barely heard whispers of from home cinema geeks, let alone in cars.
We drank water from the tap or the garden hose; not from store-bought bottles. Food was basic, and you’d better damn well finish your plate. Living in Norway, take-away food was limited to hot dogs and chips. McDonald’s? Sure, in the movies, along with tacos and a mysterious, foul-smelling concoction dubbed kebab. Speed was of the essence; stores closed at five in the afternoon, and were closed on the weekends.
Oddly enough, starvation wasn’t nearly as rampant as one might expect.
Furthermore, we’d often share a soda between friends, and only rarely did this lead to a visit from the grim reaper. In fact, we could drink absolutely unfathomable amounts (as in, 3 small glasses of the stuff) without gaining a single gram of weight. We had no idea what the word excercise meant.
We’d indulge in butterdough cakes with real butter, hi-fat milk and sodas with plenty of added sugar and still look raked since we were always outside and played. We fell out of trees, cut ourselves on knives, broke bones and teeth – and nobody reported it to the police or sued anyone because of it.
When we wanted to visit a friend, we’d walk – or bike. And when we got there, we’d just have to hope they were home. We’d knock and wait, or maybe shout or whistle.
When we could scrounge enough friends, it was time for soccer and softball, where teams always had pickings. Those who didn’t get to be on the teams just had to learn how to cope with it. Imagine that; getting on the team required skill or reputation. It didn’t even matter if you wore the right clothes or not, as long as parents other than your own didn’t spot you with holes or tears.
Teachers could very well grab you by the ears if they so desired, and nobody dared to disrespect a teacher beyond their first (and irrevocably failed) attempt. Quite possibly, that’s the reason for why bullies didn’t seem to have nearly as much power back then.
We got up for old ladies on the bus, and if we failed to comply with the unwritten rule of doing so we’d quickly be reminded with a surprisingly swift motion towards the head.
There was freedom, repeated failure followed by eventual success and subsequent responsibility – and we had to learn how to do things the hard way.
I’m not saying this accurately describes the opposite of today’s society. It’s more of a humourous glance through lenses tinted with a little nostalgia and the realization that I shouldn’t really be holding such a view at my age – even though society is evolving ever-more rapidly, which makes it easier to shape and perceive contrasts such as these.
What I am saying is that we had more time to reflect – even though we never thought of it as anything other than boredom – and we were able to focus on one, sole thing for hours on end. And not one text message or phone call to disturb us.
I remember it with fondness.