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FROM THE VALLEY: It's Going, Going, Gone Day

By Tom Valley

Whether you realize it or not, this is “National Dog-Bite Prevention Week.” I asked my dog, Maggie, if she knew about it, but she refused to comment. Perhaps the cat's got her tongue?! I wonder if there's a week for that?

And lest I forget, later this month is: “Help a Horse Day.”

If you haven't figured it out by now, I have an ASPCA calendar. Remember calendars? Those are the things that used to drape our refrigerators and office walls. Sadly, they were never deemed quite elegant enough to hang in the living or dining rooms. Such snootiness.

Calendars are rare commodities these days. They are going the way of the phone booth, old-time wristwatches and Kodak cameras. And all for the same reason: the cell-phone. The cell-phone, for better or worse, is not only the most addictive creation to come down the pike since TV, but it has also eliminated the need for a multitude of things we once took for granted. And in a snippet of irony, it can also be used as the aforementioned television. Go figure.

Just a couple of decades ago, we'd never imagine someone saying, “Let me grab my telephone, so I can take a picture.” Such is the head-spinning speed of modern technology.

Picture albums are also fading into oblivion. If my parents were alive, I can't imagine the reaction I'd get if I told them I stored my photos “in the cloud.” I'd get the same look they gave me when they asked what my goals were in life and I replied that I wanted to become an usher at the Strand Movie-Theater. (I was always enamored with the power and prestige of carrying a flashlight. Give me a break, I was only 27 years-old.)

In the old days, technology moved, comparatively, at a snail's pace. Unlike today, our phones weren't outdated a month after purchase. The only notable changes to the telephone came when we switched from simply telling the operator the number we wanted, to dialing it ourselves; first, with a rotary dial and then with buttons. And that took over fifty years to develop (at least, in my hometown).

Remember Andy Griffith telling the operator: “Sarah, could ya get me Aunt Bee?” That's sort of how we rolled.

Another thing: And another item on the endangered species list, because of cell phones, are walkie-talkies. Which reminds me of the time my father installed a used intercom he picked up. He put one of the two thing-a-ma-jigs in the kitchen and ran the wiring out to the unattached garage for the other one.

Big-time modern convenience … or so Dad thought. He wanted to talk back and forth to my mother like the police detectives did on television. That was his post-WWII cutting-edge lifestyle.

Dad's undivided attention to a project was more the norm than not. He would seldom lose focus until the job was done, regardless of the results.

I remember how proud he was when he finally got ready to try the intercom. He was outside and I was in the kitchen. The speaker started to crackle and I could hear his voice call my mother's name.

“Margaret!” A few moments of silence. “Margaret, can you hear me?” A few more tries and then he came running into the house. “Where's your mother?”

I said I think she's upstairs ... somewhere. Dad shot up the stairs and a few moments later they both came back down. Dad instructed Mom to stand by the newly-installed unit. He rushed back outside to the garage and again the shrill of his voice rippled through the low-quality speaker.

“Margaret?”

My mother responded, “What?”

Louder and louder, Dad barked “Margaret? MARGARET?”

Five seconds later he came flying back inside. “Didn't you hear me?”

“Yes,” Mom explained. “I answered you.”

“Did you press down the button when you spoke and let it up to listen?” his frustration was boiling over.

“You never told me that, Leo,” Mom deadpanned, sounding exactly like Alice Kramden. Dad, hoping she was now fully trained, raced back outside to try again.

“Margaret?” he desperately plead. Mom pushed the button and said “What?” He heard her. Alleluia! Elvis was in the building. Success.

My father, proud as if he just cured the common cold and eager to show off his new gadget, then asked, “Margaret, what's for lunch?”

Coincidentally, according to the calendar hanging right next to the intercom, it was “Things-You-Discard-After-One-Week Week.”

That's right: it was Mom's version of making things obsolete.

And that's the way it looks from the Valley.

Tvalley@Rochester.rr.com

The author Tom Valley and his dog Maggie.


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