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Almost Fiction: There was a time

By Sam Jones

Almost-Fiction-web

Attitudes seem to change at 100 mph. Old ideas are replaced by whatever is in fashion without consideration for what is being thrown away.

There was a time when you could tell the make of car from half a mile away. From the rear you recognized the fins and from the front there were big distinctive grilles and bumpers. All of them sported bright two-tone paint jobs and tons of chrome. Today, if you can’t see the name badge on a Honda, a Toyota, a Lexus, or a Nissan, the only way to ascertain the make of the automobile is to sit in the passenger seat, open the glove box and read the owner’s manual.

It used to be that if you rode motorcycles, any motorcycle, you were interested in all motorcycles and anything to do with motorcycles. Touring riders went to the half-mile flat track races at Ascot, the mile at San Jose and Sacramento and everyone wanted to go to the Springfield Mile. The most famous hillclimb was The Widowmaker in Utah. It was sponsored by a touring club, the Salt Lake Bees. Ontario Motor Speedway and Riverside Raceway gave you real international road racing. If you were lucky you got to see motocross champions Joel Robert and Roger De Coster duke it out at Carlsbad. Motorcyclists of all varieties wanted desert bikes and trials riders went to custom bike shows. Triumph and BSA owners rode with friends on Harleys. You met the nicest people on a Honda, but everyone wanted to ride cross country on a Panhead chopper with a 12”-over front end and a red, white and blue flag painted on the gas tank.

All that has been supplanted by inane meaningless poker runs that only go from dealer to dealer and rallies that contain hundreds of vendors all turning the event into a shopping spree much akin to going to the mall.

There was a time when men wore suits or sport coats when they took a woman out to dinner and to a movie. If the date was in the evening only a white shirt would be worn with a man’s suit. If during the day or if it was a casual date a shirt with a conservative stripe or check was acceptable.

The ladies wore heels and hose and added crinoline petticoats that held out full satin skirts which made a wonderful rustling sound when they walked. Matching shoes, gloves and bags were mandatory.

There was a time, if you wanted a date with a pretty girl, you screwed up your courage, walked across the cafeteria and asked her to go to the movies or you got her number and called her on the phone, the landline, when she got home from school, while she was doing her homework and before she had dinner with her parents. You never called during dinner. Nothing made a father angrier than having to get up from his food to answer the phone from a pimply teenager so that you could ask his daughter out on a date. E-mail, Facebook, cell phones, texting, sexting, blogging, tweeting has put a stop to all of that.

Yesterday I sat in a café having lunch. Three teenage couples came in and sat in the next booth. I gritted my teeth anticipating excessive laughing and giggling. There was silence. All six of them sat down without speaking, took out their phones and starting pushing keys with their thumbs. Were they texting each other? The mating rituals of the young are a complete mystery to me.

A few weeks ago I was having a wonderful dinner with a beautiful woman. It was in my favorite old-school restaurant which years ago had a dress code. Yes, I was wearing a suit and my companion was in a beautiful dress. I ordered steak and she ordered prime rib, both cooked rare. We paired our dinner with a vintage bottle of cabernet sauvignon. A couple in their early 30’s came in. She was in a black and silver dress, he was wearing a T-shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops. He talked loudly and made a big deal out of being a vegan. Later in the restroom I happened to run into him. “Just come from the gym?” I asked. “Huh?” He replied. I nodded to his apparel. “Oh, I like to be comfortable,” he responded.

Taking a little extra effort to put on a shirt with a collar and wear shoes and socks when you take a lady out for dinner might suggest to your date that you really do care about her and the evening. She might even be impressed. Who knows; you might even get a goodnight kiss. However, making that recommendation is universally regarded as hopelessly old fashioned and met with disdain and blank stares. To the gentleman in the T-shirt and cargo shorts I said, “Yeah, yeah; I know that being comfortable is important. Why then don’t you just wear your jammies?”

For a fraction of a second there was the prospect of fisticuffs. When I hung up my coat on the back of the door and faced him, he thought better of a physical confrontation and went back to the dining room.

There was a time when after you graduated from high school or college, when you got out of the service, when you got a job and started paying your own bills you got an apartment, took responsibility for yourself and became a man. You didn’t continue living with your mommy and daddy, letting them pay the bills. Doing so keeps you a boy and there is a big difference between being a man and a boy.

As a crazy old man and a history major I have a lifetime of knowledge and experience on a great number of subjects, none of which seem to have any relevance in the world today. In trying to comment on the differences between today and yesterday my outmoded notions fall on deaf ears. Talking to someone whose only means of communication is a Twitter account limited to no more than 140 characters means the person reading this 1,070-word tirade just barely got through the first two paragraphs before they got bored and turned to something else, something more important like an electronic game where they can smash monsters, or the Internet and pictures of a panty-less Paris Hilton getting out of a limousine.

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