Time Travel

I read a news article this morning about time travelers. Well, I read it on the internet, and it was while I was reading the news, so I’m going to call it a news article.

timeIn truth, it was just a series photos—heavily overlaid with advertisements–showing old-timey, black and white photos from the twenties into the sixties portraying “people from the future” accidentally captured on film. How were they identified as futuristic? Well, some were men wearing casual, comfortable clothing in photos where everyone else was wearing a suit. But most of the pictures showed people holding what looked like cell phones.

For me, this photo series raised a few questions. If I traveled back in time with my cell phone, who would I talk to? Another time traveler? No, there wouldn’t be signal. Zero bars. Do we still call them bars? I don’t know. I don’t have a cell phone. When I mention cell phones on my blog, I’m stepping into the unknown. Right alongside nuclear physics… or lawn care.

I got rid of my last cell phone in 2006. This is when I switched to my current job, which doesn’t require out of the office communication. In 2006, few people had smart phones. We still had flip phones, and texting wasn’t yet wide spread. To text, you had to hit each number key the prescribed number of times to get the proper letter to show up. So as of 2006, I had never sent a text.

I’ve sent a text now. Probably six or seven of them. My kids have phones. So, on occasion, I’ll grab my wife’s phone and text my children. I also send emails to their phones. From my perspective I’m emailing (which makes me comfortable), even though my kids think we’re texting. It works out well for each of us.

The greatest benefit of not having a phone is you have to develop a high degree of self-reliance. When driving places, you need to know where you’re going before you get in the car. And if you break down on the way, you’re on your own.

In the photo essay on time travel, the pictures that really got me thinking were of people in casual clothes. If I traveled through time, I’d be busted immediately. My clothes scream “the future” (or at least “the beach”).

There was a time when I cared what I wore. Well, I still care what I wear, but now I care to wear shorts and a t-shirt. Back before 2006, before I got rid of my phone, I was usually found in khakis and an oxford shirt. Oftentimes a sports coat. Now, for me, dressed up is a cotton sweater with long pants (any long pants).

In 2006, I got a job working at the YWCA. This is essentially a large fitness center and a child care. The people walking in are uniformly wearing casual clothes or workout clothes. Every now and then someone will drop off their kid in what might be considered business attire. But because most of the work-places in town are casual, business attire is rarely more than jeans without holes.

It’s sort of pathetic that the only thing that differentiates us from the people who lived seventy years ago is cell phones. Last month, my family and I took a day trip to the Air and Space museum outside of Washington DC. Walking through the cavernous hanger-like building, I was struck by the level of innovation right after the turn of the century… last century, not this one.

In 1903 the Wright Brothers scored the first airplane flight ever. Eleven years later, bi-planes were duking it out in the European skies during World War One. By World War Two, planes were all but indistinguishable from propeller planes still in use today. To the folks living one hundred years ago, the people from their past lived without electricity, without plumbing, without transportation. When we think about the people from our past, we know they lived without phones.

Innovation is dead. The nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries saw a rapid improvement in all areas of our daily activities. Transportation, utilities, entertainment and medicine all experienced a total transformation. Meanwhile, the diseases we were trying to cure in 1980—Cancer, Aids, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s—are all still a work in process.

The common cold is still common, but at least we have Facebook and Instagram in our pocket, and a comfy shirt on our back.

13 thoughts on “Time Travel

    • Possibly we’re on the cusp of a breakthrough that will allow us to cure everything from cancer to the common cold, but it looks much more likely that we will be facing new disease threats (zika, et al?) before we eliminate any of the current ones. Someday I’d like to wake up to a headline that something in our world has changed for the better.

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  1. It’s crazy to me how connected we all are these days with smart phones and all that they can do. I was at a soccer practice this evening and googling Chronic Heart Failure, as it was related to a text I got from a friend.
    I do agree that the diseases we were trying to cure in the 80’s are still there. We have put so much money in trying to research and cure cancer, yet the numbers never decreased – instead they went up!
    For me, I of course put autism in there as well. I have my thoughts on why those numbers keep going up. Partly, I believe our food is so tainted with chemicals, and we are surrounded by so much technology – but the way politics work, they will never turn the heavy hand on Monsanto or any of them. Kudos to you to staying clear of cell phones! I do find they help me keep connected with the kids when they are away from me. My kids can’t fathom the life I lead as a kid, teenager and adult when they weren’t around. Cell phone living is possible. You’re the proof!

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    • Autism is a perfect example of what I’m writing about. We’re still arguing about the cause, much less how to cure it. Along with that, a wide range of neurological disorders and diseases including my own Tourettes. When I was in my twenties, I took refuge in the knowledge that many of the issues plaguing my parents – heart disease, cancer, severe vision problems, even baldness – would be long solved by the time I was their age. At that time we were still riding high from our achievements of the past. Now it seems like we are still dealing with all of these problems in an eerily similar fashion as we were forty years ago.

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  2. Do you just not like the idea of cellphones or why do you prefer not to have one? I remember a simpler time when I had to use a rotary phone to ring a friend and see if they’d come out to play… I would hate to have grown up during the advent of social media; the idea of having some of my moronic teenage thoughts/actions/looks/anything saved on the internet for all of time is horrific. Thank God I missed out on that fun.

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    • It’s two-fold. Society’s addiction to smartphones drives me nuts. In general. I don’t want to be “connected” when I’m at the grocery store. With OCD, I think I’d have a hard time establishing boundaries (like I’m answering this question at work). Also, I would just never carry the phone. My wife’s is generally around and she often suggests I carry it at times, but almost 100% of the time, I forget.

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  3. I think you will find that many Autists would not want to be cured….they are happy as they are. The fact is that heart disease cases have dropped as we have understood the condition is of note. I think diabetes has replaced heart disease for this next generation and that is possibly due to the high sugar/low fat diets that have been sold to us in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As each generation develops further knowledge and understanding about how our bodies work and thrive, disease will evolve but I don’t think we shall ever conquer all illnesses. After all, viruses evolve too! There have been many innovations in the past twenty years that have surpassed some of those from the past – computer technology has revolutionised most sectors including medicine, finance and in the way we view the world. In fact, I think this time in history has seen the greatest changes! Think of the innovations in how we grow our food, power our homes and live everyday life! Its all very different to 70 years ago. I have read your blog with curiosity. Thank you.

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  4. Hmm, maybe 70 years ago, but not 40 years. The changes I’ve seen in my adult lifetime pale in comparison to the changes my father saw. Although I’m largely unimpressed with smartphone technology–I have a tendency to discount any gains there as useless. We’ve gotten far better at waging war, though.

    Regarding Autism, I seriously doubt they are “happy the way they are”. As a person with a much less serious neurological disorder, I know that being *different* makes for a difficult life. Robyn who commented about could write much more eloquently about this subject. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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