The Good Old Days

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to my cellphone. I’m not proud of it. I don’t like admitting it. But I’m coming clean, publicly.

I feel naked without my phone. I shower with my phone. In fact, on many occasions—I am not making this up—I have ordered dog food in the shower.

It’s gotten bad. When I wake up, the first thing I do is check my phone. When I make coffee, I’m reading email.

When I wander outside to let my dogs sniff every blade of grass in the known universe simply so they can pee in the exact same spot they’ve peed upon for the last 3,298,119 consecutive mornings, I’m scrolling social media, viewing photographs from people I don’t even know, reading about what they ate for supper last night.

I’m hopeless.

Last night, for example, I lost my cellphone in the car, and it was dark. I looked for my phone for 15 minutes, USING THE FLASHLIGHT OF MY PHONE.

This is shameful. There used to be a time when we had no smartphones. I remember the tech-free era because I grew up during this period.

My generation had no computers, no cellphones, no smartwatches, indoor plumbing, etc. We entertained ourselves with only Highlights Magazines, Slinkys, and Polio vaccines.

You see, kids, during my childhood, shortly after the Spanish-American War, our phones were not smart. They were dumb phones. They were big, black phones which could only be installed by the phone company. They were Soviet-style phones, mounted in the kitchen, with 500-foot cords, rotary dials.

Back then, our phones were made of steel, industrial plastic, and asbestos. The phones weighed about 1,900 pounds and—hard as this is to believe—they did not even shoot good video.

Even so, as a kid, you spent very little time talking on a phone. Namely, because you were always on your bike.

You grew up on your bike. Your bicycle was your life. That’s how you lived. On two wheels.

You rode your bike everywhere. It was your only connection to the outside world. You had a permanent bike-seat imprint on your tiny buttocks.

You rode your bike on every street. Down giant hills. Across railroad tracks. Over the Appalachians. On busy highways. You would go anywhere on your bike. You were fearless.

There were no GPS’s, your mind was your GPS. You knew where ever treehouse, fort, filling station, and neighborhood ball field was located.

You played Little League ball. You spent a lot of time in the woods. You dammed up creeks and constructed dangerous rope swings that were a lawsuit waiting to happen.

You were feral. Mangy. You built campfires just because you could. You had ticks embedded in your scalp.

You and your friends purchased barely legal bottle rockets from fireworks stands, oftentimes launching these bottle rockets from well-known orifices of your body.

You were away from home for entire presidential administrations, and would not return until you heard your mother’s voice shout that supper was ready.

And your supper wasn’t glamorous. Your supper consisted of gluten, trans fats, lots of carbs, and lethal chemical dyes which are known to cause cancer in California.

And oftentimes your mother cooked entire meals at her stove without ever once dropping the unfiltered Camel from the corner of her mouth.

That’s how you grew up. We were always covered in bruises. You broke every bone in your body at least thrice.

We were perpetually sunburned. And the only screens we stared at were the ones that kept the flies out of the kitchen.

We wore shoes only on days of the week ending in G or L. We ate food directly off the ground.

We scavenged our pennies and bought Red Man from the gas station and watched our friend Luke Anderson puke in the bushes.

We bought candy cigarettes, Big League Chew, and licorice whips.

We didn’t have Google to double check random facts, we just lied to each other.

For directions, you used a Rand McNally map. And if you got lost, you died.

And books. You actually read books. Real books. Comic books. National Geographics, and if you were a Baptist boy, you read Cosmopolitan Magazine. (“Page 22—The undiscovered joys of having an atheist lover.”)

You were capable of reading for entire hours without moving a single muscle. You could focus on paragraphs like a Jedi knight.

We had no social media except Auto Trader, Thrifty Nickel, and notes passed in class. (Do you think Adam is cute? Check Yes or No.)

There were no computers in cars. AM radio was still the best way to catch a Braves game. The greatest thrill of all was getting kissed. Either that or beer.

Yeah, I know we are living in the Age of Information. But I’m afraid the human race has gotten so smart that my phone is now smarter than I am.

P.S. I wrote this on my phone.


  1. Jimpa - May 11, 2023 11:33 am

    Ah, yes…I remember it well.

  2. Mac - May 11, 2023 12:50 pm

    Thrice??? I hate it when you flaunt your community college education like that! Now I’ll have to look that up on my phone!

  3. David in California - May 11, 2023 1:02 pm

    Everything in California causes cancer. We even have the signs (everywhere on everything) to prove it.

    P. S. Thanks, Sean, for describing my childhood so perfectly (I didn’t grow up in CA but it was still a bit like that when my dad moved us out here in the mid-70’s when I was in high school).

    P. P. S. Read this on my cellphone (which causes cancer).

  4. Ginny Nevins - May 11, 2023 4:52 pm

    My sister split open her chin when she fell from a broken tire swing in the woods, the same woods she set on fire to “smoke out” the missing bank robber they talked about on the AM radio. As a fellow redhead, my cycle was burn, blister, peel (maybe accentuated by the iodine and aluminum foil “book” we held under our chins). Our moms discovered frozen veggies which became a staple for dinner usually with country-style steak or fried pork chops and instant potatoes. All worth it if you had it followed by homemadestrawberry shortcake. The bike rides to the drug store to pour over the latest comic book with a cherry smash on the side was dreamy.
    Thanks for the bike ride down memory lane, Sean!

  5. Dee Thompson - May 11, 2023 6:19 pm

    Oh yes, I can relate! I love my phone way too much. As a kid I was allowed to freely roam around the woods behind my house, usually barefoot. I rode my bike everywhere, played kickball in the backyard, roller skated down the street, had perpetually skinned knees, and played football in the street. I played with dolls and went fishing with Dad. Today’s kids have no idea of the joy of catching a fish, beheading it, cleaning the guts out, scaling and washing it, and then batter frying it. Nothing tastes better..

  6. stephenpe - May 11, 2023 6:28 pm

    excellent history lesson. Everything is true. Down to the broken bones, bikes, comics and kisses.

  7. Gaylon Ponder - May 11, 2023 8:38 pm

    I’m 76. My mother once noted that people haven’t changed! It’s only the trouble they can get into that has changed. In that regard, I guarantee that you knew some who was about your current age way back then who couldn’t keep from listening in on someone else’s conversation using that new fangled telephone thing way back then. They probably wrote to someone about what they learned. They probably didn’t tell anyone they called because they knew their neighbors would be listening in, and certainly wouldn’t tell anyone they talked to in person because they were the neighbors they were listening in on and saw them in church, so they only told people in far away places they wrote to. They may even have admitted in writing that they couldn’t help listening in even though they didn’t mean to and knew it was wrong. They just couldn’t listen in and watch people all over the world like “some people” can now can nowadays. And Mom was right. It ain’t the people changing their sorry ways;-)

  8. Lori - May 11, 2023 11:34 pm

    I miss those days. I miss that life. I really really do.

  9. Susie Murphy - May 12, 2023 12:36 pm

    Yup. Life was incredibly good.

  10. Joanne Swan - May 12, 2023 5:18 pm

    Life was simple and good. I remember walking my girlfriend halfway home & standing on the corner at 11 at nite talking. No worries. I remember bikes – no helmets. Screw on roller skates, no knee pads. Playing Statues at night. And our parents really were not crazy worried. I have a phone and use it more frequently than I like. Please keep reminding us of that more easy, pleasant time.


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