Dancing to the Oldies

Sometimes we let the pizza get cold, but there is never a dull moment.  The four little ones come, more for the time spent playing outside and the suckers from the music store next door than for the pizza, but Tuesday evening without them is not nearly as much fun.  Uncle “Steben” is usually here, much to the delight of the young ones (and his dad too, truth be known), but he doesn’t know how to provide entertainment like these guys.  The after-dinner matinee is spectacular!

I’ll never figure it out.  They are surrounded by technological marvels, CD player, DVD player, computer, and digital television, but they want me to open up the 90 year-old Victrola, lay a thick old 78 RPM record on the turntable, and let them “dance”.  We’re not talking about good music either.  These are old hillbilly harmonies, sung in the most nasally voice imaginable, nothing nearly as sophisticated as “Little Einsteins” or “Yo Gabba Gabba”, but these kids love it.  Almost every time they come, we have to go through the rigamarole again…Select a record (Who cares what record, just a different one than last time), everyone gets a turn at winding the crank, open the doors to the voice cone (how else can you control the volume?), the selected kid gets to move the lever to release the turntable (a cherished job they vie mightily for), and the steel needle is set down on the record.  After that, pandemonium ensues!  They jump and fall, wriggle and writhe, run around in circles, and just generally make a noisy commotion.  This is called “dancing”, not to be confused with wrestling or tag, although the process for these seems to be the same, minus the Victrola.  If we’re lucky enough to get an operatic tune, perhaps Grandpa will add to the commotion with his Bugs Bunny imitation from “What’s Opera, Doc?”, probably a scene we don’t want to dwell on for long…

The music is bad, the dancing is not a thing of beauty, but you’d be rolling on the floor laughing if you could see it.  These are times when I could chuck technology and live a much simpler life.  But events move on, the children go home, and (after a short rest) the wife and I head back to work, with all it’s chiming emails, whirring disc drives, and really frustrating issues.  “Oh no!  I saved my changes the last time I used this form and now I’ve lost my entire master list,” comes the lament from the beautiful lady.  I have problems of my own.  I know my website designer told me how to do this, but it’s beyond me.  Download those files to this new one on the desktop, upload those newly downloaded files using the FTC or FTP (or something like that) to the S3 (3S?) site.  No, you download them with the FDIC to My Documents…no FDIC is what the bank uses.  Oh, just push that key and upload it.  What do you mean two hours and 53 minutes until the upload is finished?  How am I supposed to get my work done now?

How did we ever work before we had all this labor-saving technological equipment?    It used to be pencil and paper, adding machines, mechanical cash registers with the pull handles on the side…all relics of a distant past.  But they, at their inception, also promised the same thing all innovations promise;  the inveiglement of higher productivity and lower labor output.  Once the trap is sprung, the reality is revealed.  More productivity leads to more labor every time, regardless of the original promise of more leisure.  We don’t care, we love our machines, and again and again, buy the latest, the greatest, only to want more.

So, I sit at my computer, having once more worked into the early hours of the morning, and think, not primarily of the job at hand, but I reminisce of earlier in the evening (now yesterday).  For a few moments that I’ll hold dear forever, we were free of the encumbrances, not tied to any device, but just enjoying the abandon of childhood, and wishing (just a little bit) that we grownups were that carefree once more.

Second childhood is coming…maybe I’ll get that chance soon!

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long. ~Ogden Nash

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