I was born in 1952. Things have changed. I was sitting in my backyard yesterday in the end-of-winter sunlight musing on the many changes. Such as, you'd better not sit in the sun, even the winter sun, for more than two minutes, or your skin will fry off your face into the non-existent ozone. Some good changes have taken place, but here's a list of what I consider simply dreadful.
1. Phones. I've never been a big fan of the phone, except when I was in high school and talked for hours with my friends. I think that kind of conversation belongs in high school. Sure, every once in a while, I talk for a long time with my sisters or my friends, but I can go for days happily not talking on the phone at all. In modern life, the phone has become an obnoxious, invasive instrument. We are forced to listen to people blah blah blah on their cell phones everywhere we go, or even more ridiculous, the head-set people who walk around with a phone clamped to their ear blabbering to the air. Then there are the really unconscious folks who yak on the phone while they're buying groceries, standing in the check-out line, making the rest of us listen. They continue to blab away even while paying for their groceries or dry cleaning as if no one around them exists. Narcissism at its best. Oh, and don't forget the constant calls from telemarketers who want you to buy this or that, or your bank clerk or insurance agent who calls at 8 at night to tell you about some new something that's available, like more Life Insurance, don't you want it? Now, right now, don't you want it at 8pm right after you've gotten home from work and the grocery store where you already listened to a gaggle of people talking on their cell phones? Don't you want more Life Insurance because you're going to be dead soon and so you should get some more. Call back. Now. You might die so get on the horn! My God, I've already heard forty phone conversations--none of them mine--all day long.
2. Work. We never stop working. The Internet has made it so we can work all the time. Work work work. Answer those emails. Email addiction. Texting addiction. Work work work. Everybody, anybody can contact you at any time, 24/7. I think it's absolutely awful.
3. Traffic. A seven lane freeway? You have got to be joking. There is nothing more terrifying than being on Highway 80, driving toward Sacramento where the lanes expand and cover the earth, boxed in by cars the size of tanks, and some are made to look exactly like a tank. There are way too many people on the planet and they all have cars, and many of the cars are huge, despite the dire ecological facts, which very few people take seriously, or not enough people take seriously enough. Only when we have melted down the planet to nothing but tanks spinning their wheels upside down in the toxic ditches will we call each other on our cell phones and head-sets and say, "Gee, what happened? Let's yak about it some more."
4. Overpopulation. There will be approximately 9 billion people on earth pretty soon. But now it's fashionable to have a child when you're still in high school, or so my female college students tell me. All their friends are having babies, because it's so cool to have a kid. I mean, like, everybody in Hollywood has kids, it's the thing to do. Have five or six, or like the OctoMom, eight in a single, uterine, over-fertilized swoop. Why not? Big families are so...cozy! They make you feel like you're someone super-special. And you can get a huge super duper car or tank to drive around the kids, and you could maybe get on a talk show or a reality show or any of those horrifying shows where we find out about...what do we learn there? We learn how embarrassingly stupid we are.
5. Toxic Love.
After Reading Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
My college students and I talk about love,
And they think love has many definitions,
So I ask, is it love if a man beats his wife
Because she wants a divorce, and is it love when
He tries to commit suicide by eating rat poison
But that endeavor only swells his head
And turns his teeth into fangs
So he shoots himself in the mouth and dies?
Some of the students nod,
But they look worried.
"Maybe not," a boy says sadly.
A girl shouts, "He died
For her! That's love!"
Another boy says, "Sure,
He loved her. And besides, it'd be boring
If we all loved the same way."
I think, but don't say,
We'd wipe out literature
And I might lose my job
If love were only patient and kind
And not envious or boastful or proud
Or rude or angry or self-seeking.
A student talks about toxic love,
And I write that phrase on the board.
"That's love, too?"
Yes, the students agree. We've reached
A consensus, except for the girl crying
In the back row.
6. Modern Life. But would I want to go back in time? No, it was fraught with its own brand of awfulness.
7. Daffodils. I'll sit in my backyard while the winter sun blasts the skin off my face and listen to the phone ring and muse on how it's almost spring, and my heart, like Wordsworth's, dances with the daffodils. In Modern Life, there are still daffodils. Yesterday, driving through Lafayette to work, I saw a row of them on that hill with the rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of white crosses for the soldiers who have died in Iraq. We just keep having war after war after war after war after war because we can't solve our problems any other way except by putting pieces of metal into each other. Modern Life.
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society