Toronto Sun

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Good old days are just that

Toronto Sun

One of the joys of getting older is knowing what the new generation has missed out on.

Which is a more positive way of saying that as you age you regret the changes progress brings and you miss the old days.

The trouble with experience, though, is that it may give you the ability to measure whether the changes are beneficial but it comes at a time when you're not adventurous enough to admit they have merit.

I miss the days before voice mail.

It's not that what we have now isn't more efficient, it's that it's made a big part of working life more automated and devoid of human contact than it is already.

And don't ask me about those automated systems where you press a number to get numerous departments or options, none of which are even close to the option you want, and then you're left in the black void of phone-tech hell.

Yet I love the cell phone for its ease of use, portability and constant availability.

I miss the days of service when people were friendly, willing, knowledgeable and interested. Even one out of the four wouldn't be bad. No one serving today seems to want to be bothered by such a thing as a customer wanting something.

And how about that old saying, "The customer is always right"? Heck, you're not even right when you're handing over the money today. Want to order something? They sigh heavily as you beg them to take down all the info and you'll never hear back.

No wonder catalogue shopping is back in favour.

I miss milk being delivered to the door in glass bottles. It tastes and looks better in bottles and, unlike wax cartons or plastic bags, bottles are recyclable and can be used over and over for the same duty. With all the nostalgic renewal going on, why isn't there a return to milk in bottles?

I miss the sound of the milkman and his horse in the morning. I grew up in England being awakened by those early sounds -- the clip clop of the horses' hooves and the chink of bottles.

Even the milkmen were fun and always a cheery lot who seemed to love their job -- a forgotten skill.

Those were the days, too, when doctors made house visits more than they had overbooked clinics.

The arrival of the doctor at the door was always such a relief and so reassuring when you or the children were really sick. It sure beats waiting slumped for hours in a stuffy room packed with sniffing, sneezing, coughing, sickly people and fractious kids.

To be fair, though, I'm sure clinics are more efficient for the overworked doctors and health care is far better nowadays.

I miss the easygoing days before Martha Stewart, before big, fancy cookbooks and before interior-design trends.

All of them combine to make the average woman feel inadequate in the home by making all that was straightforward and simple appear unimaginative.

It has, however, meant that home crafts and home baking have made the comeback. We can now buy the stuff at fairs at big prices knowing we should have made them ourselves but feeling better because we're helping someone else feel clever and superior.

Still, at least hanging onto all your old, tatty furniture and decor has at last been recognized. It's now called shabby chic in design circles -- and called necessity in most others.

And am I the only one who hates Tall Food in restaurants -- where height equals illusion and the price goes by the inch?

And talking of tall, I miss the days when towns and cities were short and a high-rise was no more than a few storeys. I've never thought it could be beneficial to the human psyche to be stacked on top of each other in boxes like battery hens. It certainly isn't to the hens.

An odd item I miss -- the Gardiner Expressway "hump" over the Humber that they removed recently.

I have flown like a metal bird over that hump many, many times (usually late at night and always too fast) and it was a milestone spot in the rush for home. Only 10 minutes more!

Now they've smoothed it out, the traffic's doubled, and there's nothing to jolt you out of your traffic jam-induced stupor. Still, there are probably fewer accidents on the way into Toronto. Before, people were always rushing over the hump, only to slam into the line-up on the other side.

Most of all I miss the days when men and women weren't afraid of each other, didn't expect perfection either visually or in a relationships and gave love instead of expecting it.

But, then, maybe the generation before me said that, too.

Valerie Gibson can be reached by e-mail at
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Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.