by Cindy Phillips
I remember life before the internet. It was those days of yesteryear, before Al Gore invented it. Research was done at the library. Communication was on a rotary telephone or via handwritten notes. You needed a stamp to send a letter and you had to walk to the corner to put it in the mailbox.
The other day I walked past a police cruiser and chuckled at the www.gcso.org on the back. I still think of websites as being more about advertising than information. I remember seeing the first signs of URL’s on plumbing trucks or floral delivery vans.
But I was reminded that websites today are as much a resource as a commercial advertisement. That got me thinking about how much easier life could have been if we had the internet when I was in high school. Here are some of the websites I would have used regularly.
Being a smoker in 1970 wasn’t all that easy. First of all, there was the legality issue. I was 16 and you had to be 18 to buy cigarettes. Then there was the cost – 45 cents a pack! I realize that sounds absurd, but I was a high school student with no means of income other than my weekly allowance. And that five dollars a week had to cover a lot of expenses including a once-a-week slice of pizza from Tony’s, a trip to the mall, the latest album release from the Beatles, or the Mamas and Papas, or Bob Dylan. So at the end of the week, I was rifling through jacket pockets and searching the bottom of coat closets looking for loose change. If I scrounged up enough money to buy a pack, I still needed to get to the store. It was either a two-mile walk to the deli or hitching a ride with a friend who may want some gas money.
More times than not, the easiest way to get a cigarette was to mooch one from a friend. But whom to ask? You had to be careful not to hit up the same person every time. Motorheads were always an easy target. These were the boys who took auto mechanic classes. Most had part time jobs after school at a service station and naturally they all had cars. So they typically had a fresh pack of smokes.
But it would have been so much easier if we had a website where you could post when you had cigarettes to share. And we could have monetized it with ads from Marlboro and Kool.
I had a group of girlfriends in the neighborhood. After school we wanted to hang together to discuss our day. Topics included boys, boys, homework, boys and boys. We wanted to go to the house without parents so we could raid the fridge and flop on the couch. This meant a succession of phone calls back and forth before we determined whose mom was leaving shortly for the grocery store or whose dad was working late. We would have saved on a ton of message units if we had a website on whichto post parental calendars.
We all hung out at “the corner”. The corner was where the Bruno boys lived and where after dinner, we congregated. It was about a one-mile walk from my house. I would head out around 6:30 in my cut off jeans, white man-tailored shirt and clean white Keds.
There were no cell phones, so if you confirmed with friends at 6:15 that we were meeting at the corner, by the time I arrived around 6:45 the plan may have changed. If I arrived to find an empty corner, I had no choice but to turn around and walk home. As Murphy’s Law would have it, two minutes after I walked in the door the phone would ring with someone asking “Where are you?”
At that point, I would tell them to send one of the motorheads to retrieve me because I wasn’t walking all the way back again. Of course I had to walk to the corner so my mom didn’t see me get in a car which was strictly forbidden at 16. The payoff was said motorhead probably had a Marlboro to spare.
Other handy, self-explanatory websites:
www.didimissthebus.com – To let me know if I should forget about running all the way to the bus stop.
www.wheresthesleepover.com – Whose parents were willing to have us all sleep over. Also for who was bringing the potato chips, 45’s and Monopoly.
www.whosatthemall.com – If we already knew who was at the mall, we could decide if it was worth the trip.
www.igottheanswers.com – As soon as we boarded the school bus, it was a mad dash to see who did the homework so we copy the answers.
Maybe having the internet in high school would have been convenient, but somehow I think I might not have some of my fondest memories. Back then we always got together in person as opposed to texting or face timing. It was all real life, not simulated. When you made someone laugh, you heard it. When someone was hurting, you went to comfort them in person. No, I wouldn’t trade it for all the domains in the world.
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times, firstname.lastname@example.org.