Chronicling change, or stuff that used to be true, but isn’t anymore

Kind of a grab-bag post this time. A ‘once we all . . . but now we all. . . ‘ kind of thing. What changes, major or minor, have you noticed in contemporary society? I’m not looking for things like Uber, or electric cars. More everyday kinds of things. Feel free to weigh in.

  1. Hospital food isn’t terrible. I got sick recently, spent some time in the hospital, and I couldn’t believe how good the food was. They had a big menu you ordered from, and 40 minutes later a delicious entree–with dessert!–would show up, hot and tasty. Apparently, American medicine figured out that patients recover faster if they have a better hospital experience. In a way it’s sort of a shame. Used to be, when friends got sick, you’d say sympathetically ‘you poor thing, eating hospital food.’ No longer; I almost didn’t want to go home.
  2. The DMV experience is quick, efficient, and not all that unpleasant. It always used to be, when you talked about difficult experiences with the government, you could count on the DMV for providing completely miserable government employee interactions. Now you can schedule your appointment on-line, and be in and out in minutes. At least you can in Utah; I wonder if Indiana has followed suit.
  3. Political advertising doesn’t work anymore. When this election, prognosticators all thought Jeb! Bush would be a big favorite, because he had raised so much money for his campaign. Money=TV ads=electoral success. Sure enough, Bush has been running ads all across Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as in other early states. And the polls show his candidacy tanking. He’s at a whopping 3 percent nationally. Meanwhile, The Donald is way ahead, in first place, without running any ads at all. (He ran his first ads this week). Of course, Trump gets tons of free media attention; he doesn’t need to spend. But I don’t see much evidence that spending works anymore. I think, BTW, that this is an awesome development. Political ads are, way too often, shrill and annoying. Which may explain why they don’t work.
  4. Cops don’t seem to spend their free time in doughnut shops anymore. Remember what a proven laugh-getter this way; linking cops to doughnuts? Police Squad, that hilarious old TV series starring Leslie Norris (which led to the Naked Gun movie series) began each episode in a doughnut shop, for example. But it isn’t all that true anymore. I think police departments have emphasized fitness a lot more recently. Also there aren’t as many doughnut shops anymore.
  5. I don’t want this to sound like a grumpy old white dude, but there was a time when the best writers were Americans with these grumpy old white dude names. Not anymore. I think this is awesome, but right now the best writers in the world are all people like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, David Bezmozgis, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Yiyun Li, and Rivka Galchen. I mean the best playwright in America is probably Lin-Manuel Miranda, except he’s also probably also the best composer and performer. I can’t tell you how heartening this particular change is.
  6. Four-way stops: out! Roundabouts: In! I grew up in Bloomington Indiana, a town known for a terrific local music scene, a great college basketball team, and four-way stops at every corner. I don’t think any city planner anymore would put a four-way stop at an intersection where she could put a roundabout. Way better.
  7. Of course, there will always be highly partisan news outlets, like Fox News or Salon.com or National Review or the Nation. But have you noticed how many factually based, determinedly not-partisan websites there now seem to be? Like Vox.com? Or Fivethirtyeight.com? A welcome development, I’d say.
  8. For some reasons, a lot of the TV programs I like watching anymore feature ads that seem pitched to old people. Ads for denture adhesives, bowel regularity pills, burial insurance, lift chairs. Viagra ads. (Especially the ones where the couple are on a beach, watching fireworks, and look fondly at each other. And hold hands. And. . . ?  I hope they at least drape a blanket over themselves). I saw one the other day, an ad for adult disposable undergarments, where they’ll deliver them to your home, so you don’t get embarrassed in the grocery store line. Yikes! I’m not that old! I have no idea why these ads for those shows; its not like I haven’t always liked game shows.
  9. Airline travel used to another reliable laughter-inducer. It was annoying, security checkpoints were intrusive, the seats were too small, the service terrible. Even really good comedians, like Louis CK and Ellen Degeneres used to make airline jokes. Nowadays, though, air travel . . . still sucks. So that one’s still true.

I’d love your observations. The world is changing; it’s good to chronicle change.

3 thoughts on “Chronicling change, or stuff that used to be true, but isn’t anymore

  1. Jonathan Langford

    Not quite as specific as the items you’ve listed, but it’s my perception that kids are supervised a lot more now than they were in my youth, and I presume yours. Used to be, you’d come home from school, go out and play, come in for dinner, go out and play again until it got dark, then come inside. Yeah, you had to let a parent know if you were going somewhere far away, but they didn’t really care where you were if you were staying in the neighborhood. Not so much anymore. Good or bad? Some of both, I think.

    I also think kids are a lot more ambivalent about leaving home. The world looks like a scarier place to them. Which maybe means they’re more realistic than we were about just what the world is like. Or maybe it’s because they didn’t get to spend as much time without adult supervision growing up…

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    1. poetrysansonions

      I definitely second this one! There is now a name for parents who are okay with not being next to their kids 24/7; “free range” parents. Luckily, Alaska doesn’t make custody decisions based on this, but several friends in the Lower 48 have had blog posts in favor of free range parenting brought up as a reason that they shouldn’t have custody of their kids. Sigh.

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