[Carol 3rd place]
Here is Decade Contest entry #1.
Once there was a Time...
By; carol biunno
Tommy, there once was a time when my Dad and I would pull into Westlakes gas station on a hot summer afternoon and we would talk while he pumped the gas into our pink and white Dodge. Old man Westlake would come over to my side of the car, the window was down and he would talk to us as he cleaned our windshield, checked the oil and wiped off the huge oval headlights.
Hmm, Gramma, people did this as a job? he asked with a bit of amazement in his voice. Didnt the smell of the noxious fumes from the gasoline bother you? Im glad we eliminated that as our source of fuel today. You can see the effects in the ozone layers and the levels of toxic waste products in all the daily environmental reports issued.
Sure the environmental reports are better, but. I didnt finish because as my grandson and I pulled into the gas station, it brought back memories of a time lost to todays world of modernization. My hands, now tight at times and twisted from arthritis, I needed to rely on someone who could pump the fuel into my car. The attendants are gone, they call it the Century of Self-service. Good idea for the person in a hurry or those capable of pumping, but, this streamline, cut the cost scheme, as other similar people editing cuts, failed to remember those who are not able to do such tasks.
It was just one of the many ways people were erased from the picture. Once there was a time, when you would hear early in the morning, the distinct clang and resonance of the scissors sharpeners bell, as his truck slowly made its way through the neighborhood. The milkman as he slid open the door of his truck on each stop, the patter of his boots up your stairs, the creak of the milkbox lid and the jingle of the glass bottles as he slipped them into the awaiting container. The bread man, who always had a miniature loaf of bread for each kid on the block.
I remember going into the bank with my grandmother, her hand in mine and into my free hand, the banks security guard would pass a lollipop. Now there is an ATM machine, which has a slot and a key pad, it knows you as an account number and its made of metal and is cold to the touch. As the people were eliminated, the opportunities for those simple yet profoundly meaningful human interactions, began to fade away. It took with it avenues for people to share their happiness and their grief. The chance to realize how important life is and how a few minutes shared with another person could enlightened someone. Patience began its erosion and Respect was to become, just another word. Do-it-for-your-self was center stage, with emphasis on SELF.
Gramma is there someplace we can drive-in around here to pick up something to eat?
Tommy, just a half block from here there was a strip of sit down restaurants my Dad took me to. Actually, he worked in Lopes as a young man cooking on the grill, working the counter from breakfast through lunch. All that was left, as we drove past, was a sculpture of a Mortar and a Pestle, on which a metal staff with a snake wrapped around it stood. It was placed there in remembrance of the towns founder, who operated the first pharmacy in the area. It was there that the best vanilla milkshakes were made. Where you could sit amongst the community members as they waited for their prescriptions to be filled and feast on a cold thick shake at the marble counter, which was trimmed in gold overlay. The giant gooseneck faucets glimmered from the sunlight that came in from the plate glass windows and in turn would bounce the light back and forth from the mirror plated wall behind the counter. Places like this were no longer to be found. Now there were drive up everythings. All computer operated automats.
Today was New Years Eve 2015, I can remember being there to witness the ringing in of the new century/ millennium. The countdown to the year 2000 started months before the giant Waterford crystal ball descended slowly from the creamed colored building in Times Square. The promise was to eliminate wasted time. Automate with seemingly flawless machines and eliminate all monetary exchange. Everyone was assigned an eleven digit number and a five letter scanable password on a titanium card. The goal was to limit the chance of large group gatherings thus cut down the possibility of mingling amongst strangers and reduce the crime rate.
Most occupations were home centered, with micro computers as the main source of communications and business transactions. The shopping malls were vacant with the buying of goods online. The shipping industry skyrocketed with each transport company offering same day delivery as standard. Monorails buzzed by in the center of the main thoroughfares, taking the place of the trolley cars role in the early 1900s. The destinations for this rapid transit though was shipping yards, airports and jet propelled train stations. Automobiles were being used less and less, but as always there were the antique car collectors and a few die hearted, change resistant populace.
Home schooling and the online classroom eliminated the need for schools. The buildings which once housed school children, along with the shopping malls were being converted into prisons. It seemed the elimination of customer service occupations caused a enormous unemployment surge. This pushed people without the proper skills out to the streets. The homeless population multiplied ten-fold and this enhanced the desire to stay at home, away from the population in the streets.
The environment was cleaner, but, there were fewer people out on the streets or the beaches or even in the forests. We had developed different social skills and our reliance on computerization and do it by myself had changed the significance of really being together. My toast tonight, will be for a return of the days when caring and physically being together, along with the tremendous advances in technology can blend together and reap a truly peaceful time.