POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
These Times Are Changing
By Nandy Ekle
One of my all time favorite books was written in 1975, or there abouts. I love reading this book and have read it many times. Besides reveling in the infinite layers of this story, it never ceases to amaze me how things have changed. The main character drives into town to use a payphone. He only has a ten-dollar bill, so he buys a magazine, two candy bars, and a bottle of aspirin, then has three of his left over dollars converted to quarters to feed the telephone.
The main character then moves his family to an isolated hotel for the winter. Driving up the mountain they have no stereo in their car, and it’s a standard shift transmission. Once they get moved in, the only connection they have with the outside world is a CB radio. When they talk on the radio, every sentence ends with “over.” And they were dependent on the local television stations for whatever show was being broadcast.
The first time I read this book, it all seemed so normal and familiar to me. I grew up during this period and I knew about having a phone on the wall with a rotary dial. I knew about not having music in the car, and I learned to drive a standard before I learned an automatic. The CB radio was a new fad, and we had to wait a whole year for the local television station to play run our favorite movies. And a ten-dollar bill went way farther than it does these days.
However, we now live in a world where we have phones in our pockets at all times, and they play tunes for our ringer, or they ring like an “old phone,” or they don’t ring at all, only vibrate. Not only that, but they are much more than phones. They are also our cameras, our music players, our mail receivers, our encyclopedias, our televisions, our game consoles, and our books.
The point is, we should remember these things when we are writing. Think of your characters’ ages and what they know and understand about the world they live in. If they’re older and can remember when life was not so convenient, then the lack of all our easy-living instantly gratifying life-style is not so unusual. In fact, that could be a component in your story, pitting an old-schooler with an up-and-comer.
But if your characters are young and hip, they should understand and use all the modern amenities. In fact, it would be very distracting to your readers who sit reading the adventures and thinking, “Why don’t you just dial 9-1-1?”
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.