He gives a few examples of progress which entails the good as well as the bad: with the invention of the airplane, there came pollution (“the clouds will smell of gasoline”); with women gaining the right to vote came women losing the right to say “I don’t need to be informed about politics” (“you lose the right to retreat behind a powder-puff or a petticoat”); with the invention of the telephone, “you’ll have to give up privacy, the charm of distance.”
I especially echo that last one. Although the invention of the cell phone brought an amazing increase in the ability to communicate with each other no matter where we are (great progress), there also came the lack of ever being alone unless we are in an area without cell phone service.
So very few things labeled “progress” are either totally good or totally bad.
I noted this during this recent shopping season. In the old days (before “progress”), you had to be physically present in the store to shop. It meant going to a store or perhaps a mall and walking around and looking at items and buying them right there.
Now, many of those beautiful malls are closed or half-empty. Those that still exist are often crowded and merchandise is sometimes in disarray and the right sizes and colors aren’t present.
This “progress” in shopping is due to the ability to buy things online. On the internet, one can order the exact color and size. One can shop without leaving one’s home — clicking on various websites and choosing within one’s price range the perfect gifts. Caveat: make sure to do this in time to receive the item (figure out the shipping time) and how much the cost of shipping is.
An advantage of physical shopping is that you get to actually hold the item and see the exact size and texture. Also, you are guaranteed — if you pay for it — to bring it home that day.
But often you cannot find the exact size and color, and people are jostling, and how nice and convenient it is to just click and buy at home while wearing your pajamas.
I miss the bright lights of the malls of the old days, and the serendipity of stumbling upon just the right gift totally by accident — while looking for something else, seeing it there on a shelf.
It’s all a matter of trade-offs: the good comes with the bad.
This brings me to another tradeoff: parenting. Inherent in that job is the end of the job — the child grows up.
How nice it was to have little ones at home. The chaos, the laughter, the playing, the hugs — OK, also the tears and the tantrums and the spilled dinners.
I loved that chaotic, noisy life. But children grow up (although my kids sometimes tease me that I still think they are little). Progress. It can’t be stopped.
I once longed for the days I now have, when I can silently read a book without interruption and when I can travel by car and not have to pack diaper bags, snacks, and things to entertain four active little ones constrained in car seats.
Those peaceful, quiet days have come — progress — but at a price. I miss the noise and the chaos and, especially, the hugs.
I don’t dwell on that, but instead I think of the upside: the new members of the family who have come into our lives — wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, grandchildren. Grown children who have found fulfilling jobs and who are enriching the world. It’s all OK.
Anyway, there’s no going back. Life is a one-way trip. With progress there are always drawbacks. So I’ll enjoy online shopping — and my cell phone — and my grown children.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]