There was a time when going to the grocery store was an all-day event that happened every few weeks, and if your pantry was bare of an item you needed, dropping into the quick mart wasn’t an option.
If you ran out of sugar in the midst of pie-baking, you borrowed a cup from your neighbor — yes, literally. I was the oldest and was usually the one sent to fetch the grains of charity.
There wasn’t a gourmet coffee shop on every corner, either. Grown-ups plunked a quarter on the table for their freshly brewed mug at the diner where the townsfolks gathered to indulge when the purse strings weren’t too tight or if the lady of the house was tired of cooking.
The pies were thick and the lines were short. A steady trickle of visitors pranced through ordering this and pointing out that. The counters weren’t swarmed with sweating, pacing zombies swiping their cell phones. The individuals in line chatted about their plans for the day or their menu choice. The topic didn’t matter. The conversation did. Folks valued the actual presence of the person to their right or to their left more than the remote embodiment of intimacy many find on their cellphones today.
In simpler times, we didn’t have instant access to what was happening to a dear friend across the state or to a stranger half-way around the world. Time seemed to glide like the news did then — slowly, winding through the community instead of zooming past like a satellite signal. We digested the events and let the facts settle in. We had time to connect to whatever feelings were stirred from the announcements. Joy and commiseration were shared at an arm’s length, not over the distance of airwaves.
But I wonder how I’d stay connected without my cellphone’s capability to email and text. Would I be able to function without the techie convenience? Perhaps, I could. Maybe the trick to enjoying the app-driven society is to balance my digital teeter-totter with a bit of old-time face time.
After all, what’s the worst that could happen without my navigation app? I’d have to stop and ask a stranger for directions?
I don’t mind querying random people when I visit a new destination. I so enjoy talking with other travelers, hearing the local scoop on cool places that are a must to check out. Why is it that I’m able to talk for 20 minutes with someone in a foreign land that I don’t even know; yet, I can’t seem to find five to touch base with my neighbor?
If familiarity breeds contempt, it breeds contentment as well, and I’m finding I don’t really want to be content — not if it means I have to be on a formal vacation to relax and appreciate the waning decadence of personal conversation.
Back in the day, neighbors shared their vacation plans with each other and exchanged the chores of watering the flowers in the porch boxes and fetching letters from the mailbox for safe-keeping.
Of course, all neighbors aren’t trustworthy. We don’t live in the shelter of the likes of Mayberry anymore, but I’m willing to take a chance and satisfy my own craving for some good old-fashioned face time. Think I’ll go next door and borrow a K-cup — I’m plumb out of coffee and in the mood to stretch my communication boundaries.
Let the “Howdy, neighbors” begin!
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.