It’s Halloween again! Gather ’round the fire, kids! Time for some deliciously dark and scary stories!
(cue creepy organ music)
Once upon a dreary time, I was your age and living through the ghastly 1970s and 80s. (lightning flashes) Times were hard during this digital-free era; my daily life was a constant battle between the forces of good and evil. So many things went bump in the night. How I survived without today’s technology is a mystery.
When I was 12, if I wanted to call up a friend, I had to wait for my stupid brother to get off the phone. That’s right. We had only one line.
(cue Law and Order music–dunn, dunn!)
Countless hours were spent seething with anger and glaring at the phone cord trailing underneath the closed closet door where my older brother whispered sweet nothings (emphasis on the nothings) into his girlfriend-of-the-month’s ears.
But if the planets aligned just right, I could actually get on the phone for a few minutes and enjoy a private conversation–until my father installed a second phone on the same line in the kitchen. (dunn dunn!)
Then I’d endure hearing the telltale click of one of my brothers picking up the phone on the other line, quietly breathing and listening to my heated private conversation about how I liked Bobby, but Bobby liked Suzy.
The terror of realizing my brother might have heard something super secret would paralyze me with fear. Did he hear what I said? Is he going to blab it to the cool kids at the lunch table tomorrow? Will Bobby know I like him?! The phone’s ominous click would seep into my dreams. Click! CLICK! CLICK! Oh, the horror!
When the phone wasn’t free, I’d hole myself up in my bedroom in the attic and blast my music. Yes, we used to have to listen to our music out loud, with no iPod or earbuds. (dunn, dunn!)
I was the proud owner of a giant boxy beast of a stereo. It was versatile, top-of-the-line technology for the 80s. I could either slap a record on the turntable up top or slide in one of my famous mixed cassette tapes of the Beatles/Def Leppard into the deck on the bottom.
See, back then we didn’t have iPods where you could casually flip through thousands of tunes using your magic fingertips. Instead, I had to sift through a dusty old stack of albums, then listen to my favorite song skip on the needle.
Hearing John Lennon sing, “Imagine there’s no–Imagine there’s no–” over and over again was horrifying, my blood would run cold. Imagine there’s no what?! I’d cry. No what, John?! Will I ever know what he’s trying to imagine?
Today, I miss listening to music and forcing everyone else within a 10 mile radius to listen to it too. Sometimes for fun, we’d crank up the volume so loud, the neighbors down the road would call the cops. You can’t pay for that entertainment, people.
If all the scratches on my records made me sad, I’d head out to rent a movie with my parents. It was a dark and stormy night, when I had to get into my Dad’s wood-panelled station wagon and actually have him drive me to the video rental store. (dunn dunn!)
Yes, before netflix, before DVDs on Blu-Ray, there was a time when we had to physically go to a place where people stood around like zombies, milling around displays filled with these things called VHS tapes.
Inevitably, you’d arrive all excited to rent the latest hottest flick that finally came out on video after being released five years earlier (“Hot damn! I’m gonna go rent ET tonight!”) only to find that the 55 copies of ET were already taken.
Still you’d desperately try to bring an empty box up to the counter, only to encounter a smug clerk sneering at you, “if there’s nothing behind the box, there ain’t no movie. Now do you want to buy these 20 dollar Twizzlers or what, pal?”
So I’d slunk on back to my house, “ET”-less, stomach growling and attempt to whip up some food. Did I zap some frozen meal in my microwave? Please! Only one friend of mine had one of those new-fangled contraptions. It was bigger than the entire kitchen counter and made such a loud buzzing noise we thought for sure we were getting cancer while watching her spaghettio’s splatter.
All we had was my grandmother’s old stove that, if we were lucky, used to short-curcuit and mildly electrocute us. (dunn, dunn!)
But only if you held a metal spoon just so and turned the loose stove’s dial at the same time. It was quite the science experiment. My brothers discovered this zapping action by accident one afternoon while making spaghettio’s and that was all it took. More cheap entertainment. “Hey! Check this out!” one of them would yell, stabbing the metal spoon down into the pan, feeling the tiny yet delicious jolt over and over again until they saw stars. Explains a lot.
Which brings me to regulating body temperature. Back in my day, we didn’t have air conditioners or those cutting edge fans that oscillate. What did we do when the temperature hit 110 with 150% humidity? We’d sweat. (dunn dunn!)
That’s right. Sweat a lot. My bedroom was upstairs in the attic and it sometimes got so hot up there in the summer, my John Lennon record would melt into a sad Imagine puddle. So I’d whine and moan and cry to my parents. “It’s too hot! I can’t sleep!” And my father would put his hand on my head and say, “Tough cookies, kid”. What a wise man he was for giving me an extra dose of the tough love of the 1970s.
So kids, as you drift off to sleep tonight, watching the latest flick on your iPad, texting away on your smart phone and eating your Hot Pockets in your perfectly temp-controlled bedroom, think of me and the horrors I faced not so long ago. Nighty night, kiddies!
Oh, and Happy Halloween! (Mua ha haaa!)