FLINT - I'm not one of those people who think everything was better back when they were a kid.
Today's phones, for instance, are a lot better than the ones I grew up with. I much prefer cordless phones and push buttons to long, tangled cords and rotary dial. The only thing phones back then had over modern phones is the cradle. You can't slam down modern phones like you could those babies. They're too delicate, and that takes all the fun out of getting angry. It's just not the same growling, " and that's final! Good day to you, sir!" then daintily pushing a little button to cut the other person off.
There's no drama in that. In fact it feels a bit anti-climactic. When you're mad you want to enjoy a good, satisfying slam, but if you do that with modern phones you'll end up with shards of plastic flying everywhere, which could hit someone in the eye, which could necessitate a call to 911, which you can't make because you just broke the phone.
Today's cars are better than those of my youth, too. They look better, drive better, get better gas mileage. The only thing cars of yore had over cars of today are bench seats. I don't know how I would have made it through my teen years without bench seats. (Kids, go ask your parents. Seriously. Go on. Right now: "Mom, what are bench seats and why is the man in the newspaper telling me to ask you about them?") (Mom: "Ignore the bad man in the newspaper, sweetheart. Momma doesn't know what he's talking about.")
Here's one thing that's not better: Gas stations.
Buying gas these days is an unpleasant experience at best - not like back in the day. Back then, gas stations were all full service.
For those of you under the age of 40, a full service station means someone runs out to fill your tank, check your oil, clean your windows and take your money at your window while you sit in comfort and feel like a king.
You're thinking, "Jeez, how much did that cost, like 20 bucks?"
The answer is nothing. It was included in the cost of gas.
"You're pulling my leg."
I am not. And get this: they'd even check your tires. And if you needed air, they didn't charge you for it. It was free. And the air nozzle always worked, unlike stations today.
Oh, man, that was the life.
There are still a few full service stations around but not many. I happened to visit one in Lansing recently, and it was quite a shock to my system since I didn't realize what it was. In fact, when a young man came jogging toward my car, I was taken aback.
"Here," I said, rolling down the window and offering him my wallet. "Just don't kill me. I have kids."
He looked at me funny then said, "What'll it be?"
"Uh, fill it up," I said, finally figuring out what was going on.
Saying those words - which is what my dad always told the Phillips 66 guy - felt good. In fact the whole experience was wonderful. I even tipped the guy.
Contrast that with my next fill up at a self service station. I pulled in, waited for the clerk to authorize my pump, which took several minutes because she was filing her nails. It was 4 degrees outside.
While the meter spun, I went to wash the windows. The bucket was dry. Just as well because the squeegee was missing, too.
When I went inside to pay, I asked the clerk why people who pay with cash have to wait in the cold for the pumps to be turned on and she said, "Drive offs. That'll be $45."
I handed over the money then stomped back out to my car muttering, which is how it often goes these days.
I was of half a mind to go home, call the owner and tell him what I thought of the crummy experience his station offers.
But if I did that, I'd surely want to slam the phone down after telling him off, which you can't do with modern cordless phones. Damned advances in technology.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.