Has anybody seen a ...?

Posted:  Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 7:00am

A while ago there was a very funny YouTube clip making the rounds. It showed a teenager trying to use a rotary dial phone but the young man had no clue how to use the equipment.

I was surprised to see that an object that had once been so commonplace had all but disappeared. When did it happen? I could have sworn it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen rotary dial phones.

Well, now that I think about it...

Which made me realize there are lots of things that used to be part of everyday life that are now slipping into obscurity. Most of it may be due to the advance of technology. Some may be due to changes in lifestyle.

Objects in our daily experience show up and leave all the time. In the early 1800s, for example, people who drank tea used a small glass dish called a cup plate. These little round objects gave tea drinkers a place to rest their tea cup because at the time, tea was poured from the cup into the saucer to let it cool. The person would then drink their cooled tea from the saucer. Today people collect cup plates and you can occasionally find them in antique shops.

I started to make a list of other objects that are disappearing from our daily experience: telephone booths, of course. Disposable cameras and rolls of film? Have you tried to let your fingers do the walking through the printed yellow pages lately? You’ll find yourself walking alone.

The same could be said for printed dictionaries and encyclopedias. How about going to a store to purchase a photo album? Or a slide viewer? Does anyone even publish a current road atlas on paper anymore? All the ice buckets have been sent to thrift shops. 

I’m not necessarily sad about some of these items fading into the mists of time. But technology has cold efficiency and some of these added a certain charm to our lives.

Take, for example the handwritten note or card. It conveys a message beyond the one on paper. It says that someone was thinking about you and took a minute or two of their time to express their thoughts in a personal way. The words might offer comfort during hard times or joy during the happy ones. Those words linger on paper and (unlike electronic communications) they have an actual physical presence. They put the “sentiment” in “sentimental.”

So this Valentine’s Day, remember the humble cup plate. They started out preventing stains on the tablecloth. Many years later, they are prized by those lucky enough to own one.

Send a handwritten note or a card to someone you love. Because years from now, that old “luv ya babe 😉” text message will be long gone. But a handwritten message from a sweetheart can still be held and remembered and cherished.