Saturday, March 28, 2009

Calgon Commercials, Pull-off Soda Can Tabs and Other Things That Show My Age

Do you remember those hot summer days when you would buy a can of soda, pull off the tab and drop it into the can?

If you don't, chances are you were born in the 80s, by which time the "stay-tab" invented by Daniel F. Cudzik had widely replaced the pull-off tab, which had been vilified in suburban legend as slicing kids' toes if carelessly discarded, or being accidentally ingested when dropped into the can.

Ye olde pull tab came to mind as I was driving home on the Great Highway along Ocean Beach today, a stunningly beautiful sunny Saturday, and began jonesing for a rootbeer. Rootbeer, along with Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb (I was always rooting for him to at least get his doctorate; I mean, how can you compete with that title-dropping Pepper character?), was my favorite soda as a kid. I was suddenly struck by the physical memory of running my tongue along the rough metal lip of the soda can opening.

My mind began to wander to other things I remember as a 41-year-old, and I lit upon a conversation I had with my 31-year-old colleague's husband the other day, regarding a comment I'd made in a group e-mail that I thought was rather witty at the time: "Calgon, take her away!" When I saw him later, K. laughed and said, "You're showing your age!"

Then there are phone booths, which recently were in the news thanks to a group of St. Mary's College students who staged a re-enactment of the famous Life magazine photo of 22 students stuffed into said container.

As my brilliant colleague, Steve Rubenstein, wrote:

"It was not easy to cram into a phone booth 50 years ago, and it has not gotten any easier. In the first place, there are no longer any phone booths around, and the college had to dig one up from storage in a warehouse in Los Angeles, a town full of useless stuff. Many of the students confessed that they had never been inside a real phone booth before."

To be sure, if my life depended on it, I don't believe I could locate one myself.

And speaking of phones, a former colleague of mine several years ago shared a laugh with me upon digging up a rotary phone and showing it to her 12-year-old daughter. M. asked the girl and her friends how they thought it worked. They started pushing their fingers into the holes in the dial.

Then there's another colleague, T., whose little girl Sarah was so excited when they rented a pick-up truck to cart some things to the dump, and she found it had a handle to roll down the passenger's window manually. (When, I wonder, will people actually forget how the hand motion of rolling down a car window originated?)

Several years ago, my brilliant ex-boyfriend E. and I were enjoying a mild evening on the fabulous roof deck of my former Noe Valley apartment, and I voiced wonderment at all the inventions that had been witnessed in the lifetime of my father, who was born in 1923 and at the time was in his late 70s. In his time, TVs were invented (he told me he proposed to my mom as they were watching the first set her family bought. "When we're married, I'll buy you a bigger set," he said.) For Pete's sake, cars were still fairly new, with the first automobile commercially produced in 1901. Add to that cordless and cell phones, ATM machines, the Internet, and I said to E.: "I think we've invented everything. I can't imagine that we'll see the same type of world-changing inventions in our time."

"Oh no," he said. "We haven't seen anything yet."

I'm beginning to believe him. Being a technology editor, and editing our departing -- :( -- awesome biotech reporter, I am continually amazed at what people are inventing.

I was talking to another talented reporter yesterday about our 90-year-old colleague David Perlman, who invariably conveys a childlike sense of wonder in his science stories.

We talked about how, at some point, it must feel like everything is so foreign. But we agreed that it would never feel foreign enough to think about wanting to leave this world.

And so I sit here wondering at what more will be invented in my lifetime, and hoping in the back of my mind that something they come up with will extend my life, say, 100 years. And drinking my (diet) A&W rootbeer in a plastic bottle, with a twist-off cap that I forgot in the car.

I hope I don't slice my toe on it.


Ninja Of The Mundane said...

I often drop cultural anachronisms into my conversational vernacular. The other day at work, I made a reference to "The Pepsi Challenge," an a 30-year-old colleague asked me what the hell I was talking about. I understand not being cognizant of the late-1970s commercials in which that phrase was coined ... but who of any age, even teendom, hasn't seen "Pulp Fiction"? Sheesh.

I often tell people with whom I am pleased and tickled that they "rock my casbah." This is less understood with each passing year.

As for coming technology, I eagerly await the 9G iPhone, which can make and dispense its own Dr Pepper.


beanatude said...

What about our favorite - Off to the no-zip sorting bin! That's one that you might need to have been born in the 60s to actually remember.

My immediate thought about stuffing the phone booth was that, now that young Americans are so fat, would there just be no way to cram 22 of the fatties in there? I'd think that even a dozen would be life threatening.