Last year, before I started this writing project, I took a trip to my hometown, Atlanta. I wanted to know something about the experience of history, so I took a train trip down to Atlanta. Form 6 PM to 8 AM, sitting in an assigned seat under an air conditioning vent, my sinuses drying out from the constant fans. I must not have slept more than 30 minutes at a stretch that whole night. So I found out what my great grand parents knew. Long distance train travel was not trivial. Unlike me, my great great grandparents thought it was unimaginably fast.
I’m glad I had the experience, even if it cost me no less than an airplane ticket would have. I wasn’t exactly slumming it, but I was certainly involved in some forced nostalgia.
I thought about the “Flying Machine” stage coaches along the King’s Highway (US 1) that would get mail and passengers between Philadelphia and New York in 3 days, leaving three times weekly from either city. We can now make that drive in 3 hours, easy. Two hours and some change by train, actually.
I had breakfast this morning from a refrigerator that has been dutifully plugged into the wall since we bought our townhouse three years ago. A century ago, refrigerators did not even use freon, much less HFCs. Most houses did not have electricity, though all the new ones were being built with the new fad. Instead of going to the supermarket once a week, as we do today, my great grandmother would have gone to various markets almost daily. She didn’t have the ability to keep food in the house very long, but she had a much better sense of the meaning of “Bigger than a Breadbox”
This is not a post about nostalgia so much as an acknowledgement that we have come far from a century ago. What was routine is now unendurable. I see no reason why this process is going to slow or stop in the future.
When a Problem Comes Along…