Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“When I walked to school as a kid, I walked uphill, both ways, in the snow, barefoot, with glass underfoot…”

Oh, you’ve heard it? Great. Okay, then stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Wednesday is trash day in our house. When I was a kid, trash day was Tuesday. No big deal—just a little different is all.

My dad used to pay me a quarter if I took the trash down to the street. A quarter wasn’t just chump change back then. Yeah, I am old. Still, it wasn’t much of a motivator; hence, I didn’t do it regularly. I brought the empty trash cans up even less often. To be fair, an ice cream cone at the neighborhood drug store also cost a quarter. You can do the math on that one.

(Just highlighting how old I am…)

Anyway, my work requires me to spend a lot of time on the phone. Recently, I was taking the trash down our long driveway on a beautiful spring day while participating in a conference call. I’ve learned to put my phone on mute whenever I’m choring, as it can get quite loud. My trash can has wheels, but on an asphalt driveway, it’s almost deafening to the conference call attendees. I was lamenting the fact that my kids were nowhere to be found, not even for a couple of bucks! I got to the end of the driveway, took my phone off mute, and rejoined my colleagues.

I apologized for the noise of the wheeled trash can. Then I said it:

“You know, when I was a kid, trash cans didn’t have wheels.”

Yup. I went there.

The call ceased. What did he say? Did he really just…?

Alex piped up. He’s 21. “I’m sorry, wait—what did you just say?”

“I said, when I was a kid, trash cans didn’t have wheels.”

Alex was shocked. I added more. I could feel it. I was going to get on a roll. I had the momentum I needed. “Yeah. In fact, there wasn’t any recycling in the 80s, either.”

Alex asked me to describe what bizarre trash device existed back then.

“Well, there were these Rubbermaid trashcans that you dragged around. Everything went into the same can. Then, a truck came around during the day on Tuesdays. A guy literally picked up the can and emptied it into the trash can. None of these automated pronged thingies.”

Three more conference callers piped up. “What, are you joking me?”

I could hear their disbelief. You would think we were talking caveman shit here and that we were living without running water.

I was a little surprised and, had I not thought it such a normal concept, I might have even felt a little embarrassed. It struck me again how old I am. The pace of change around us is relentless. iPhones, tablets, home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo, artificial intelligence, and even freaking Roombas are all normal now.

Yet somehow, we all missed it: garbage technology has advanced tremendously.

Want to know some other bygones of my 80s childhood?

  1. Rotary phones
  2. Landlines
  3. Polaroid Cameras (or wait—those are back)
  4. Soda Pop
  5. Commercials on TV

Some things are the same, and that’s when I can relate to my children. They still sing butchered nursery rhymes and say “poop” a million times. They also like playing with sticks and dirt. So thankfully, the childhood experience is alive and well.

But if you’re as old as me, you don’t have to tell the silly story about walking to school uphill, both ways, with no shoes, in the snow, carrying your brother. Instead, just sit them down and tell them about the prehistoric trash scenario that you lived in. Strangely, it’s probably more interesting to them, and who knows what kind of follow-up questions they’ll have.

Just wait until they find out that cell phones weren’t a thing back then.

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