YOU KIDS TODAY, you don't know how lucky you are. Why, when I was your age, I was working my tail off as a clerk in a pharmacy, putting in 5, 6, sometimes 6 1/2 hours a day ringing up purchases or straightening the magazine rack or stocking the shelves with Di-Gel.
Sometimes the air-conditioning didn't work properly and we had to use the ceiling fan. Or we had to leave the front and rear doors open to catch a breeze. You had a measly half-hour for lunch. Thank God I had weekends off or I probably would have killed myself.
See this scar? Well, it's more like a nick, really. I was opening a box of Hallmark cards at the pharmacy one day and a staple caught me right across the finger.
See, back then they used to use these steel staples that overlapped and . . . aw, what's the use? You kids don't care. That's like ancient history to you. I might as well be talking about the Peloponnesian War.
Times sure have changed, though. Now they have cars that talk. You know, when I was your age, we didn't even have cars that talked. Now they all seem to have those disembodied voices that say "The left door is open" or "The key is in the ignition." But not when I was a kid.
Hey, don't look at me like that -- I'm serious. We were always accidentally locking our keys in the car back then.
Oh, what a horror story that was. First you'd have to borrow a wire hanger. Then you'd have to bend one end until it formed a loop, which could leave a crease in the palm of your hand if you weren't careful. Then you'd have to stand there poking the hanger through a space near the window, until you could loop it around the door button and pop that sucker open.
Heck, I remember being on my feet for 5, 10 minutes at a clip unlocking the car. Lots of times the temperature was creeping into the mid-80s, too. Often it was humid. Sometimes I wonder how we did it.
Oh, I could go on and on. Gas stations. You know, when I was a kid, we didn't even have self-serve gas stations. No, really.
You'd pull your car up to the pump and some old guy named Clarence with a Winston dangling from his lips and a greasy rag hanging from his back pocket would come shuffling out.
Right away he'd start getting nosy, asking you how much gas you wanted, did you want your oil checked, windshield cleaned, that sort of thing. Then -- just to get on your nerves even more -- he'd start doing all those things himself.
Can you imagine that -- a total stranger pumping gas for you and snooping under your hood and doing who knows what to your fan belt and hoses?
And this Clarence, you didn't know anything about the guy, really. He could have been anyone -- an out-of-favor Elks Club member, the owner of a run-down trailer park, even recently divorced. You took your life in your hands, believe me.
Please, don't get me started. Remote control. You know, when I was a kid, we didn't even have remote control. I'm not kidding. If you wanted to watch a different program on TV, you had to actually stand up, walk over to the set and change the channel.
Hell, I remember plenty of times walking four or five feet over chilly, uncarpeted floors just to change the channel. Or even if the floor was carpeted, generally it wasn't the deep-pile stuff, so it could feel sort of rough and scratchy against your feet.
Plus the floors were usually so cluttered with books and games and stuff that you could trip and fall and even twist an ankle if you weren't careful. I never personally knew anyone who twisted an ankle, but the talk was that a kid in the neighborhood got a nasty rug burn when he fell over a foot stool while changing channels.
You heard about stuff like that and all you could think was: "There but for the grace of God . . ."
No question things were rougher back then. See that nice superhighway out there -- what is that, I-83? You know, when I was your age, we didn't even have an I-83. I'm serious. If you wanted to go downtown, you had to take Charles Street all the way. Now, you can probably make that trip in 20, 25 minutes. But when I was growing up, it usually took a half an hour.
Think about that: cooped up for 30 minutes in your old man's Ford Fairlane, nothing to do but sink into the vinyl upholstery and listen to the FM radio or play an 8-track tape.
You kids today, you don't know how lucky you are.
Please. Don't get me started.