Every now and then I like to travel back in time.
A year after I got my first cell phone, back in the early 2000s, I decided I didn’t need it and canceled my contract.
I still remember driving through rural Indiana and thinking about it: If I were to break down, I couldn’t just call a tow truck. I’d be stuck sleeping in my car, or walking to the nearest farm house for help.
That was me in the early ‘90s, climbing into my sleeping bag on the shoulder of Interstate 90, 50 miles from Missoula. Nothing to do but wait, so I thought I’d catch a few winks.
Eventually a cop showed up and called a tow truck, which turned out to be an old man with a Dodge Colt and a tow strap. He took me to his house, let me sleep in an old bus, and showed me how to replace my water pump. I had to hitch-hike to Missoula to get a new one, but by noon I was back on the road.
There’s something golden about the kindness of strangers, but in the cell phone era, we don’t need them very often.
When my daughter said she was embarking on a Facebook-free November, I decided to get on board.
It seemed like fun to experience 2005 again — pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-txt.
It’s been three weeks now, and all I’ve really learned is how much everything’s changed. Facebook has revolutionized the way we socialize as much as email did 20 years ago and the telephone did a few decades before that.
I rarely call anyone anymore, and hardly anyone calls me. I still get texts from my family, but mostly it’s Facebook.
During three Facebook-free weeks, I know less about my kids, less about my friends, and less about my wife than I did in October 2011. Then there’s all those Facebook-only friends, people I don’t know that well in “real” life but have come to rely on for interesting links, witty status updates, and “likes” on my posts.
Heading home from work the other night, it happened again. This time I found myself in 1972.
I was driving my truck, which doesn’t have a radio. I didn’t have any headphones, so I was holding my phone up to my ear.
Remember the days when you could hear the crackles and pops of an old LP coming through the AM static?
It just so happens that I was listening to an LP I had converted to digital and loaded onto my phone.
Suddenly I was nine and holding my first transistor radio to my ear. I got that little Sony in Hong Kong on the way to Bangkok, where my family spent a year. It was my most prized possession.
I remember a few songs from that year — Neil Diamond’s “Song Sung Blue,” James Taylor crooning Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” and then there was that other song. I didn’t know who sang it, but I sure did like it.
Fast forward 40 years, where I’m traveling back in time on Hwy. 47, phone held to my ear, singing along to that song from ‘72. It was new then, but now it’s an old favorite I’ve heard a thousand times.
I don’t know if phones, email and Facebook are an improvement or a step backward. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong way to socialize, a better or worse medium to share your love for friends and family.
All that matters is that we keep on searching. A heart of gold can turn up anywhere.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Mille Lacs Messenger.