Some of you won’t remember back to when we lived in an age of innocence.
Many of you have grown up in an time of quarantines and self-distancing. You’ve only known conversations that start with “out of an abundance of caution ...”
But I remember a glorious time when we were young and free and threw caution to the wind. It was called Three Weeks Ago.
Three Weeks Ago we came and went as we pleased ... with whom we pleased.
Three Weeks Ago we could walk into a store and purchase a roll of toilet paper without batting an eye.
Three Weeks Ago our hands weren’t calloused from the constant washing with soap and water or worse, bathed in aloe-scented alcohol.
Three Weeks Ago we were free men and women and how we squandered that precious precious freedom ...
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I pity you. You may never again see the capricious times of my boyhood. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the things I miss the most about that bygone era. Perhaps a few of them may strike a chord with an elderly family member or they may have told you tales of some of these things.
These are the things I miss the most about Three Weeks Ago ...
1. Meeting friends at places called “restaurants” and “bars” where you could pay people to serve you food and drinks. You’d eat or drink to your heart’s content, then simply get up and leave while others cleaned the dishes for you.
2. Going to facilities called “offices” from which you’d work alongside other people. You could interact with them while getting your work done. They were called coworkers. Every now and then they’d get on your nerves, but for the most part you loved them and enjoyed seeing them every day.
3. Sending your children to schools. You’d either put your offspring on public transportation vehicles called buses, or you’d take them yourself to large buildings in which they were instructed and tested. If they had absorbed enough information, they could “pass” from these buildings into the workforce. Unfortunately, some people wrongly believed it was entirely up to these “schools” to raise their children.
4. Spending time away from your home on short trips known as vacations or holidays. You would fly there (or if you were poor you had to drive there) and you would spend too much money eating exotic food and taking photographs in places that you hoped would make your friends jealous. The most sought-after destinations for these vacations were called Panama City Beach and Gatlinburg. Rich people went to a magical and extremely overpriced land called “Disney” and made special T-shirts to wear while they were there.
5. Concerts were events that brought hundreds and sometimes thousands of people together at a particular venue to listen to musicians perform in person. Sometimes the performances were underwhelming because they never lived up to the studio version of the music, but oftentimes you’d find an artist who was even better on stage than they were on the album. Then you know you struck gold and you made sure to tell all your friends about it so they would, hopefully, get jealous.
6. Usually on the very last day of the week, many people congregated inside buildings called churches to celebrate their faith and praise God. Although some people just used it as an excuse to dress up and be seen. You could attend any church you wanted. They were mostly based on the same idea, but the message was a little different from church to church. Some people thought that because they went to church once a week and acted Godly on that one day, folks wouldn’t realize all the horrible things they did and said the OTHER days of the week. Those people were called hypocrites.
7. Handshakes and hugs. Three Weeks Ago humans greeted each other using actual physical contact. Sometimes if you saw someone you knew or met someone for the first time, you’d extend your hand and they would extend theirs. Y’all would clasp each other’s hand and then make a quick up-and-down motion while staring into their eyes. You’d say something like “pleasure to meet you” and that was considered a universal form of greeting. If you really liked the person, you wouldn’t do the hand to hand shake thing. You’d actually open your arms and they would open their arms and you’d press your torsos together for several seconds.
8. And then there were sports. There was a time when almost the entire country would attend or watch various forms of competitions. These were called sporting events and they could be thrilling. There were many to choose from. You could watch people throw a round orange ball into a basket or you could watch men wearing pads and helmets rush at each other for possession of a “football.” You might watch people hit a small yellow ball back and forth across a net or you could even see people skating around on ice. Sports brought people together and they ripped people apart. They could be glorious and yet heartbreaking. The great city of Atlanta had several big sports teams but none of them were good.
9. Playgrounds. These are probably the most heartbreaking to remember. They were places where children would gather together to play. There were various apparatus from which they could swing or on which they could climb. They might slide or jump or run or spin across these playgrounds while their parents stared into their mobile devices, completely unaware of what the children were doing. Playgrounds were full of laughter and germs. They were the breeding ground for bacteria. But back then we didn’t care. Those things made you tougher. Old folks used to say that those germs built up your immune system.
As I look back now to that gilded age I wonder if we’ll ever be the same as we were Three Weeks Ago.