Smack in the middle, like a slice of ham

This showed up in my email inbox yesterday.

Reading this list made me sad. Well, not the entire thing; several of the items made me chuckle, in fact. But looking at some of them, I couldn’t help but think: “Oh, no, what a shame to think this is gone forever.”

Why is it that we get so upset when we hear of creatures like polar bears facing extinction, but things that have been important to our own personal existence can just disappear, never to return, and we don’t give it a second thought?

It goes without saying that each item is values-neutral: neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. But that doesn’t mean each of us won’t see these 50 things — and there are a lot more than 50, as we know — through the lens of our own worldview.

Which makes hard to look at each one and not say either: Yeah, good riddance to that, or, Oh, it’s too bad that’s not a part of our everyday life anymore. We just have our opinions, right?

This may be more true for my generation than the ones above or below us. We remember how things used to be and can compare them to how things are today. So we look at a list like this and maybe get a little nostalgic, remembering how fascinating it was to thumb through the family encyclopedia. On the other hand, we’re thankful not to have to go down to the DMV to register our car.

That’s when I got curious and conducted a little experiment. I went down the list and said “Yep” or “Nope” to each one, and you know what I found out? I was split exactly 50-50 between Things I Don’t Do Anymore and Things I Still Do, Even If Only Sometimes.

Which tells me that I really truly am the Sandwich Generation. Because most of the things on the list are things to which my kids would say “Nope” or “Huh?” But, my parents would most certainly say “Yep” or “Of course, doesn’t everybody?” to almost every single one.

So, for the record, here are some of the ones that made me sad to think are gone forever: 7, 11, 26 (because in my opinion, memorizing phone numbers and other things like poetry and Bible verses is a good idea for brain health. Personal quirk), 28, 34, 41, 45 and 46.

Notice how many of those have some sort of relationship to writing or the written word, and/or the idea of a discrete, tangible thing that you can see or hold, keep and carry. I don’t quite know how to articulate it — paper vs. ether? — but that quality seems significant somehow.

There are others that I suspect are not fully extinct and never will be. Like #38: I try on shoes at the mall all the time. I do that to see what size I am in one brand or another, then I go home and order them on Zappo’s. And #39 is something — well, if you’re female — you can’t get around, because retailers sell lots of clothes with labels that say “Hand Wash Only.” Just maybe not, you know, with one of those washboard thingys.

And #48, hanging laundry on a line, is making something of a comeback these days, what with all the emphasis on living a “green” lifestyle. Not to mention saving on your electricity bill by not using the dryer. And let me attest: getting into bed when you’ve washed your sheets and hung them to dry in the fresh air? Sheer ecstasy.

But as for #47 — I’m never giving up my newspaper. Because that’s where the New York Times Crossword puzzle is, which I do faithfully, every day. In pencil. Call me old school, but some things are just sacred, you know?

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