By Donna Capitano Nardozzi
I was 3 years old when World War II ended. Of course, at the time I had no knowledge of the impact it had on so many people or the horrific legacy that would haunt until even the present day. My world existed in my day-to-day experiences. I was born in a maternity hospital whose name was Saint Mary’s Asylum ( still a joke on me from family members). This was located on the Lower West Side, where we resided. It was a community within a community.
We lived in a three-family apartment building that shared one bathroom. This arrangement gave me a lifelong lesson in patience and also made me an expert in anatomical muscle control. The name of our street was Garden Alley, a wishful name indeed. Everyone had a porch and most mornings you would see the ladies walking,with their robes and coffee cups in hand, to a porch to catch the latest neighborhood gossip. We never locked our windows or doors, help for anything was always available, without even being asked. New neighbors were treated to a plate of cookies and greeted warmly. Everyone was an equal.
My father was a taxi driver. Every night upon returning home he would put his tips in a jar. Once a month, my mother would empty the tip jar and on a Saturday or Sunday we would take the bus downtown dressed in our finest ( always white gloves) to see a movie and stop for a snack (my favorite in the world, a Vanilla Coke).
One of my fondest memories in second and fourth grade was going to the Marlow show two blocks away. The movie was actually a weekly episode of Flash Gordon. When it ended, I counted the days to see what happened from the previous week. All about spaceships and laser guns, I always went alone, as my friends thought it was weird to even think about space travel and guns that vaporized enemies. The cost of this wonderful weekly entertainment was 10 cents.
Once a week, a truck would slowly drive around the streets offering fresh fruits and vegetables. All of the ladies came out with their change purses and bags to inspect all that was offered. There also was a man who pushed a cart packed with ice yelling, “peace, peace” or to translate, “fish, fish." All kinds of fish layer out on the ice, with a wire strung overhead, little squids dangling their legs for all to see. We also had the “rag man,” yelling “rags, rags" loud enough for all to hear. Before paper towels came to be, we used old clothes, linens, any cloth that could not be shown in public became our cleaning tools. When they fell apart to no longer be useful, you gave them to the rag man. I often wondered what he did with them.
As technology slowly began to infiltrate our lives via television, refrigerators vs. iceboxes, etc., we all happily embraced everything that made our lives easier.
Well, now I wonder, did those improvements make our lives easier or not? Now I have to try to explain to a robot voice when calling a company and spend much more time on the phone to ask a simple question such as “what time are you open till?" Then this un-human proceeds to give me a directory of numbers to press to answer my question. Then it turns out to none of the categories fit my question.
I now have to use three different remotes to access Netflix. Some things can only be obtained on a computer. Out of luck if you don’t have a computer. In some transactions, your e-mail address is more important than your name. If you order one item from a catalog, you will start receiving catalogs from stores worldwide. I do believe my mailman thinks I have a catalog addiction. Is there help for that?
My car is another story. There are button for buttons and the owners manual is twice as big as the phone book and I am sure that much is lost in the translation when you buy a foreign auto. I wing it and sometimes when I go for gas I either raise the trunk lid or open the top of engine.
While scientifically and in other areas, advanced knowledge has been a boon to society, I sometimes wish for the simple “good ol’ days."
Donna Capitano Nardozzi of Lancaster isn't sure technology has made life better.