Tom Poland: The good old days are over | Tom Poland


Last Friday night some grandparents went to see their grandson play in a high school football game.

They were going to have a shock. The payment of the old and reliable paper ticket had given way to online payment on a website and the receipt of an electronic ticket on his smartphone. They showed up at the door and could not enter. It was only after Grandpa bribed the young ticket taker to use her phone to order tickets that they entered.

Colleges now use e-tickets and they are pesky and ugly. The old colorful paper tickets were art and I kept them in a drawer. Designed to be cool, modern and practical, e-tickets are quite the opposite. You have to download them to your phone, and if you want to give a friend a ticket, you have to go through an elaborate process involving emails and transfers. Want to sell someone a ticket? Let me know how it works. What if your phone dies on game day? It’s complicated, that’s how life is now.

Here is a photo for you. A rocking chair sits on a porch (remember that?) Near an old milk jug. Just beyond the porch stands a bell used to summon farm laborers to lunch. Today, Farmer Bill is probably sending a group text to his workers. What you don’t see here is significant. You don’t see any plastic milk jars. You don’t see the phones. The old ways weren’t fancy or complicated, but they worked.

The proliferation of electronic, ie digital, means will continue. More and more we will be forced to consult websites. I also don’t see a slowdown in the use of plastic bottles, jugs and containers of all kinds. No wonder the ocean is full of plastic. Boys no longer walk on highway shoulders picking up glass bottles to put change in their pockets. Look closely at the photo and if your eye is keen you will spot a plastic fork. How I wish fast food restaurants weren’t pumping so much plastic, paper, and Styrofoam.

This modern world, ugh. I rarely see rockers on a porch. To see them I have to go to the countryside and walk the back roads and even there I rarely see porch guards. Guess it’s too hot to sit and swing anymore. Hide inside where the air conditioning makes things tolerable and stick to the TV, the propaganda box.

I am a huge fan of college football. Back on Jan. 11, 2021, after Alabama beat Ohio State for the national championship, I turned off my television for 231 days. I only turned it on on August 30 and only then because I was ready to receive the latest football news. YouTube TV didn’t work anymore even though I paid my bill month after month without watching TV. The problem? YouTube TV no longer recognized my “device” because it had been inactive for so long. I had to go online, enter some data and get a code to enter into my TV account. Success, but it took a while. It was certainly not a click of the remote. Things are cool, fast-paced, and digital now, but when they go haywire they make you want to swear a blue streak.

And now, as further proof of the complexity of life, we have yet another car / truck shortage due to the computer chip fiasco. I guess it’s asking too much of automakers to roll out cars and trucks without GPS, satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone service, and computer-driven engines. I’m sure they can’t do it even if they want to too, rearranged as they are for the cool new digital methods.

One day that will be enough and I will retire to a mountain chalet far from the raving crowds. There will be a porch with rocking chairs, and I concede that I will be stuck with a smartphone, streaming TV service and all that. I will watch college football as always and use digital tickets in my phone’s “wallet”, but I will always miss the old ways. But once the football season is over, I’ll turn off my TV. Once a week, I turn it on for a minute just to let YouTube TV know that I exist, that I haven’t experienced a digital death, that I have a drawer full of batteries to keep me alive. Then I will cross again this desert known as the non-football season.

Tom Poland is the author of 12 books and over 1,000 magazine articles. He writes a weekly column for Georgia and South Carolina newspapers about the South, its people, traditions, way of life and changing culture, and often speaks to groups in South Carolina and Georgia, “Georgialina”. Visit the Poland website at or email him at [email protected]

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