End of an era

I was reading headlines online earlier this evening when an interesting one came across my screen.  “Last public payphone removed in NYC today”  That’s not to say it will be the last payphone in the entire city, there are many that exist in private businesses and some homes, and there are at least 2 or 3 full length payphone booths that still are available.

Doing a little digging on the ‘Net, apparently as of 2020 there were still at least 100,000 usable payphones in the entire United States, but increasingly they’re being removed, as people using cellphones are supplanting the need for coin operated phones.  Certainly using an operator to place a call has gone the way of the dodo, and the very concept of a ‘trunk’ call, or ‘station to station’ is unheard of.  Just like the bygone days when one could make a phone call for 10 cents (I was in college when the cost increased to a quarter dollar), putting in scads of coins to make a phone call has quickly become a thing of the past.

Though I do remember being in school and needing a ride home.  Instead of using the time honored tradition of making a collect call, and when the automated voice asked for the name; using something like “pleasecomegetmepracticeisover” we used the system of pressing the number 6 twice to indicate that someone needed a ride home.  That way we saved a dime, and whichever parent was free was able to drive to the school to come get either myself or my brother.

Anyway, it seemed interesting to me, so I thought I’d write about it.  Off to bed here, it’s been a long day.

One Down, One to Go

Ah, Thanksgiving is finally here. Unlike the masses that shop in the store I work at, I’m thankful the holiday is here, rather than it’s still in the offing, so we can get past it and on to the last holiday of the year, and be done with 2020, as well as the ‘silly season’.

I suppose in a way it’s a symptom of getting older.  The more years I put on, the less I’m up for all the pomp and circumstances of the holidays, and more interested in getting them over and done with and behind me.  Christmas I suppose is pretty much the only holiday that I’m ok with tolerating, because it has elements that to me are enjoyable still and I can revel in, to some extent.  The music, some of the pagentry, the decorations (as long as they don’t get too ostentatious) and the memories things invoke, are more tolerable to me than the trappings of Thanksgiving.  To me, Thanksgiving reminds me of the year my mother died, and how that situation invariably ruined the holiday for me.

Too, the whole bastardization of the holiday is sort of off-putting, given how it was created in the first place.  Commercialization does have a way of making things less palatable, or perhaps dumbed down for the people that wish to have it simple, rather than understanding how it all began.  Thanksgiving was a holiday to allow people in the 19th century to be appreciative of what they had, to hearken back to a time when things were perhaps more dire and remember that there had been much progress in the 200 years since the pre-beginning of the US.  

Abraham Lincoln was the President that cemented the last Thursday of November as the ‘official’ Thanksgiving, in a time when there was a Civil War (hardly civil in many respects) raging in the southern part of the divided country.   There had been other days of ‘Thanksgiving’ or of memorializing the concept of being thankful for what the country had, or the citizenry of same possessed, or ‘had’ at that time.  With the unrest and armies mowing down each other en masse, it was necessary to refocus, or redirect the citizens into something peaceful, something to take away the horrors of the war that was tearing the country asunder.

Today, it’s all about retail.  Buying the right turkey at a reduced price, having to purchase the trappings to go along with it (gotta have that dressing, cranberry and pumpkin pie, right?) or if you’re less traditional, getting a ham or rib roast, and all the other sundries that go along with those menu choices.  Even this year, with people not traveling as much due to the pandemic, having to stay home unexpectedly, dragging out cookware that hasn’t been used in years, since they traditionally haven’t been home for the holiday.  I saw a lot of that this year, along with people asking about how to cook things that they like, but have no idea how to actually prepare it themselves. (I had a gentleman who stated he loved prime rib roast, he has it often, but when I got him the size he wanted for him and his wife, just before I turned away, he stopped me and asked how to cook it.  Fortunately, this wasn’t the first time this has happened, so I gave him a basic recipe that I’d seen on Foodwishes.com along with a handout that we have in the department for people that need a little assistance with cooking roasts and so on.)  Apparently not everyone either has an Internet connection or knows how to navigate it to find more than silly cat videos.

My wife and I, we’re celebrating subdued.  I have the day off from work (thank you!) so I don’t have to deal with the brouhaha there on the holiday.  Granted I’ll be working tomorrow for the aftermath, where we’ll be marking down the turkeys that we still have (the fresh ones, the frozen, or partially thawed ones go back in the freezer) and making the department look presentable after having been run from one end to the other for the past two days.  We’re getting a few holiday dinners from a place near us that does catering, the woman has been trying to make her business work with the pandemic, and people not needing catering for events that they cannot host due to restrictions on people gathering together.  You really have to feel for people who had planned for beginning businesses like that, and support them however possible.  So instead of cooking something ourselves, we’re picking up the dinners at 1 this afternoon, storing them in the fridge and having our holiday dinner this evening.  I’m roasting a butternut squash to go with the traditional meal we’re getting, just an addition that my wife and I both like.  Dessert is included, so we don’t have to worry about creating a huge mess in our galley kitchen.  No muss, no fuss and we can have a relaxed evening after.  

So, one holiday down, one to go.  If you made it this far, sorry (not sorry) for the rant.  I hope you and yours have a great holiday.  Enjoy the time you can spend together, if you can use Zoom, Skype or FaceTime (or Google Duo) to connect with your far flung off family, take time to do so.  Which reminds me, I need to FaceTime with my Mom. 

Happy Thanksgiving, 2020.

Cannon Fodder

Americans by and large like to think we are the ‘greatest in the world’ about a lot of things, when the truth is, we’re really no better (and in many ways worse) than the rest of the world at present, not to mention a lot of past countries, kingdoms and dynasties.

Over the last few days I’ve been watching the cacophony of programs, news reports, and documentaries about the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of 1944.  Granted there was a lot of the same hoopla 5 years ago on the 70th anniversary and 25 years before that at the 50th.  But with so many World War II veterans dying every year, it’s not going to be long before there aren’t any left.  Much with the demise of the World War I veterans, the last of whom died in 2011.  Someone that served in 1945 at the lesser age of 16-18 (with permission a 16 yr old could enlist and there were many that lied about their age and were able to serve) would be 90-92 today.

One of the documentaries posited that it was better that the majority of the soldiers that landed at Normandy on D-Day were green, in that if the majority were combat veterans, it was likely that too many would get killed before they had a chance to make a difference further inland.  Allowing soldiers that had little to no combat experience to go in first did allow higher casualties, but even though they by and large were being treated as cannon fodder, they were serving a higher purpose later on.  Certainly that was little to no comfort to their families, but when you’re embroiled in a war, sometimes one has to make the crappy call and detail people to be sacrificed for the greater good.

One reads about how scared they all were, even the ones in the landing craft that had some inkling about what all they were going to face.  Many had no animosity towards the average German soldier they were up against, knowing that like them, they were probably conscripted (drafted), didn’t really want to be there, and were just doing their job with mostly the hope of seeing tomorrow, and then the next day and the day after that.  Personally, I never served in the military, though there was one point when I was in college I considered it strongly, talked to an US Navy recruiter, but ultimately, because of familial obligations and responsibilities, decided against serving.  I do sometimes wonder what sort of career I might have had if I’d gone through with that decision.  More than likely I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I’m doing and so on.

My adopted father was in World War II, but his service was at the latter stages of the war.  He was drafted in 1944 and didn’t see action until 1945 in the Pacific theater.  He never talked much about his time in the service, he was in the US Army and the few times I tried to get him to engage and talk about it, he just said it was best not spoken of and that was the end of it.  I’m not really certain what all he saw and experienced, but it must have been sufficient to keep him from wanting to relive it, or at least re-experience it by remembering, or telling someone about it.

The celebrations of D-Day are now over, and the beaches of Omaha, Sword, Juno, Utah and Gold are quiet once more.  With the smattering of tourists now walking along the shoreline where at the same point 75 years ago terror and bravery reigned.  Just like at many other places in the history of warfare, people remember and people forget what happened in these places.  I certainly believe there won’t ever be campaigns the like of what happened in World War II, as all wars are going to be smaller in the post-nuclear world.  Not that it’s a bad thing, just something to be aware of.  War is still a business, and we need to perhaps get past that for purposes of settling differences.  I wonder if we ever will.