This is my father’s list, every single one except #18. Even though he thought up all the items and explained them to me when necessary, I did the writing. Whenever I could, I quoted my old man from a series of very-brief emails he sent me to explain a few on his list.
I’ll be interested to see if this sounds like your dad a time or two.
1. Gasoline “Now has ethyline in it that fouls small engines, takes more energy to produce than it provides, drives up the price of food and attracts water to gasoline.”
2. Air travel– Flying used to make someone feel pretty fancy; it was expensive and people couldn’t afford to fly as much.
Sadly, like many things in American society, air travel has undergone a Wal-Mart-ification in the last 20 years. They took a once-fancy concept, stripped off every conceivable bell and whistle, and sold it at as a low of a price as possible.
You know how other nations say we have no culture? This is what they mean.
3. French fries – “No fat no taste.”- answered my dad in his email. And it’s true, they just tasted better when made with beef tallow or whatever animal fats that were used by the fast food restaurants.
Oh, “healthified” food will be seen again on this list.
4. School lunches– Pizza as a vegetable? Multi-national corporations continuing to dictate what enters the bodies of our obese schoolchildren? No and no, irrespectively.
5. Thoroughbred horses– Let’s compare two horses you’ve heard of: Seabiscuit (last race: 1940) and Smarty Jones (last race: 2004). Smarty won the 2004 kentucky derby AND preakness and was the overwhelming Belmont favorite before losing to 45-1 Birdstone. That was Smarty Jones’s 9th and final race, whereas Seabiscuit raced 89 times.
With a career nearly exactly in the middle of the aforementioned two, the mighty Secretariat raced only 21 times (last race: 1970). Shorter careers make for less time to get to know any athlete, human or horse. It just makes for a worse fan experience. Imagine if Larry Bird or Michael Jordan played only three NBA seasons.
And do you wanna know the biggest reason we haven’t had a triple crown winner since 1978? Racing three races, that far, in that quick of a succession, at that age is much harder for today’s thoroughbred (Smarty Jones) than in the ’70s (Secretariat), which was much hard compared to the 30’s (Seabiscuit). The thoroughbred breed has grown weaker, after generations of being built for explosive speed moreso than for durability. As a result they are simply unable to race as much.
6. Peanut butter– “No salt no taste”. I guess you can’t find salt in peanut butter anymore.
7. Saltines crackers – “Now called Premium Crackers ; low salt low taste.”. My dad is the only person I could ever imaging noticing that and pointing it out to me.
8. Newspapers/magazines– Newspapers used to be fat with real-life local journalism, now newspapers are pamphlet-sized and they feature stories from the AP about the Kardashians.
9. Light bulbs– The new, twisty halogen bulbs somehow are neither as soft nor as bright (as far as purchasable wattage goes) as incandescents.
Glad we fixed all that.
10. Household air quality– My dad had an interesting theory that with all the efforts taken to make houses air-tight for heating and cooling efficiency, the air in our houses has grown more stagnant. A generation ago our houses were draftier, thereby ferrying in a steady stream of fresh air.
11. Antibiotics – “Over-prescribed and not taken as directed has lead to resistance of the drugs to many formerly useful antibiotics.”
12. Baked goods – “No fat no taste.” He doesn’t drink light beer, and he doesn’t want to eat a light confectionery treat either.
13. Cigarettes– Their taxes are ridiculous. Chicago just tacked on another dollar per pack. And cigarettes were taxed over 100% before that. My dad doesn’t even smoke and he listed this.
14. Canned corn – “Low salt low taste”. I don’t know if this means no corn canners in the country sell regular-sodium canned corn, or if it’s just that the grocery store my mom goes to doesn’t carry regular-sodium canned corn. Or somewhere in betwixt.
15. Apple cider – “Now pasetrized so now it tastes like apple juice.” Great point and it’s a shame. Tupac once rapped, “you let the ghetto get the best of ya, baby that’s a shame.” but this is more like, “you let the government get the best of ya, baby that’s a shame.” when it comes to Apple Cider.
16. Ice cream and Orange juice – “No longer comes in half gallon containers –
smaller containers to ‘avoid’ price hikes.”.
17. Cost of attending pro sports– My dad and I had this conversation in 2001 about my brother who was living in Boston and is a huge Red Sox fan. This was right after the Red Sox signed Manny to a $160 million contract for 8 years. My dad and I agreed that player contracts, and the price of attending games was way too high.
He then said, “Your brother doesn’t think that players are overpaid. But then a minute later he was complaining about how high the prices were for the cable sports package required to watch the Red Sox every night.”
And that’s just to watch from home.
18. Internet buffering: We all hate when websites have surprising and unlwecome videos randomly start playing in some currently-off-screen corner of their page. So you finally locate it and press the Pause button. But that just pauses the video it doesn’t stop it from buffering. What makes less cool is that it’s draining data and energy as a result. It seems unnecessary, and also a little creepy because it’s buffering against my will.
Alas, my prayers used to be answered: a few years ago there was a Stop button next to the pause button, and pressing that would end the video and the buffering. The Stop button doesn’t seem to exist anymore and I miss it at least once every week of life.
(note: this is the only one of this list I thought of)
19. Getting gasoline– Another victim of Walmartification. Getting gas used to be known as Full Service instead of today’s ubiquitous Self-Service.
Back then you wouldn’t have to get out of your car; guys filled up your tank with your choice of gasoline while another guy washed your windows and another checked your tire pressure. Sure the extra service made the prices a bit higher, but having properly inflated tires is important- it improves your gas mileage and safety; and you didn’t even have to get outta your car!
This was bad, how?
20. Paint – “VOCs eliminated (volatile organic compounds ) paint not as durable
nor long lasting.”
21. Fertilizer – “phosphorous use is banned in (state where my dad lives) and I assume other states as well.” I guess phosphorous was awesome in fertilizer.
21B. Diswhasher soap “The latest issue of Consumer’s Report that I received today has an article about how the lack of phosphates in dishwasher soap (taken out 2 summers ago ) has caused a white stain and build up problem when hard water is involved.”
Here is a scientific run down of Phosphorus, which means essentially the same thing as Phosphates in this case. It sounds pretty unsafe.
So tell me, were you surprised he subscribes to Consumer’s Report?
23. Water pressure– As a kid I remember my grandma’s shower had the strength of massaging jets. Now 25 years later, with today’s energy efficient showers and faucets everywhere, it takes her grandson about 19 hours to fill up a pint glass with water in his sink at home.
24. Education– Between today’s ever-increasing price of college, predatory loans and the unfortunate growth of for-profit colleges, getting an education is more treacherous on personal finances than ever.
So it’s particularly disheartening to know the actual education being offered is far inferior to what it was a generation ago, and standardized tests verify that.
But look on the bright side, the generation responsible for all of the evils in the first paragraph just drove today’s college grads into a double-dip recession, so they won’t get hired anyway, thereby keeping their ineptitude a secret.
25. Highways- They’re way too congested because they weren’t built for this many cars. Driving was both common and pleasurable for families once upon a time. Also upon that time, roads and bridges were maintained.
26. Fireworks– For some reason my father doesn’t appreciate the government assuming he is too stupid to enjoy fireworks correctly, and as a result of that pejorative and incorrect assumption, his 4th of July at home isn’t as enjoyable. He is funny like that.
Tags: 28 Things That Used to be Better, air travel, antibiotics, baked goods, canned corn, cider, cigarettes, education, fertilizer, Fireworks, french fries, full service gas stations, gasoline, highways, household air quality, ice cream, newspapers, paint, peanut butter, pro sports prices, saltines, school lunches, thoroughbreds, Wal-Mart-ifcation, water pressure