Here's the Scoop: April 2, 2014

Seems like old times. Or not
I’ve been doing a considerable amount reminiscing lately While it’s not always terribly productive to search one’s memory for long ago details, it’s often enjoyable. Sometimes such recollections are even accurate.
Declining school enrollments are no secret, but as we recently chatted about the “old days,” I told our daughter that the neighborhood of my youth easily had 50 children. She found this hard to believe. Of course, I was completely wrong. When I stopped to actually calculate the number of kids who resided in approximately two blocks of Arkville during my school days, I came up with 83! I know that typos rear their ugly heads in this space on occasion, but that’s not the case here. I’ll spell it out — eighty-three. I’m sure I overlooked some, too.
Our daughter has been out of school for a number of years herself, but even during her school days there were quite a few more children in the neighborhood. These days, when the school bus stops in front of my office less than a dozen kids get off.

Tough to compare
I’m not saying that the old days were necessarily better, just different. Probably better, too. Plus, there were more opportunities for pick-up baseball games to be played without relying on “ghost” runners.
Of course, you may think that I’m conveniently forgetting the “bad times.” I’m not. They are vivid in my memory — broken out skin, awkward dating interactions, only three TV channels. I remember that stuff quite well.
I’ll readily admit that the TV viewing options are light years ahead of where they were during my childhood. Plus, the TV sets themselves are really pretty incredible these days — until they become obsolete and look as dorky as the “wide body” that we still employee in a guest room. Hey, we don’t want visitors getting too comfy! If the old-fashioned TV doesn’t drive them out after a few days, I try hiding the remote control. That usually works — unless guests are content to skip TV viewing and engage in plain old conversation with their hosts. That kind of behavior always tests the limits of my patience with visitors.

We were people people
Of course, back in my childhood, talking was the primary means of communication. “Texting” referred to the books we used in school. Personally, I’d rather see someone with their nose buried in a book, rather than ignoring everyone around them as they communicate with others via their smart devices. I actually have a theory that many folks are not really in touch with anyone as they furrow their brows and pretend to be typing away on their phones. Same goes for the folks who constantly “walk and talk.” I think it’s all an illusion — like setting up a dummy driving companion in the passenger’s seat of a vehicle.
I was also discussing the “olden days” with a friend who was one of the “Arkville 83,” as I have begun calling that neighborhood crew. She shared the same memory (so, it must be true) of lazy summer evenings of hide-and-seek. As nighttime fell, the evening was almost always extended with pleas to parents for “10 more minutes.” These wishes for a bit more playtime were nearly always granted.
I imagine that today, if kids still played this game, hiding spots would be given away by the glow of mobile devices. Call me nostalgic, but I preferred my hide-and-seek games to be played under the glow of a single streetlamp and the periodic sparkle of fireflies.
— Brian Sweeney