Thursday, April 17, 2008

Police! And changing with the times.

I think I get most of my resistance to technology from my mother. It was 1994 when my family became the last on the block to own a microwave. 1996 saw us get a CD player to go along with our turntable, and by 1998 we were equipped with a VCR. Had my mother not moved recently, she would, I am certain, be the last person in all of Ottawa to still have a rotary phone with no touch tone capabilities. I mean, even the automated services you call have stopped giving that option of "if you're calling from a rotary phone, please stay on the line..." The main reason for this, I firmly believe, is that my mom subscribes to two notions. One of nostalgia - the idea that if you hang on to one item, say a rotary phone, for thirty years, then it will have thirty years of memories associated with it. Like, the time Gerry and Kathleen phoned to see if they could get their ladder back. The other is simply a firm adherence to the tenet of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or replace it." I admire this ethos, since I believe my mom may have created less waste in her entire lifetime on Earth than some familes do on any given Super Bowl Sunday.

I realized this when I was over at her house on Tuesday. She was preparing to leave on a trip, and was lending me her car while she was away. We sat and talked in her new kitchen, and I realized, this was the same kitchen I had when I was a child. Different decor, to be sure, but the same pots and pans and dishes and utensils. It was even the same milk jug we used since I was, I assume, an infant. I have no recollection, at any time in my life, of my mom using a milk jug that wasn't that orange plastic 99 cents-at-Dollarama jug! That's at least 25 years worth of use, out of ONE milk jug! Out of ninety-nine cents! How many people get that kind of value in life? I know that I, personally, have broken four milk jugs - many of superior quality to my mom's milk jug - in the past three years. This blows me away. When I parked her car in the station parking lot (it IS a new car - those things don't last forever), I noticed the license plate. Six digits. It was the only plate in the lot that still had six digits. Everyone else was modernized, that seven-digit plate number, starting with A. Not mom. In fact, although it was a new car, this was the same license plate number she had when I was born.

No, scratch that. It was not just the same plate number, it was the same license plate. I know this because as I pulled out of the parking lot this morning, I was pulled over by the police. The officer came to my window and said "you think it's time you replace your plate?" Well, I had just been looking at it in the parking lot! I knew that it was a bit rusty, but you could still read the numbers. This cop, however, could not. He asked to see my license, and I considered asking for his as well, just to see if he was supposed to be wearing glasses. But I did not. He even went around to the front of the car, making a big show of the need to check it again on the front, because he couldn't possibly read the back. Then he took my license and my mom's registration and went back to his car. I listened to Sunday Morning Coming Down by Johnny Cash. Then I listened to Let's Make Out by Does It Offend You, Yeah? Then I listened to a Joy Division song, a Wale song, a Zappa song, and an Allman Brothers song. Now, to be fair, I caught the Johnny Cash at the end, and I skipped most of the Wale, and he left his car midway through In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. It was almost over by the time he reached my window, and by my calculations that means I spent forty-one minutes pulled over on Conroy road. My math may be a little off, but that live version of Elizabeth Reed is long.

How long can it possibly take to print off a warning ticket, check the plates and my license, come up with nothing, and come back to my car? I'm going to guess, not that long. This guy really wanted to get me on something. Eventually, I continued along my merry, rust-plated way. I wished I had a cell phone so I could call my girlfriend and tell her I would be late getting to her work. But I have no cell phone. The one lifestyle accoutrement that my mom had before me!


  1. If it makes you feel any better, my mother in law still has a rotary phone and pulse only service on her line. She just never bothered to upgrade the service. We thought that she would finally be forced to do so when she got Sympatico DSL High Speed several years back, but they were able to do it much to my surprise. The funny thing is that Tone customers get dinged a fee for being forced to have Touch Tone service, but it actually costs Bell MORE to maintain all the lines that are still pulse only and they pay less than everybody else. Go figure.

    As for license plates, well I'm guilty there. I skipped school the day I turned 16 to go get my driver license. I drove my parents car for 2 years until I got my own when I turned 18 and moved to Ottawa. The plates that are on my car now are the same 6 digit plates that were on my first car, right when they changed the format from LLL - ### to ### - LLL. For me, it's definitely a nostalgia thing.

  2. My mom was always convinced that at some point it would become more profitable for Bell to switch her to touch-tone on their own, and they would do it for free without charging her more. A solid idea, but I guess Bell kept feeling as though she needed them more than they needed her. She showed them though! (Until recently, of course.)