Marlboro Musings: Oh, How Times Have Changed

Hoverboards. Hoverboards, folks!

It seems that was one of the big-ticket gift items this past Christmas, a board on which you stand and motor around, not truly hovering, mind you, but dang close, all for the low cost, to some, of a few hundred dollars. And that price also apparently included the Free with Purchase, Jack-in-the-Box type excitement option of sudden and unexpected fire as news reports have since indicated that some of the units have a tendency to burst into flames.

Talk about “hot footing” it, that takes the cake. Moreover, the might-just-burst-into-flames problem, which apparently is the result of issues with some of the batteries, in addition to the obvious chance of seriously injuring oneself in a fall, has led many places – train, bus, and airplane terminals, as well as many colleges, businesses and other organizations, even the Carolina Panthers – to prohibit them from being used on premises.

A very nice and thoughtful gift, eh? Especially if you’re first in line for a nice inheritance should the rider/operator/victim suffer a particularly bad spill or spark and wind up comatose, crippled, or worse yet, possibly incinerated.

However, if you couldn’t hook up a hover board for that special someone, then the next best thing may have been a quad copter, a camera-equipped fly-by-remote drone that allows you to take photos or video from high above pretty much whatever and wherever you wish. Now that’s a legal battle – or disaster, as some have been seen in the flight paths of airliners making final approaches or departures – yet to play out, but almost certain to come.

Or perhaps a FitBit, a wrist band device that tracks the wearer’s exercise, weight, sleep, and a myriad of other health measurements or activities was your present of choice. And if you were still unsure what to gift that special someone, then for a few hundred bucks, you could have given them a new smartphone. Or, if a tight budget proved limiting, another popular, and much more reasonably priced, item was a Selfie Stick, which allows the user to take pictures of themselves, along with a group of friends, or others, if so desired, with their phones from a little further away than an arm’s length. Just what this world most needed.

My goodness, folks, whatever happened to the joy of receiving a new bicycle or, maybe, a new football or basketball? People, I’m a simple man; I thought the Easy-Bake Oven that my sister received one early 70’s Christmas morning was high-tech.

Regardless, the gifts available this past Christmas blew me away, and seemed to me to be the kind of thing good ol’ George Jetson would be buzzing around looking to purchase for Jane, Judy, or Elroy with his Spacely Sprockets Christmas bonus. And they most assuredly left me longing for the days of old, when the Sears Wish Book was the literal Bible when it came to choosing what you wanted to put on your Wish List for Santa, in the hope that he might deliver. Around my home, that catalog would be dog-eared by mid-December, after three kids had perused it a couple dozen times each, circling items and page numbers.

Of course, I have to be honest and admit that those times were not without their own problems, especially when it came to Sears, as I cannot recall a single gift that I received from Santa, via Sears (which apparently operated as a seasonal distributor for Santa back then) that did not have to be returned or finessed into working properly. Whether it was a pinball machine that malfunctioned or an electric vibrating football field game that had to be propped up on one side to keep every play from being a power sweep left or right, it seems every item had a problem of some sort.

And even the new bikes we received one Christmas created issues as, having suddenly graduated from our trusty and reliable old single-gear, street-race tested, banana-seated bare bones specials to new-fangled ten-speeders, my brother and I decided, a bit too hastily we later discovered, to ride them up to Grandma’s house – without helmets or high-vis clothing, God forbid! – to show them off. About fifteen miles up to Grandma’s house near Boykin, to be specific, which turned out to be a really bad idea as they ended up having to make the return trip to Bennettsville in the bed of Pop’s pickup truck. And I had to walk a little awkwardly for a couple days, the result of being quite unaccustomed to that tiny little seat.

I suppose all of the new-fangled products available in today’s world are the result – or, perhaps better put, the price – of progress. And judging from their desirability and the difficulty in obtaining some of them, they all have their place. Demand dictates that we continuously move forward as technology allows; everybody wants the latest and greatest, you know. And I guess that’s not all bad. But I don’t have to like it.

By the way, that Easy-Bake Oven that sis got? Well, it now comes with a warming chamber and looks a lot like a real microwave. And a new one will run you over a hundred and a half dollars – cooking light bulb not included, of course.

Progress. You can’t beat it. And maybe can’t afford it, either.

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