Early Onset Old Folk Syndrome

Last weekend I listened to the radio. Not a car radio, but a little brown one the size of a six-deck pack of playing cards. It had an antenna and the rugby commentator’s voice came through with the same raspy, far-away scratch as from a record player.

It was startling. We had ridden up the elevator, carefully arranged like bowling pins, then flagged and stretched timidly through the entryway into the studio. Furnished around the perimeter of a dark blue carpet with the bare necessities: a low table for the tv, a worn brown futon (presumably for sleeping), another worn and green, presumably for gaming), a crooked armoir and some scattered chairs and stools, the room hung heavy with the feel of bachelor.

We quickly diffused to permeate the four corners of the hollow space as if they weren’t a stranger’s, and from which we admired the view of the Eiffel Tower’s peak and examined the scrapbooked pinnings on the walls, before force of nature pulled us back to the obvious center of gravity: a knee-high spool encompassed by a crimpled cummerbund of colored cardboard.

Its owner was clearing it for the purpose of being stocked with wine glasses, cherry tomatoes, a stoppered glass bottle of water, an old tile to hold the forthcoming pizza. And as we circled, ebbing and hesitating whether to make ourselves at home or help this stranger of a host, there it was.

You have a radio!

Oui… — I haven’t listened to a radio in years! — Really? 

Well, no, not in a house or an apartment. People have iPods and Spotify and the Internet.

It was the second time last week that I started at a dated intrusion on modern habits. A few days earlier, a girl of about 12 approached me as I sat reading and waiting for la grande‘s dance class to let out, and said, “Excusez-moi madame,” (madame!) “il est quelle heure s’il vous plaît?”

Sunning like old souls at Parc Monceau

Sunning like old souls at Parc Monceau

It wasn’t until she was walking away that I thought, That was funny! No one asks for the time anymore. Certainly tweens and teens don’t. Even those whose parents are still holdouts on phones before high school or driving have caved on iTouches and other social and music devices, all of which come naturally marked by a digital clock.

At the risk of eliciting a slew of rolling eyes, I have to admit I enjoyed the nostalgia. Like connecting with a stranger thanks to a book cover, it was pleasant to encounter these fleeting glimpses of a time (nearly) passed and to see that they aren’t totally extinct.

Let the growing-up just keep on comin’.



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