The 1950s time traveler – call him Sam – was baffled.
The 2021 cafe was full of people mesmerized by smartphones. Sam looked over the shoulder of a guy who had all the information in the world at his fingertips, showing pictures of his dog wearing a sweater and arguing with strangers about climate change.
Perplexed, Sam left the cafe. He walked down the main street of town, which offered food and drink, but not much else.
No one walking towards him made eye contact. They were all looking at their smartphones and looking like they were ramming into utility poles or traffic signs.
At least no phone booth was there to stop their zombie momentum.
When Sam walked into a restaurant, no wall of cigarette smoke greeted him, a welcome development. The menu prices, however, shocked him to no end. Where Pie a la Mode was 20 cents back then, it is now $6.
Sam left the restaurant, hungry. A legal pot shop was down the street. Sam refused to enter, remembering the 1950s poster about a sympathetic stranger who could offer you the killer drug of marijuana, disguised as a cigarette, the use of which could lead to murder, insanity or even death. the death.
Sam continued walking. Several blocks later, on the outskirts of town, after negotiating an area code-sized parking lot, he reached a big-box store. There he found items for sale that were offered on Main Street. Tires and batteries. Plants. Pets. Pharmacy. Jewelry. Clothes. Toys. Craft. Races. Even gag gifts.
Sam stopped in front of the televisions. They were huge. His three-bedroom home in the 1950s was just 1,000 square feet but housed a family of six. Each room contained a bed and not much more.
Sam had just purchased a 13-inch black and white television with three channels. Reception was blurry most of the time. Here were sets the size of his living room wall. Heads pictured were actual size; if an actor had warts, Sam could see them in all their glory. “High definition”, said the seller, Bob. “That’s the way to go.”
He showed Sam a remote control. “You talk about this thing to find a show.”
“You’re betting your life,” Sam said. “The King of Heaven.” Like magic, the shows appeared.
The salesman, impressed with the bow tie and Sam’s friendly manner, said his shift was almost over and invited Sam to his house for dinner.
“I love it,” Sam said. “I’m hungry as a horse.”
They went to the suburbs. Along the way, they passed a fully glazed building. Fifty people inside, dressed in colorful spandex, were sweating on stationary bikes.
“What is that?” Sam asked.
“A health club,” replied the seller. “It’s the after-work rush.”
Sam thought about his job delivering milk to people’s doorsteps. He was taking 20,000 steps a day, not that he had a device to measure steps, and all he wanted at the end of the workday was to slump in front of the TV, even if the reception was n wasn’t perfect.
The seller stopped in front of a large house. “It’s just a bungalow,” he apologized.
“It feels like an elementary school to me,” Sam said of the 2,000 square foot home.
The salesman introduced his wife, Gloria, when she burst in the door, home from work at the bank. Gloria wore no hair curling rollers and wore a pantsuit as she transferred the dinner she had bought on the way home – ‘takeout’, she called it – to plates on the table from the dining room.
“Do you have any ankle bites? Sam wanted to know.
“No dogs,” Gloria said.
“No, I mean kids,” Sam said.
“No,” said Bob, “we’ve been too busy paying for this house.”
“Of course,” Sam said.
Once dinner was over, Sam thanked his hosts and said he had to “separate”.
“Can I drive you?” Bob asked.
Sam thought for a moment. “Only if you can take me back to the 1950s.”