I put the “me” in sentimental, the “I” in nostalgia. I take so many trips down memory lane the state could toll it and balance the budget until the turn of the century.
My long-term goal is convincing my wife to allow me to turn an entire section of our house into a virtual time machine. Which couples nicely with my short-term goal of acquiring a house. And a wife.
Where would that time machine take me? The 1980s of course.
It’s simple, really. The ’80s taught us that Atari (digital), tree forts (analog) and board games like Risk (nerd) can actually co-exist. We were introduced to a “Breakfast Club” that showed us people from all walks of life can get along by just showing mutual respect.
Young boys, this boy, watched with joy as a kind old man mentored a Karate Kid and learned that the crane kick, if done right, “no can defend.” That same young boy also learned the best you can hope for as you nervously dial your crush is to get the machine. Yes, your prepubescent voice will be recorded on microcassette for all eternity. But at least you didn’t have to actually talk to her.
In the 1980s, tweets came from birds. The hottest product coming out of Cupertino, California, was the Apple 2. Not the iPhone2. Not the iPad2. The Apple 2. And it was totally rad.
Back then there was no “e” in mail. Triple Grande, Half Caff and Hazelnut Macchiato were the top three horses at the racetrack. Stocks went up. The Berlin Wall came down. We had 99 Luftballoons, “Sixteen Candles” and nine planets. (I miss you, Pluto.)
True, not all things were gnarly. Those stocks didn’t stay bullish forever. TV’s were square, computers were slow and the space shuttle had half the brains of your Keurig. But your coffeemaker never showed the world how fragile life is when it broke up in the sky and took seven souls with it. The Challenger did.
Yet my heart still yearns for the time when a perfect day involved a “Goonies” shirt, my BMX and enough quarters to ensure my initials were recorded on the local arcade’s “Frogger” game.
However, when I share my feelings with others I’m often met with cynicism. “Technology makes our lives better,” they say. “You were just a kid. You’re view is skewed,” I’m told.
They may be right. I did spend the latter part of the decade stuffed inside my school locker, so I could be as confused as a 10-year-old holding a Rubik’s Cube with half the stickers peeled off.
Therefore, I decided to test my theory. I would once again live a day in the life of the ’80s. No email. No Netflix. No debit card. My cellphone would stay in its own cell – home. I wouldn’t play “Words With Friends.” I would have words with friends. Time to put my money where my memory was.
I headed out in my 1984 Tercel (Like Doc Brown said, “If you’re going to build a time machine, why not do it with some style?”). At breakfast, with no fantasy football scores or emails to check, I finished the crossword in record time. I looked the waitress in her eye, asked how her day was and actually listened to the answer. I filled my car up and paid cash. Yes, I had to wait my turn inside the store, but it meant I could score some bodacious Bottlecaps.
Without GPS I got lost looking for the nearest Blockbuster Video. Instead, with Hall & Oates blasting out of the speakers, I stumbled upon a bookstore. I got lost in there, too. The day lacked 4G, Wi-Fi and, thankfully, stress. I was 10 years old again, but with a bank account and driver’s license. It was perfect.
So you can say whatever you want about my ’80s. You can think the iPhone 12 will make life iBetter for everyone. I’m not buying it – the phone or the premise. I’ll take a simpler time. And to prove it I’m going to get to work on that ’80s room. I just need a house and a wife.
Thankfully there’s that rambler for sale just down the street and that girl I’ve had my eye on. Maybe I’ll give her a call. Hope I get the machine.
Zac Smith is a water quality technician for Lakewood Water District. An obvious ’80s buff, he tries to hit 88 mph every chance he gets in the hope of being transported back to that decade. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Email him with comments, suggestions or where to find a purple, extra-medium Members Only jacket at email@example.com.