March 13, 2017

7 Things That Are Almost Gone: Does It Matter?




Life is made up of continuous change. Nothing stays the same for very longBoth are true statements but that doesn't make them any easier to accept. As human we generally prefer stability. When things don't change it is easier to predict what will happen or how our life will unfold. Unfortunately, those desires are in conflict with the real world.

Today, I am looking at a few things that used to be part of our everyday life but are getting harder to find. Change has relegated them unnecessary for many of us. How about you?


*Yellow Pages. Virtually all phone companies have taken steps to eliminate the printed books that once arrived with a thump on your front porch once a year. What reminded me they still exist was the recent arrival at my house of a small version with maybe a hundred pages of display ads and listings. It went right into recycling. The Internet makes these books out of date almost as soon as they are printed. White pages for residential and business listings aren't even available anymore unless you request one. 

*Movie Rental Stores. The stand alone video rental store is not long for this world. There are no national chains left, unless you count the Redbox kiosks. Larger cities have a handful of independent video outlets that survive by featuring hard-to-find foreign and art films, some still on VHS. But, names like Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, and Blockbuster are gone.

Netflix is willing to send you a DVD through the mail, though the company has made it clear the future of that option is bleak. Amazon Prime, Google Play, You Tube, and Netflix will be happy to stream a movie directly to your home, making the Redbox kiosk experience seem almost quaint. 

*The Post Office. Any "normal" business as out of step with the world around it as the postal service would have disappeared years ago. But, the promise of universal mail service keeps this dinosaur alive. Even common sense suggestions like eliminating Saturday delivery are met with howls of protest, all while demanding the service stop losing billions a year.

What does the future hold? Eventually, five day delivery will happen. Mail directly to your home instead of a neighborhood box is probably doomed at some point. Amazon, Fedex, UPS, and private services have taken much of the postal services package delivery business away. E-mail and texting make snail mail much too slow. Most of your mail now is just magazines and junk mail. That isn't enough to pay the bills, even with postal stamp and shipping prices increasing on a regular basis.

*Paper Checks. Britain is planning on doing away with the paper check by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process them. As Internet security and pay-by-phone systems improve, folks will agree that electronic transfers are more secure than paper checks.

America will not see the check disappear as quickly as those in England, but it is coming. Check usage continues to shrink. It now accounts for less than 50% of consumers' recurring bill payments, down from 72% in 2001. Social Security stopped mailing checks in 2013. A recent survey shows 52% of those in their 20s and 30s have never written a check. 

*Handwritten letters. Another causality of the change from written mail to electronic communication is the handwritten letter. How many of us were raised to mail a Thank You note for a present within a few days of receiving the gift? How many wrote letters home from summer camp or back and forth when one half of a couple was in the military? Handwritten letters have been important in our lives, but are virtually gone now. Children aren't being taught cursive writing in many schools, so they can't write a letter or couldn't read one they receive.

*The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn’t read the newspaper. They certainly don’t subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That will go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. It is out-of-date when printed and much too expensive to distribute. As for reading the paper on line, get ready to pay for it as a matter of course. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers have caused many newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance to determine a pay-for-reading business model that will work.

Interestingly, the demise of some newspapers seems to have been delayed by the recent political upheavals. Attacks against the truthfulness of the media has resulted in some significant subscription increases for a few of the better known ones, like the NY Times and Washington Post. But, that is likely a short term phenomenon. 

*The LandLine Telephone. Part of the reason the telephone white pages have almost ceased to exist is the drop in wired telephones. Considering how many folks have cell phones, it is somewhat surprising that 62% of American homes still have a landline phone. About a dozen years ago that number was 97%.

In some cases the hard-wired phone line is required because the household is still dependent on dial-up Internet. Up to 9 million of us don't have high-speed connections. Often home security systems require a dedicated phone line. If the electrical system fails during a storm, so do cell phones, but the landline phone operates. And, there are plenty of places in the country where cell signals are unreliable or non-existent. 



Adapting to change and using it to our benefit are important steps for us on our journey to a satisfying retirement. Which of the things on my list will you miss the most? Which ones are already gone from your life? What didn't I list that you believe is not long for this world?


50 comments:

  1. Finally succumbed to the smart phone and now get the paper online. No significant regrets. A young friend actually wondered how I got calls on a landline. Haven't written a letter in years, either. What do I miss? I miss good manners, leg room on planes, and good tomatoes.

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    1. I completely agree with your "what you do miss" list. Whatever happened to tomatoes with taste?

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    2. The only tomatoes I will buy anymore are the heirloom tomatoes at trader Joe--they have flavor.None from Sprouts or the supermarket are worthwhile!

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    3. I like the Campari tomatoes at Costco. But you can't beat the summer garden variety. :-)

      --Hope

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  2. Good post. I got rid of a lot of those things years ago. I live in a rural area so I am thankful for my satellite tv and internet service. (highspeed). Changes always seem to bring sadness but it is nice to whip through news online and be done within an hour. It's nice as you get older to receive reminders by text on my iPhone or keeping the memory cells in my brain together by using the 'notes' on my Apple products that follow me anywhere I go.

    Kind of off topic but wanted to let you know that I 're-read' your post about the 3 stages of retirement, as I am near my 3 year mark. Reading that again help me sort out some of my feelings lately.

    Thank you for this great blog and the time you put into it.

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    1. You are welcome, Steve.

      We are receiving a trial subscription to USA today. But, the paper is so small that the regular monthly cost is not worth it. When the 3 month teaser rate ends, so will the paper.

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    2. I have glanced at USA Today online for many years now for headlines and sports, since the web edition is fairly up to date compared to the paper. During our recent three month sojourn in FL and SC that just ended the newspaper edition of it was delivered for free each day M-F. To be honest, at least half or more of it was of zero interest to me, either because I could care less who the latest "talent" was on the music scene, who wore what to which event, or simply tremendous bias in their reporting. The local weekend editions of papers that were delivered are still fun to read, especially if they had a lot of coupons.

      I suppose every 20-30 years, perhaps less in the future, similar articles to yours will be written, Bob. How about when someone waxes nostalgic for cars, or for Facebook, if/when they no longer exist. Can you imagine the turn of the 20th century when innovation was probably at its zenith? Whole countries, whole economies, whole industries were changed overnight. Still fun to think back on what was, though.

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    3. Think back to TV shows like the Jetsons. We should all be flying to from errands and work now. Funny how some things evolve quickly (driverless cars) and others quite slowly(news delivery).

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  3. There's still a discrepancy between rural and urban internet service; until that is remedied, some of the items you listed will endure. With internet access and digital movies, I miss the yellow pages and movie rental stores the least. The post office in our rural small town has seen an increase in package delivery because individual home delivery is not a reality in a rural area; a central delivery site is still necessary. I use fewer and fewer checks. Direct deposit/debit requires a different kind of diligence to ensure that it's all accurate. I've heard of instances where utility bills were inaccurate or monthly debits for expired memberships continued unnoticed and at great expense. People complain of the cost of writing checks yet charges can add up for electronic banking; ask the kids who get charged for every little debit transaction. Handwritten notes/letters are out of vogue yet I often hear people exclaim about receiving something other than a bill in their mailbox. I still appreciate a newspaper in hand. I enjoy the local news then have something to start the wood fire with. Telephone landlines are decreasing as well as personal directories. It's hard to locate someone whose only method of contact is a personal cellphone. I would disagree with you about the landline working and not the cellphone in a power outage. Depending upon the type of phone connected to the landline, it will work in a power outage, as will the cell phone as long as it's charged. Cash is going out of style. And you're hooped when internet is down and the debit machine doesn't work.

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    1. The cell phone won't work if the power to the local cell towers that receive the calls is off. Your call won't go through. That's the only risk.

      I started taking a photograph of a check and depositing it. That even eliminates a drive to an ATM, except when I need cash. Maybe some bank will start making home delivery of cash so we never have to leave our homes again!

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    2. I rank the ability to deposit checks via my bank app right up there with pay at the pump and disposal diapers. :-)

      --Hope

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  4. Bob,great examples. We took out the landline in a budget move. Only seemed to receive nuisance calls anyway.

    I'm watching the whole retail thing with great interest. Stores and shopping centers are vanishing and will continue to do so. Shopping centers are being converted to other uses.It's all very interesting to watch. I do see more food venues popping up, including restaurants and fast food-type places.

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    1. Certain categories of restaurants are struggling - those called fast casual. High end and fast foods are generally doing well.

      I just read that some shopping malls are converting former department store locations into grocery stores. Interesting.

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  5. Malls, reading books for knowledge (research), and children lose in cars can be added to that list.
    All three of these are almost gone: letters, post office and cursive.
    I try to write a note to my grands at least once a month. Since my cursive is printwrite, it is pretty easy to read. In turn, I use the post office for packages and letters. Our small office almost always has a line coming out of it. I think they are less necessary in larger cities (although I run my mom by the post every time I am home.
    I practice reading cursive with my grandson. So many documents are written by hand. If he wants to enjoy primary sources for study, he will need to know how to read the stuff. I am transcribing family history from my great grand father's cursive right now! Otherwise, cursive is almost dead.

    I hope that certain things- like crazy expensive weddings and funerals- disappear in the next generation. Health insurance would be a nice thing to go away as well.

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    1. Arizona is in the process of passing a new law that will require instruction in cursive writing. That is a skill that should not be allowed to die out.

      Good point about very expensive weddings and funerals. I read somewhere that the average price of a wedding in America is over $26,000, though the typical couple spends around $10,000 and none of those numbers include a honeymoon....excuse me but that is silly for a half day event.

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    2. Ugh. I don't know why we can't allow cursive to die out. It's like requiring classes using 'merry old english'. With the vast majority of our written communications now being typed, I'd much rather see appropriate printing skills and possibly some typing classes. I haven't used cursive in 25? years and it's value is nil.

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    3. I don't agree, Morgan. Answering an essay question during midterms or reading old letters from my parents and grandparents requires knowing cursive. Most of us don't use any of the math we were forced to learn (Calculus anyone?) but that doesn't mean it has no value.

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    4. Might as well keep teaching them Latin too. Sure cursive is used for documents written decades ago but go back a little further and Latin was used for all books, "official" documents, and was a normal subject taught in schools. It is true that calculus (for example) is little used after school for most people but it teaches you logical thinking that is hard to obtain any other way and that will serve you well throughout your life. Cursive writing not so much - essentially cursive writing was developed as printing speeded up. Cursive was good for a time when all documents were hand written but like Latin, outside of a few specialist applications, it has little use in today's world.

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    5. I'm surprised at you, Bob! Mathematics is a concept. There is no correlation. Take the letter 1, write it down on a piece of paper. Now crumple it up and throw it away. The concept still exists. Take three apples, eat two... there is no discarding of the concept of One, of singular. Discovered or not discovered, it still exists.

      Answering an essay question during midterms is nearly certain to be done via tablet or computer in 20 years. The test will likely be taken online, typed, where the results can immediately be stored by the testing facility and transmitted to the appropriate people. Even if that were not true, why would mid terms require cursive over printing? It's awkward when there is a transformative shift in the language for those who grew up speaking/writing/singing in the prior way but that doesn't halt the transition. I have several friends who practice calligraphy and illumination with medieval style pens and inks. The artwork is amazing and I should not be so rude as to suggest the value is nil. Perhaps I should have said, other than artistic merit, the value is nil. To pass a law requiring cursive in school is much like requiring the art of illumination (pictures in the borders of the pages of handwritten books) or even requiring knitting as core curriculum because many of our ancestors darned their own socks.

      Finally, with integrated societies where many of us didn't grow up with English and have acquired it instead as a second language, insisting on another form of English seems almost as if a punishment.

      Incidentally, while both my script and my printing are reasonable, a lot of the adults I know in the 25 - 40 range have poor handwriting regardless. My husband, whose notes are primarily chicken scratch to me, likes to point out that he has not handwritten anything more than a post in decades. After so long, he is simply out of practice.

      :D

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    6. Little did I know that a simple comment about cursive writing would ruffle feathers. Oh well, we can agree to disagree. Subject closed.

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  6. As fellow travelers I am pleased that we still have road maps. Love to take out my road atlases to prepare for a trip. Love to follow them. Our youngest daughter travels with her iPhone next to her and doesn't even think about where to turn. It tells her.

    Older sons claim I am living in the past because we don't even have an iPhone. I tell them that, " if Jerry Jones, who owns the Dallas Cowboys uses a flip phone, I can use mine as well."

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    1. I love maps and an atlas. GPS is great for some things, but seems to lead me the long (or wrong) way more often than not in rural areas.

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  7. We haven't had a landline in ages. I rarely send a thank you note but always call. We both subscribe to NYT and WP online but still get the Philadelphia Inquirer daily. I like reading a real paper. Social networking has replaced so many things but, being a rather impatient type, I prefer instantaneous connections. I love our local post office and would hate to see it disappear, but know it may be inevitable someday.
    Change is hard.
    b

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    1. Since I just received new cards with your beautiful art work on the cover, I am prompted to send some handwritten notes! It has been a long time.

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  8. Our tiny Yellow Pages goes directly to recycle, too. Can't imagine how they keep getting businesses to buy ads in them! The movie rental stores around here have all closed and I'm not even sure the Red Box will survive...how can you beat downloading a rental?

    Our post office delivers to a row of mailboxes at the end of our (dead end, private) road. Our postman will deliver packages to our door, though. And I see a lot of partnering with UPS and FedEx in our area where the PO delivers that last leg. So there must be some money in it for them and a savings by UPS and FedEx?

    I miss my big Sunday NYT, but I randomly buy it out of nostalgia and find I've read a lot of it online already. It makes great fire starting material or drop cloths for small jobs, though.

    We still have our land line but we discuss getting rid of it annually. We lose power in our semi-rural area several times every year, but our phone is dead at that point. I think it's because it's Uverse fiber optic cable and the type of phone we have? But if our cell phones are charged, they work until the battery dies. We had a fax machine that needed a line, but no one uses those anymore either.

    --Hope

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    1. I bought a Sunday NYT a few months ago and was stunned at how much it had shrunk. The Sunday NYT paper was a staple of my college and post-college years. Now, it isn't much bigger than our local Sunday paper, but at three times the cost. The writing and reporting, however, remain first class. The press remains a very important bulwark of our democracy.

      The house we moved to almost two years ago has a neighborhood box. After a lifetime of delivery to the curb or porch, I thought I'd miss the convenience. But, since most mail is junk I only collect it two times a week on the way to or from an errand. No problem.

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  9. Nostalgically, the only one I miss are movie rental stores, because the evoke memories of a wonderful time during the raising of our daughters. On Friday nights we would troop down to the video store to pick out a movie for our Friday family movie night. While there, we'd generally bump into many people we knew doing same, and it was just fun.

    Fast forward some years, and now that we are sans children at home, we much prefer streaming them from the comfort of our own home.

    Otherwise, we've pretty much abandoned everything on your above mentioned list without any impact on life. We've adjusted nicely to looking info up on the internet, and with the advent of rating services like Yelp, find our satisfaction level has zoomed with regard to locating tradespeople and service professionals. Getting the newspaper delivered digitally (yep, new New York Time subscribers here :-) is uber convenient, and nice in that two of us can be reading the same articles at the same time, vs the splitting of the paper that needed to occur previously.

    I don't think I'd wish a return to any of the items on your list, including letter writing. I'm just as happy to receive a newsy email as I was a hand written letter, actually more so - I can easily read the email, which was not always the case with a handwritten letter!

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    1. Several years ago when both our daughters lived in San Diego, one of them took us to this funky video store not far from San Diego State. It had everything Blockbuster didn't. I wonder if it still exists.

      I just started using Angie's List. So far, I have found a landscaping company and painting contractor using that service and both are better than I would have selected on my own.

      We get the Washington Post delivered digitally. They have a promotion with Amazon Prime: 6 months free. Hard to beat.

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  10. All the items you mentioned are gone from our life with one exception. I write one check a month to pay our small town water bill in it's local drop box. Otherwise I pay all bills online and love doing it that way. I miss handwritten letters and I have been known to write my grandchildren snail mail letters just so they can know what it is like to receive one. I think I had the most trouble getting used to not having a land line phone. I enjoyed calling a family member and not knowing who would answer the phone and then talking to different family members all on one call. Of course it serves the purpose to call the person you want to talk with but it seems almost business like and not nearly as "family friendly". I guess that sounds silly. I do love shopping online and we have done about 90% of our Christmas and gift shopping online for years now.

    I frequently think about all the changes in our lifetime as it seems so amazing. I have pictures of my Grandmother in a horse and carriage and now we have cars that drive themselves! As a child I never could have dreamed of computers and now we have them in our homes, heck even in our pockets! I remember when VCRs were so amazing and now they are obsolete. My Grandmother would not believe that we all carry our phones with us everywhere we go and we hang the television on the wall! Well, I'm sure we could all go on about this subject Bob! Thanks!

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    1. Your point about the landline being more inclusive is an interesting one and an angle I had never thought of. Now, we call a specific person. With a landline in a household, who knows who might answer.

      That reminds me of one of my hobbies, ham radio. For many reasons it is not very popular with anyone under 50 or so. One negative for most people is you usually have no idea who you may talk to.

      But, that is part of the attraction. When you transmit your call sign over the air you have no idea who might answer and even in what country that person may be located. In the same vein, if someone else is looking to make a contact and you answer, you have suddenly met someone new and can have either a 60 second conversation, or one that can easily last 15-20 minutes or more. In that sense it is like a landline telephone that might be answered by a huge family with no boundaries!

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    2. It is funny that you mentioned a ham radio because my 15 year old grandson has developed an interest in that. I never expected a kid that age to be interested but then this one even likes vinyl records! I do see the comparison you mention with ham radios and land lines. There are many means of communication for sure!

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    3. A good percentage of hams, especially younger ones, communicate almost solely using computers and special software. In fact, an antenna and transmitter aren't needed anymore, though older hams don't consider that true amateur radio.

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  11. I'm up on all these things. No more movie rentals, paper checks, newspapers, handwritten letters ( I miss that one, though) but the worst of all is the crappy cell phone service. I haven't had a land line in 15 years but I'm ready to stick cell phones up someone's behind. Sorry if this is offensive to anyone, please delete if necessary. I have wanted to ditch my Apple for years now.

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    1. You are not alone in wanting to put your cell phone someplace where the sun don't shine! I feel that way once a month when I see the bill.

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  12. I remember many of these things and can see what you mean. Here (in Britain) I don't think our universal postal service will die out. I do see what you mean by the reduced volume of "real" post coming through it these days - but virtual e-cards aren't the same thing at all at Christmas/birthdays/etc and obviously people who are housebound would be unable to fetch their post from anywhere else.

    I do still have my landline phone and shall continue to do so. It's good to know that I have a phone I can use to make calls without worrying about the cost of them basically (as I can make calls of up to an hour to standard numbers on my tariff 24/7) and my mobile phone (cell phone in American) is something I only carry round with me for emergencies.

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    1. Thanks for the perspective from the U.K. It is interesting that there is a lot of similarity. Do you pay a tax to own and use a TV? Is cable extra or is that included in what you must pay?

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    2. It is indeed very similar in a lot of these respects. We do have to pay a tax for using a t.v. It's called a "tv licence" and we have to buy one each year (£145.50 if my memory serves me aright for the yearly one I get). People can also pay for it in monthly installments instead if they wish to. Once people get to their 75th birthday - then they are allowed not to purchase a tv licence again and can watch our tv's without charge. It's a little bit of a hangover I guess from when we only had a couple of tv channels and that was the way BBC1 (ie one run by the British Broadcasting Channel) funded the programmes shown on t.v. that way. We have loads more tv channels now and the commercial ones are funded by the adverts on them. BBC tv programmes are no longer the standard they used to be in the main and, as per all our tv channels, we get a lot of repeats.

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    3. Re cable tv - some of us have it, some don't. I don't personally - as that is an extra charge. I don't see the need for it - as we all get Freeview channels anyway (ie included in our t.v. licence).

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  13. Two of the things on your list matter a great deal to me -- the post office and landline telephones. Out here in rural America, delivery companies like FedEx and UPS don't much like the inefficiencies of delivering to houses spread out over miles of dirt roads; they turn many of their deliveries over to the post office to make. And then there are cell phones. The next time your cell phone carrier publishes one of those maps of their coverage area, take a look at all the white space up in the top right corner. That's Maine, where I live, the most heavily forested state in the nation. It turns out that digital signals have trouble with trees, so our heavily wooded landscapes are full of dead zones for cell phones, satellite tv, satellite radio, etc. My only guaranteed access to emergency help is a landline telephone. My idea of a nightmare is having a medical emergency and having to crawl out of the house and down the driveway looking for a signal.

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    1. In your case, the landline is the lifeline. Out west there are similar white patches on coverage maps which we hit during some of our RV trips. It feel odd and a little disconcerting when the phone says "no service."

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  14. Hey there! I love that "real" letters are considered exceptional. I do enjoy sending personal, handwritten letters, especially to acknowledge special events or to say thank you. The recipients tend to be surprised and delighted. I love that I can provide such pleasure and be a heroine by doing something so simple.
    Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself In Retirement
    www.terrilabonte.com

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    1. You are right about the impact of a "real" letter or note in the mail. I buy notecards with pretty covers to send to friends on special occasions. They are always surprised and appreciative.

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  15. Remember the good old days... when televisions were connected to antennas... and telephones were connected to cables? 73...

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    1. and ham radio operators used antennas instead of computers!

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  16. I heard recently that Millenials are using body washes instead of bar soap and that bar soap may become something of the past. Driverless cars interest me the most since I dislike driving. I also heard on NPR today that with gas costing around $2.50 per gallon that e-gallons (for electric cars) will cost about half ($1.00 per gallon) to operate. Many folks in the cities will simply find owning a car is too expensive and use Uber, etc. for all of their transportation.

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    1. I have given serious thought to cutting back to one car and using Uber or Lyft as needed. That option has to be cheaper than buying, insuring, and msintaining a car.

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  17. I recently had a need to both post a payment and use the yellow pages, and I can honestly say I miss neither. And I never did cotton to cursive writing.

    I will miss sitting down in a restaurant with a hot breakfast and the paper, but maybe by then there will be flexible tablets.

    I do think I will miss the roar of a well tuned v8. But that may just be a matter of refusing to grow up.

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    1. Spending hours with a thick, well-written Sunday paper used to be a real highpoint of my life. In college I read both the local, Syracuse paper and the Sunday NY Times. I took the better part of the morning. I'm afraid those days are gone.

      You can still find old V8 engines, and actually tune them with tools instead of computers!

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  18. I was a stubborn hold-out and continued to write cheques for my grocery purchases up until a couple of years ago. Now I rarely write cheques except for craft fairs and hired services (e.g., to the contractor for our current home renovation project). We still have a landline, get home postal delivery, and use the post office for sending Christmas cards and birthday parcels.

    Jude

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    1. I write checks for our house cleaner and yard guy. Otherwise, the check book stays in a drawer. Even the flea market folks don't like checks: they want cash or credit cards.

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