Remembering a time when negative was positive

Published 9:30 am Saturday, August 28, 2021

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By Dick Yarbrough
Georgia humor columnist

I had a COVID-19 test the other day even though I have been fully-vaccinated and wear my mask regularly in public. I am sure to some of you that proves I am a liberal weenie commie who loves Nancy Pelosi, watches CNN and glows in the dark. But I digress.

My doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to take the test. The not-so-good idea was ramming a cotton swab up my nose that stopped just shy of my cerebellum. I am happy to report that both my nose and cerebellum survived the ordeal as did I. The results were negative. Unlike flashlight batteries, where negative is negative and positive is positive, in this case negative meant positive.

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And so it has been with my life. What some would consider a negative way to have grown up was, in fact, very positive. We just didn’t know any better because there was no one around to tell us differently. They, too, were enjoying the positives of their negative lives.

To those who can’t imagine life without a daily dose of in it, what could be more negative than to live life without the benefit of the Internet. I deem that a positive. If I needed to look something up, I was taught to go to the dictionary or the encyclopedia or to the library – all information sources that could be trusted –  where I would find the answer.

Teachers tell me that today’s students can write a six-page essay on any subject assigned to them and turn the paper in double-spaced and with no errors. The only problem is they have no idea what they were talking about. They just pulled it off the Internet. No thinking required.

I may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp, but I learned the hard way the dangers of faking it in my school assignments, including the time I tried convincing my English professor Dr. Raymond Cook of the soaring poetic brilliance of Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees,” which I had not read. Big mistake.

Dr. Cook didn’t like “Trees.” Not at all. I still have the scars to prove it.

No internet meant no email which meant we wrote letters and cards to each other. This column generates a lot of email response, which I greatly appreciate even when I am getting my knuckles rapped. But there is no warmer feeling than to pull out of my Post Office box a handwritten note or card, knowing someone took the time and effort to compose their thoughts and then went to the trouble to mail it to me. I answer all my emails. I am also trying to answer all the cards and letters, as well. You deserve it. Try convincing today’s generation that there was anything positive about having one black rotary-dial telephone in the house with no speed dial, voice mail or Caller ID. If someone called and they got a busy signal or there was no one at home, they just called back. No big deal. Also, we did not have to endure robocalls trying to get us to renew the warranty on a car we no longer own or restructure the debt on a credit card we don’t have.

Today, everyone seems to have a cellphone at their ear, even folks walking their dog. What is so important? Can’t it wait?

Recently, I observed a well-dressed couple with three teenage sons come into the restaurant where I was dining, all absorbed in tap-tapping on their individual cellphones and not acknowledging each other’s presence.

They paused long enough to order their food and then went back to their screens. Maybe they were talking to each other. There is probably an app for that.

I grew up in a world without the benefit of a hundred zillion channels of television tripe, featuring zombies and the F-word and biased talking heads yelling at each other.

I grew up when spam didn’t clog your inbox. Instead, you fried it and served it with eggs and grits. I grew up without the presence of social media where gutless people go to spew their venom anonymously. I grew up when we knelt for prayer and not the National Anthem. I grew up going to church because I believed in God. I still do.

Looking back on those days maybe they weren’t as perfect as I make them out to be, there wasn’t a whole lot negative about them, either. Of that, I am positive.