Low-tech friendships were just as good

By Helena Rodriguez: CNJ staff writer

I’m so out of the loop that I’ve never MySpaced, let alone started a Web page or blog. My idea of chatting is old fashion, talking face to face with a real person, or on a real cell phone.

When we were kids, MySpace.com was my bedroom, I mean our room; the room I shared with Becky and Julie. Sometimes we had instant messaging with our friends. They would knock on our bedroom window, we’d crack it open, and voila, we’d have an instant chat. We also had text messaging. We’d scribble notes on pieces of paper and pass them between desks or between classes.

My little sister, Julie, was Dad’s instant messenger. When it was time for us to come home, there would come Julie down the street, skipping across neighbors’ lawns to call us in. Of course Mark, Ricky or Loretta would spot her when she was two or three houses down and so we’d run and hide.

She always found us, though. And when Dad’s instant messenger was with us, Dad would just go to the front porch and yell down the street: “Becky, Helen, Julie, get home!” and within a few moments, we’d be jumping across the lawns, headed homeward.

We didn’t meet friends by reading profiles. In those days, friendships were formed in primitive ways. Someone would move down the street, then we’d spot them again, a few pews away from us at Sunday Mass. And then come Monday, there they were again, sitting in a desk next to us at school. Next thing we knew, they were the newest addition to our circle, and I’m not talking about an electronic circle of friends whose pictures brace a cell phone window. I’m talking about a real circle of friends seated around each other. That’s how we found out who had a crush on who and all of the other latest gossip, which, believe it or not, got around just as fast without the cell phones, MySpace and text messaging.

In those days, downloading music meant literally downloading, as in carrying a load of vinyls or eight tracks. No MP3s. I remember once carrying home a small phonograph player that my friend Joanna loaned me. I was so excited, walking down the alley, carrying the record player several blocks to my home, hoping that the needle would not wiggle out of place and scratch my records.

There was no voice mail or answering machines either. When we needed to reach Mom after school, we’d walk to her office, which was only a few blocks away. It seemed so far back then. Nor did we have a “family plan.”

When Mom and Dad needed to get a message to us, they left notes on the TV like: “Wash dishes; pick up Nana from babysitters.”

I remember one time when we were under a flash flood warning and I was so scared. I was young, Mom and Dad were not home and I pictured a torrent of tidal waves washing us away. Becky was unable to calm me down, so she called Grandma Emma’s and within a few minutes, Uncle Hymie was there. He didn’t try to calm me down over the telephone. He got up and walked from South Avenue B to North Avenue B within a matter of minutes.

My point is that even without the modern-day gadgets, we were always in touch while I was growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s. We didn’t MySpace or e-mail Grandma Emma. We were there several times a week, sometimes every day. Even when we couldn’t see each other, people resorted to drastic measures, like writing letters, driving to the post office and mailing them, and even picking up their telephones even though, get this, there were no free weekend or after-nine minutes. It didn’t matter though. No one counted minutes back then.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com