Monday, August 15, 2005

High cost of living

Back in the olden days, oh say, 1980 or so, it use to be a lot cheaper to live. I'm not talking about inflation or rising gas prices or anything like that - there were just far fewer things a person had to shell out his or her hard-earned dollars for.
Television - free (at least in Middleboro, Massachusetts, which in 1980 was still a cableless community.
Internet - nonexistent. Cell phones - what are those?
Today, hardly anyone lives without cable (or satellite) television, the internet, or cell phones. Even my parents both have cell phones and a high-speed internet connection. Making a conservative estimate, that's $150 in bills that didn't even exist 25 years ago.
It's not like I'm some sort of unabomber living in a shed who wants to do away with these modern conveniences. Take cable TV. I'm a random television watcher at best. Other than taking comfort in the ability to watch a Red Sox game on practically every day of the summer, there's little I plan on watching on television. Still, the myriad of cable television stations give me an almost round-the-clock chance at finding some documentary on World War II, or a classic Muhammad Ali boxing match, or a Barney Miller marathon. Is that worth $50 a month? Who knows. I do know that at a time when I was as depressed as I've ever been, I didn't have cable television. Most likely, feeling sad and not having the History Channel aren't related. Still, being one of the last living Americans struggling to adjusting rabbit ears and being force fed a steady diet of Dateline NBC and Law and Order reruns can't be healthy.
As for the internet, it opens up a lot of information and gives a voice to people like me who are free to express their opinions on any topic they want. Yet I find myself visiting about the same half-dozen web-sites regularly. Wouldn't I be just as well off reading the New Yorker and Newsweek every week for about the same amount of money as I'm paying for the internet? And couldn't my time writing be better spent working on new poems or hashing out a short story or two?
So what will we pay for in the future that we take for granted now? Satellite radio is making inroads. There's $10-15 a month. Some towns and cities that use to have free trash pick-up now charge homeowners a $100 a month or more.

Maybe some savvy tech company will figure out a way to charge us for using the toilet. New satellite high-compression toilets that zooms away your waste, never needs to be cleaned, and leaves the bathroom smelling like a fresh ocean breezes.

Who wouldn't pay $12.95 a month for that?


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