I caught an episode of Seinfeld the other day—Saturday afternoon, I think, a weird limbo that felt endless and lonely, dust in the long honey colored light spilling through the window blinds, the whole bit—the one called “The Stranded”, where Jerry and Elaine get stuck at a party—whose host is played by The Commish—on Long Island and have to call Kramer to come and pick them up. Only on the way Kramer loses the directions and so is very late.
And watching it, I just felt so old. The episode aired ten days after I turned eleven. The clothes, the subjects of conversation—Elaine quotes A Cry In The Dark, Ken Burns’ Civil War comes up—all of it. People used to have to do all of that stuff—you need a ride, you call somebody and give them directions, which they actually physically write down, then they can’t call you if they get lost…to someone born the year “The Stranded” aired, it probably has as much if not more in common with an episode of The Honeymooners than anything they know.
These things, these tasks being phased out by computers and cell phones, that’s nothing people haven’t been talking and complaining about for years. It’s not terribly interesting. Time, she is relentlessly barrelling forward, and that’s that. But there is something about the recent past, its tangibility—I was there, I was eleven years old, I remember—that makes it seem like something that happened so much longer ago. In another world, almost.