My parents moved to Oklahoma City area a few months ago to be closer to the grandkids. They seem to be adapting to suburb life well. They joined a large church where they have lots of opportunities to socialize even outside of Sunday church services. And my dad, being a bit of a handy man from his youth on a farm, is absolutely thrilled that he lives only a few minutes drive from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Mom is talking about planting a few trees and getting a garden going in the new backyard. Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we haven’t been above freezing point for over two weeks. But I guess as I learned from my brother who has worked in Oklahoma City area for twenty years now, that far south seems to get spring almost a month ahead of me where I’m at. I have been quite envious of how their winters are milder than ours (and my friends from Minnesota say the same about my winters) but I will be grateful that my summers won’t be as rough as theirs. I imagine I’ll eventually relocate to Oklahoma myself. It’s just a matter of time and doing the Social Security transfer paperwork.
Overall I am happy for my parents in their retirement years. I was worried about how they would adapt to retirement when my mom retired from the hospital and my dad sold his practice. They didn’t socialize as much as many people, at least not outside of family and church. My mom was on the town’s library board of directors and my dad was on the local school board back in the 90s and early 2000s. He got to sign my brother and I’s high school diploma. I did hear of a few examples of 18 year old high school seniors got elected to their local school boards and got to sign their own diplomas.
I guess I have gotten past the fact that I can’t just get in the car and go visit them on a whim like I could when they lived only a couple hours away. But then, I just don’t travel as much as I used to mainly because I no longer need to. I even recently signed up for grubhub.com, so participating fast food places in my hometown can deliver food to my house now. I now special order my clothing through a big and tall men’s webpage and they mail my orders to my door. Sure it is more expensive than Wal Mart or the old K-Mart, but the selection is much better and the clothes fit much better too. As I always had odd sizes. Before I hit puberty I was quite tall but really skinny. Never been anything between being overweight and really skinny it seems.
If I don’t feel like venturing out of my house, there are a couple places in my hometown that can deliver groceries, sometimes even same day delivery if I order in the early morning. I get most of my prescription medications sent through the mail now. One of my college friends joked with me that if he used my setups, the only times he would need to leave his house would be to go to work, get maintenance and gas for his car, and to buy his occasional beer. He may have been joking but that is about the reality for myself.
And now many jobs can be done from home now via telecommuting. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this truly takes off. I have a cousin and his wife that can do most of their work from home if they so chose. The only time I need to go to my bank is to buy quarters for laundry and visit the ATM machine. I do all my blogging from my leather recliner (which was delivered from a local furniture store) in my living room. I have friends who take free online courses (not for college credits though) through MIT. I use Khan Academy and youtube videos a great deal when I need and want to learn something.
Maybe it will be telecommuting that saves some of these small Midwest and Southern towns that started drying up once farming and manufacturing got more automated and needed fewer human workers. With as bad as rents and housing costs are in the big cities I couldn’t afford to live in a place like San Francisco or New York, let alone Omaha or Kansas City. Maybe telecommuting is what will indirectly solve the affordable housing crisis here in USA. Might even solve the problems of higher education costs getting out of control. It also will cut down down on commuting time, so less air pollution from automobiles even if electric cars weren’t becoming more affordable and easy to find. As strange as it may sound to some people, future generations might look back and write history books about topics like how technology, science, and the open market solved problems like environmental pollution, resource depletion, poverty, and perhaps even end war. I think in some ways (at least much of the stats and data I have personally seen) all of these are beginning to happen.
Even though I don’t socialize in person as much as I used to, I don’t feel any less connected than I did in the past. Sure I do miss physical touch and intimacy, but I have adapted to socialize more online and on phone. I’m currently trying to get face time set up on my computer. But I have adapted to my reality and have found ways around not having much money or living near people with similar interests or not wanting to drive everywhere anymore. There was an old song about having the world on a string. I don’t have that, but I do more or less have the world with a few keystrokes on a computer with wireless internet. I can all my shopping and socializing and I don’t even have to wear shoes if I don’t want to. I can hardly wait until I can get a multi purpose 3D printer I can use in my house as easily as I now use my computer and phone.
Progress does sometimes seem to be slow, at least when we are in the middle of the day to day grinds and stressors. But given the perspective of decades and years, we as a civilizations and species have made an incredible amount of progress just in the last ten years, let alone my lifetime, and certainly let alone since my grandparents were born. All of this I do from home wouldn’t have been possible even in 2000. Yet, growing up in the 1980s the year 2000 was some mythic futurist time. Sheesh, other than fast than light travel, matter replicators, “beem me up Scotty”, computers who act like humans, and contact with life from other planets, we are starting to live much of what science fiction even forty years ago. I have hope. Everyone else should too.