A World Without

Ever since I went to the movie “YESTERDAY” I have been kicking around a couple of the ideas introduced in the movie that were outside the premise of no Beatles music. A couple of other situations that were covered in the film were a life without Coca Cola and a world without Harry Potter. While none of our lives would end without a couple of unimportant things like Coke or Harry Potter, it would be interesting to evaluate what would be the biggest loss and what wouldn’t matter in the least.

Some modern conveniences are so engrained in our existence it would be unthinkable not to have them. Electricity is definitely the most notable, especially when you consider all the things that would be impossible without a power grid.

We wake up each morning to an alarm clock, flip on the television to watch the news while we get ready for the day. Your morning toast would be much harder to make if you had to hold it over an open flame instead of popping it into the toaster. That first pot of coffee wouldn’t be ready if you had to build a fire first, and the list goes on.

While it seems like we’ve had electricity forever, I know that my grandfather grew up on an Iowa farm without it, and that’s not ancient history. Without electricity we would be reading by candlelight. We would retire to bed right after supper because it would be dark outside. The term “midnight” comes from the fact that people would actually wake up for a few hours, have a light meal, then go back to bed until it was light enough outside to go to work in the fields.

I once read about a young man interviewing his grandmother for a class assignment. One of the questions he asked her was this: “What one thing about modern life do you value most?” Her answer – running water – took him by surprise. Frankly, how many of us have ever had to consider not having running water, or indoor plumbing for that matter? I’m sure there are those reading this column who at one point in their life lived in a house without indoor plumbing. That trek to the outhouse during the night would be strong motivation for someone to invent a better way.

When it comes to brands, having one specific beverage you couldn’t live without probably wouldn’t end your life, though you might feel like your life was about to end. A few years ago, we did a family cruise down the Pacific coastline, stopping at three different Mexican ports. I have been a Mountain Dew drinker for the past thirty years and finding it has never been an issue – until we went to Mexico. To my utter dissatisfaction, Mountain Dew is not bottled or distributed in Mexico. Not knowing this in advance led to great disappointment for me during that cruise.

It’s been about a year since the Necco candy company went out of business. They made several delicious candies, including the conversation hearts we gave to our third-grade crush over Valentine’s Day and my favorite, Necco’s Wafers, which were a part of my getting ready for bed reading regiment. My life hasn’t ended without them but I’ve yet to find a nice replacement I enjoyed more.

Losing something we enjoyed is worse than never having it in the first place. Can you imagine not having air conditioning in your home or automobile? Color television was a milestone for our family. The first color televisions were introduced in the mid 1960s but our family didn’t get a color TV until 1972. I know this date well because that was the year that I played chicken with an automobile while riding my sled. The car won the battle and I spent the better part of four months in traction and a body cast. Not being mobile made it impossible to move out of the one room in the house that I was confined to. I think my father, who was in the television business, took pity on me and brought home a nice color television to keep me entertained. Too bad there were just three channels, all playing daytime soap operas.

Medicine is another field where notable discovery transformed modern life. Can you imagine how differently our Civil War soldiers would have been treated had we discovered penicillin earlier? Many combatants died from infections that had no cure back then, but today’s antibiotics could have turned that around. Vaccines for Polio and other childhood diseases have eradicated the heartbreak of serious life-changing disease.

Treatment for premature births has excelled to the point that for some infants coming early isn’t all that big of a deal. My grandson, Lincoln, is a perfect example. Five weeks early, his mother was given steroid shots that matured his lungs in the 24-hours before his birth. Though tiny, he was healthy. His time in the neonatal intensive care unit had more to do with his weight than it did his health. The medicines our daughter was given for preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome didn’t exist in the 1960s. The mortality rate would have been substantially higher not all that long ago.

Enjoy your world with all the modern benefits and come up with your own “what could I do without” list. I’m sure you’ll be surprised, like I was.

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