I use the “back in the day” qualifier frequently noting how things once were.

I use the “back in the day” qualifier frequently noting how things once were. I’m surely not living in the past but rather enjoying my wonderful pool of memories that are getting deeper with each passing year.

Growing up, my 1950s world was mostly ocean, sand and music blended into pure magic. Strangely, some better parts of those times were due to stuff we lacked.

We had no cell phones, Internet, cable television, and not even FM radio stations that played anything but “elevator music.” Our music spewed from AM car radios that hissed at every lightning strike.

I store those sweet tidbits in my mental wine cellar and often uncork memories to sip. Me and Ronnie Milsap frequently get “Lost in the Fifties.”

I’m stunned at how the world has changed with some of the changes being for the worst, especially what happened to music. Unless you’ve lived at both ends of a very thick calendar you don’t realize the costs of “progress.”

It’s self-evident that progress has byproduct residue. Sometimes it’s chicken and sometimes it’s feathers. To this point, last Monday I had an interesting and entertaining flashback at Arby’s where I often grab a sandwich for lunch. I saw some of the feathers.

When I got in line I noticed the staff was obviously stressed. I’m horribly insensitive to other people’s moods or issues, but on that day, the overall demeanor and agitation level of the workers was crystal clear.

The problem was obvious. Their computer was down, which meant the register wasn’t working. They were writing orders on paper, listing items and prices, doing the math, figuring sales tax and then – horror of horrors – trying to make change.

I had to smile flashing back to the Jet Drive-Inn in Havelock for a millisecond where the only tools carhops had to help them were paper, pencils and brains. That was how it was, and we didn’t think about it one way or the other, never imagining 60 years in the future using only those tools would represent a crisis.

Thankfully, Arby’s had a little handheld calculator that got passed up and down the counter, giving workers a necessary mathematical safety net. The worst of it was having to make change because that involved counting.

But although these young workers were obviously stressed, they persevered and got the job done. Trust me: I have nothing but respect for young folks who work and would never denigrate their efforts. The villain in this show is dysfunctional public education.

To be fair, I’m a willing victim of modern gadgets. I once prepared taxes using paper, pencil and brain. Now I push buttons and let expensive software and printers do it. I wouldn’t choose to go back to that drudgery - but could if I had to.

I liked that scene at Arby’s, grinned at my flashback, yet was saddened watching young workers rise to a challenge that shouldn’t have been a challenge in the first place. Now their computers are back up and those bright and resourceful kids can mentally power-down, thankfully unburdened by their BFF processors.

Aldous Huxley must be smiling over this new world.

Otis Gardner can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.