As my most seasoned readers will recall, the name of this blog is a reference to the immortal words uttered by Billy Hicks in the climactic scene of St. Elmo's Fire. That film was iconic of another generation, but the phrase "our time on the edge" resonates for mine as well. There are a lot of ways in which kids my age were living on the edge of a new era. Take, for example, the realm of technology. At my high school, we were the last class to learn how to type on typewriters in Grade 9 Business. The school set up an internet lab in our library the year that I graduated, but practically no one I knew I had e-mail. I'm pretty positive we were the last teenagers to go through their entire high school years without the "information superhighway" (as it was then known - did Al Gore coin that corny phrase?) being an integral part of our daily lives. I got my first e-mail account the summer before I started undergrad -- hard to believe how much has changed since.
Then there's the cell phone revolution...it goes without saying that cell phone use, never mind ownership, was entirely out of the question for teens in the early to mid-1990s. My family even held the touch-tone revolution at bay for as long as possible. Our collection of rotary-dial phones were quite charming, although it got increasingly frustrating to obtain movie times, concert tickets, or basic customer service of any kind.
If any "young folk" are reading this (unlikely, but you never know), you're probably wondering, what in God's name did we do without cell phones and text messaging? Well, back then, it was all about the exciting and sometimes dangerous cultural institution known as the Pay Phone.
We used them everywhere -- at school, in our dorms, at the mall, in dimly lit alleys and totally sketchy vestibules...it was the only option we had. And what's happened to them now? A few months ago, I began an investigation into the fate of the Pay Phone in downtown Toronto. Unfortunately, the results weren't pretty. But they remain on our streets as a reminder that not so long ago, we were still living on the edge of a technological revolution that had yet to happen. We didn't know how behind the times we were. And that was OK, believe it or not.
Here's a few from my collection, which I hope to expand before these cultural landmarks are erased from our urban landscape...