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Opinion: Seeing clearly in 2020

Welcome to the New Year. As a fan of science fiction and horror, the year 2020 sounds incredibly futuristic to my ear.

The year I graduated junior high school, 1969, a pop song titled “In the Year 2525,” by Zager and Evans played on KYNO 13, the best rock radio station of that era. The opening line was “In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find…”

The song goes on to list how the future will be in 3535, 4545, etc. It had a good beat and you could dance to it. Remember when they said that as new songs debuted on American Bandstand? Dick Clark was a genius of television production.

And then there the scary dystopia saga, the movie “Soylent Green.” According to the entertainment website IMDb (Internet Movie Database) the movie depicts an overpopulated planet with dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect. This results in an Earth suffering from pollution, poverty, euthanasia and depleted resources.

Released in 1973, the year I graduated high school, the film made a big impression on me. It stars brilliant performances by the legendary Charlton Heston, Rifleman Chuck Connors and is the last film made by Edward G. Robinson. Loosely based on the 1966 novel, “Make Room, Make Room,” by Harry Harrison, it combines police procedural with science fiction.

The food supply in this future world is a manufactured wafer created by mixing soy and lentil. This includes the products Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow. A new product that is better tasting and more nutritious, Soylent Green, is created from protein said to be derived from ocean plankton. When it is discovered the polluted oceans no longer produced plankton, the character played by Heston is heard to scream (spoiler alert): Soylent Green is made of people.

That movie’s timeline is set as 2022.

In 2020 we still don’t have flying cars we were promised but the cartoon show The Jetsons was set in 2062. While there are robotic vacuum cleaners the housemaid Rosie must still be in the development stage. A robot that cleans the house and does the laundry is what I hope is on the drawing board.

Former science fiction gadgets are now a part of everyday life.

Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame gave the crewmembers on the Starship Enterprise communicators that very closely resemble early cell service flip-phones. While car phones have existed since 1947, now children in grade school are as apt to have cell phones as their parents.

The Christmas of my freshman year in high school all I wanted was my very own phone. My parents said it was too expensive and for me to not get my hopes up. (Actually what Daddy said was: “Don’t hold your breath on that one.”)

Christmas Eve arrived and I had new clothes and shoes I needed under the tree. In the middle of opening presents, a phone began ringing. The house phone had a dial tone. As luck would have it someone called my new number by mistake. It prematurely disrupted my parents’ plans for the “Big Reveal!” The green trim-line phone in my bedroom got its first incoming call as a wrong number.

I was thrilled with the gift and my father got his phone line back. The number was 209-673-1116. All these years later I remember the phone number that represented spending hours on the phone, giggling and talking with my high school friends. My parents paid the bill but I was on the hook for any long-distance telephone calls.

Who else remembers that in the 1970s when you called long-distance an operator came on the line and asked the callers for their billing number. The caller could give any phone number and that person received the charges on their account. I never used this system when calling one of my boyfriends who went to Reedley College. Okay maybe once.

When phone service transitioned from five digits to seven it didn’t matter if a person dialed 673 or 674 when they placed their call. I spent a great deal of time exploring the local options with that phone.

When I was in my 20s I got the perfect job for a phoneaholic. The company Madera Radio Dispatch ran an after-hours answering service and operated a two-way radio system. Customers called in on their radios and the dispatcher connected their call from the landline to the mobile unit in the field. We thought we were super high tech. When I applied for the dispatcher job my home phone in Dixieland was on an eight-party line. Every couple of days I would go to the Radio-TV Hospital owned by the late Fred Massetti, Sr., as well as Madera Radio Dispatch. After talking to his son Jimmy several times, he promised they would call me for an interview. I asked permission to keep checking in, as I was afraid my line would be busy when they called.

The saying “What goes around, comes around,” played into this scenario. My eight-party line serviced the homes of at least three teenagers.

Fred Sr.’s son Jimmy hired me and I worked for the Massetti family for about 10 years. During that time I learned the telephone number of almost every business in Madera. I still remember a few of the often called numbers but most of that skill has departed as today’s smart phones retain all the numbers they call.

Long days and pleasant nights, have a good weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

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