Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Five and Dime

Some of you remember them, the five and dimes. They were not simply the economic equivalent of the dollar stores. Today you walk in, get a cart and pace down aisles which aren't that different from the aisles in any other store.

The five and dime. It was different.

It tended to be a little dark inside. Certainly darker than a modern store. And where there were patches of light they were exactly that, patches. There were spots of bright and shade in various places. It was almost like walking through a forest. Not that it was actually dark anywhere. There was plenty of light wherever you were standing. It's just that it wasn't all equally illuminated, some places were not quite as bright as others and it all seemed very much alive.

There were bins. There were wooden shelves. Some were waist high. Some taller. All were different. Einstein would've said five and dimes were very woody, not marble at all.

But maybe best of all, the packaging was minimal. Nothing in bubble wrap. Nothing in plastic. Little bags, cloth bags, net bags, you name it bags. Little cardboard boxes. Little wooden boxes. But no damned blister packs. Some things were just sitting there, you scooped up a handful of whatever, walked up to the counter and they were toted up, one by one.

Oh, I know, a lot of this is pure nostalgia . Being a child is so different from being an adult. But I assure you, the world has changed. In some ways, I won't deny, for the better. In some ways, however, it has changed for the worst. I go to dollar stores, they're a great place to get Friday prizes for my grandkids. But I have to admit, I wish I could take the kids out to a real five and dime, with shelves of tired old wood that they could see into if they stood on tiptoe. There was a certain magic such stores had about them. The magic that just doesn't exist in a modern store of any kind.

The moderns are all carved out of Einstein marble or injected out of plastic into certain forms and molds. They all look the same no matter what they sell. The organic, individual character is gone. Oh well, just put it down to me being old.

Notes: Friday prizes grew out of the celebration of the weekend between my son and me. They started out as Friday surprises. But when you're dealing with a small one, expressions tend to evolve rather rapidly into new words and phrases. I kept on hand a collection of this and that. Every Friday when we got home from school, it was time for something. He got to choose. Meat sticks were popular, but so was a stop at the ballon store. Eventually, Cory, my grandson joined in on the Friday tradition, and now it has moved on to James' and Cory's kids.

A word about Einstein: He loved a world, no, the universe, made of marble, not of wood. In his mind, marble was a planned and beautiful city built of stone mathematically measured and carved. And by wood he meant a forest, tangled, organic, messy. As models of reality, he liked the marble. He didn't like the wood.

Which is why he hated the random messiness of quantum physics, even though quantum mechanics was a direct consequence of his own work. I wonder if he had lived long enough to have known of the strange structure of fractals, which give a mathematical clarity even to forests, might he have found woodiness to be at least a bit more tolerable?

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