As a teacher, I hear that phrase a lot. And I mean A LOT. It’s in papers all the time, usually in the first line. The paper will start, “Back in the day, people didn’t understand that things were better.” And I’ll write, “Back in the day? What day? Saturday? Yesterday? New Year’s Day?” Usually that breaks them of that bad habit. The other thing I see a lot is “XYZ is one of the most important things on this earth” to which I respond, “You mean there’s another earth?” But I digress.
I not only hear “back in the day” in writing, I hear it from people all the time. “Well, back in the day, things were better because Roosevelt was in office…” or “Back in the day, kids were required to go to school and come home and do chores…” Sometimes I hear it from people who enjoy things like Renaissance Faires or historical re-enactments (which are totally cool, by the way): “If I had my choice, I’d live back in the day when knights defended the honor of ladies! It would be awesome!” You get the picture.
Well, just about a week ago, I had the opportunity to live ‘back in the day’ – back in the day before oil heat, furnaces, and electricity. My power went out for twelve hours during a blizzard. It was totally NOT awesome. I sat in the dark, reading by a drafty window, huddled under a pile of blankets and cats. By the time my power came back on, the temperature inside had dropped to a balmy 46 degrees. The sun was just going down when the lights came up and not a moment too soon – I’m pretty sure my old brown dog was sizing me up, thinking she could use me for warmth and then eat me if the power didn’t come on in time for me to use the electric can opener. (I still don’t quite trust her – she’s a crafty one.)
So for those of you who write historical fiction (like I do) or those of you who enjoy Renaissance Faires or historical re-enactments (like I do), you might think twice about wishing for those things most people enjoyed “back in the day.” Your wish might just come true.
Twelve hours ‘back in the day’ was about all I could manage. I’m now a fan of my friend JK’s response to someone who once asked if she wouldn’t rather live back in olden times. She said, “No thanks. I’d much rather have tampons and antibiotics.”
Let me add electricity and oil burners to that list.