The Bright Side: Joe Bushue

“You think this is bad ...” “I can remember when ...” “Back when I was younger ...” “The price of gas was only 35 cents back in '68 ...”

Whenever you hear a phrase like this, the people who say it act as though you’re really interested (but it’s really more for them than for whoever else is listening). Ah, the good old days!

I guess when you get older, you lose any filter you have regarding what you say. Stories of the good old days always sound great because of how low prices were — but as in any story, there are two sides.

There is a great equalizer called minimum wage. Back in the “good old days,” hamburgers at McDonald’s cost only 19 cents, but minimum wage was $1.95 an hour. That meant you could buy 10 hamburgers for one hour of work! Now, with the minimum wage bumping $10 an hour, you still can buy 10 hamburgers at McDonald’s.

Cigarettes cost only 99 cents a pack, or two for one hour’s wage. My rent in 1973, for a brand-new two-bedroom duplex with a washer, dryer and fireplace, was $175 a month. If you compare that to $800 a month now, and to the minimum-wage increase of roughly five times what it used to be, the cost is still roughly the same.

The good old days! Just about everything else you compare works out about the same. People never seem to add that side of it.

If you consistently tell people about “the good old days” and go on and on about how great things used to be, how people are spoiled now, and so on and so forth, you soon will be known as the old man in the neighborhood who yells, “Get off my lawn!” Before you know it, your house will stick out like a sore thumb on Halloween to all the trick-or-treaters. (And believe me, taking all that toilet paper off that tall maple tree out front takes a long time.)

At the same time, you don’t want to talk about the dumb things you did. Back when the minimum wage wasn’t that high, you paid more than $800 for a VCR and $600 for a microwave oven. A 21-inch color TV cost roughly $600. Hey, you thought you were getting a good deal.

You really don’t want to add the fact that the last time you bought a microwave oven it was $39, or that a DVD player for your TV cost $74, and you got a flat-screen, high-definition 30-inch TV on sale for $198. This kind of takes the wind out of all your “good old days” statements.

The lesson? The next time you buy something costly or pay a bill that you think is way too much, try to consider it this way: You are not paying too much for it now, you’re just buying it to use in the future as evidence of how good things were in “the good old days.” In a way, it’s just an investment in the future of making you the “get off my grass” guy.

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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