The Future Is Now

In fourth grade, the "Cars of the Future" in our science books looked like missiles. They were sleek and aerodynamic, and the passengers sat one behind the other in a row like in a ride at the county fair.

The men of the future wore very tight clothing with their pants tucked into their boots. The moms of the future wore dresses that seemed to be made of aluminum foil.

I recall trying to envision my parents in the future clothes -- Mom in the foil dress, Dad driving a missile to the Ford Plant every morning. It didn't make for easy digestion.

And those phones that allowed you to see each other when talking; the book illustrations showed two head shots of people on screens, and the screens were looking at each other.

I always wondered if my mom would stand to the side of the future phones if her hair was in future-curlers or she didn't have any space-makeup on. Bet the phones of the future would not be appreciated by everyone equally.

But things don't always work out as people predict they will. I mean, it is true we have much of the technology they talked about back then, but it is more subtle, not so severe.

The picture phone is a reality, and teleconferencing is, too, but most of us don’t use all those tools on a daily basis. We keep life simple, and probably under no circumstance would my mom or dad drive a car that looked like a Patriot Missile.

My 14-year-old said the other night, “Dad, when I look at the videos of me as a child, I know I must have been wherever the film of me was, but I don’t remember exactly being there.”

I smiled and said I imagined he wouldn’t.

“But,” I continued, “what made you what you are now is the confidence and security you had at that time. Mom and I were always within reach, always there to catch you when you fell. You might not remember the specifics, but you know you had a wonderful childhood. That made you secure, confident and the guy you are today.”

And now more than ever, we seem to be realizing and evaluating the importance of today. My last “Week-Ender” article, ( ) about the use of time, generated a lot of personal emails from people who appreciated being reminded to not wish away every day for something in the future. Replacing “I can’t wait until” with “Isn’t this a beautiful day?”

I recall years ago rushing in to have dinner at the nursing home with my wife’s grandmother, whom I had become close to over the years. I sat at the table with her and several of her friends, and as I glanced at my watch and gulped the last of my coffee down, I told them all I had to go.

Grandma asked, “And where is it you have to go in such a hurry?”

I listed a series of duties, including taking kids to football practice and ballet lessons, packing lunches and getting homework done, replacing a tire on my wife’s car that had developed a slow leak, just a bunch of stuff I had to do that I really wished I didn’t have to do.

As I moaned and complained, I realized the look on their faces was pure envy. As if to say, “Ah to be busy again. In here, the biggest event of the day is dinner.”

I could see it and hear it as I said it, and I was ashamed. When I kissed her goodbye, my face was beet red. How could I dread the present and future when they were looking at nothing but the past?

We once feared Orwell’s predictions about “1984.” We responded with “War of the Worlds” fear when Y2K became an impending-doom phenomenon.

We sweat the values of our 401Ks and refinances in this tumultuous economy.

But how about for today, we just be sure to sit down to dinner together? Wouldn’t that be a lot easier on everyone?

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at