Many people over fifty look at their smart phones and wonder what to do with it besides make calls. I hand mine to my grandson and ask him to employ whatever voodoo is necessary to fix the problem. I’ve succumbed to the fact that there is a new gene that comes with being born in the last twenty years. It’s called the knowwhattodo-technowisegee-nome. Whatever it is, it’s nowhere to be found in my DNA strands.
On the other hand, this same age group came to me one day to ask what happened to the TV remote because they needed to change the channel right now. I remember staring at their stumped expressions, walking over to the TV set, and pressing a button on the side. They looked at their grandmother with awe. A miracle, and I stood amazed at how quickly time erases the simplest aspects of life.
One of the most difficult tasks of penning historical works is keeping one’s head in the time period. Impetuous lovers rush up unlit staircases, down halls then into black rooms with no thought of lighting. There were no light switches on walls prior to the late eighteen-nineties, and yet the hasty pair can see each other perfectly as they whip out of their clothes. To be fair to all genres, I’ve encountered this (what I call the Dark Room Stupidity Affect) in fantasy works, where the world building has laid out a primitive culture and yet there is perpetual lighting.
Perhaps I should have titled this post Bring on the Flaming Torches.
Some writers are so deep into visualizing the action in their minds that they set their scenes as if on a stage, where someone in the light booth has set the computer with cues. Instant let there be light.
We all have our little peeves that make us shake our heads in disgust. The last time I threw a book across the room was when I read about a ball in the nineteenth century where a man cut-in on a dancing couple. First, I doubt kids today even know what it means to cut-in, but more importantly, the practice of interrupting a couple during a dance didn’t come about until the beginning of the twentieth century. Women carried dance cards, often with tasseled, little pencils attached. They looked like tiny booklets. Inside there were lines where a gentleman could write his name for a specific dance from a waltz to a schottische. Some women preferred to write the names down, and of course, the gentleman should have been previously introduced before signing up for the cotillion. The cards were saved as mementos, to sigh over the next day, following weeks and years.
Years ago, there were specific, well-accepted rules of courteous behavior when it came to social engagements, just as there are today. It’s rude to talk on your cell or scan messages when with others. At the very least, ask to be pardoned. Manners are slowly disappearing in current culture but were an ingrained fabric of life a century ago.
Don’t get me started on horses. I’m boggled at how teams, mounts, and rigs can appear and disappear, like vapor. For a drive in town, whether one had servants or not, horses hooves had to be cleaned before driving or riding, tack had to be selected, carried, harnessed or tacked. A horse should not be taken directly from standing in a stall without some sort of warming up, the horsie stretch-out. Sometimes carriages had to be rolled out of the carriage houses and barns to an open area for harnessing. Seasons and weather demanded changes. After the equipage came back, tack/harness had to be carefully cleaned and stored, equipages checked for damage and cleaned, the horses had to be walked if overheated, wiped down, cooled, then fed and watered. The easy way to get around in a western town was to use hired equipages. Most towns had a livery of some sort or someone who would provide the services, and yet, I’ve read of women, who wore corsets, hats, parasols, gloves that they wouldn’t want smudged, layers of clothes, hopping into a rig for a quick drive to somewhere. There were no quick trips, unless on horseback, on flat land, and at a full-out, hard gallop.
On the other hand, when it comes to authenticity, there are exceptions. When reading medieval, I don’t want to know exactly what it was like in the castle, where the air was thick of the stench of the midden or overfull jakes. In the dark ages, you could watch fleas jumping from one person to the next, share a haunch of food with the guy sitting next to you, who probably couldn’t remember the last time he’d washed his hands. OK, let’s not go there.
Next time: Hometown Ghost Stories or Yesteryear Urban Legend