Slice of Life Tuesday -Remember When ONE Ruled?

Remember when?  We hear it frequently. The nostalgic question. It brings on instant reflection. Well, today I began thinking about the number one. My thoughts quickly became a little nostalgic upon spotting the three mobile phones that are part of home communication system. They were all resting silently on the kitchen bench-top. 

 I found myself thinking about those long ago times when homes had just one phone and it was either attached to a wall, or positioned in a fixed location somewhere in the house. This set me to thinking about how other aspects of our lives have expanded from one.

There was a time when homes generally had one bathroom, and one toilet. There was one television and one radio that the entire family shared. One refrigerator was ample for a family's needs. The family had one car, with a one car garage to put it in.  In many households, one person worked in paid employment outside the home. People worked at one job for most of their life. You wore just one watch. They were time pieces, not fashion items to be changed to suit your mood, your outfit. And you had one good outfit. Families frequently had one pet, not menageries. 

As a child, my meagre possessions mostly came in ones. I was constantly reminded I had to make those one things last. I was responsible for their upkeep and care. Possessions didn’t generally come in multiples. Expensive and unnecessary was the general consensus. I had one pair of school shoes, one pair of sneakers, one pair of football boots, one raincoat (which got stolen, causing me untold grief). I had one swimming outfit. My Dad had one hat. My Mum had one cook book. It was a huge one, but it was her only one.

Materialism has lead us to a profusion of multiples, it seems. Why have only one when you can have many? You wouldn’t want to run the risk of running out, would you now?  We have been trained to think this way by manufacturers. They sell items in multiples, telling us it’s more economical to buy in bulk. Why buy one pair of socks, when you can buy a pack of five. Why buy one pen when a pack of four is available.

I recently tried to buy one parsnip at the supermarket as part of my preparation for making one large pot of vegetable soup. The recipe explicitly stated, - one small parsnip. No way could I obtain one miserable parsnip. I had to buy a pack of four, or go without. I went without.

One is not the loneliest number. However, it is under pressure. Squeezed by affluence, gluttony and the desire for more.

Rufus Wainwright in his song, One Man Guy, sings

I'm a one man guy in the morning
Same in the afternoon
One man guy when the sun goes down
I whistle me a one man tune 

One man guy a one man guy
Only kind of guy to be
I'm a one man guy
I'm a one man guy
I'm a one man guy is me 

I’m at one with Rufus on this…


  1. Me too Alan. I'm just one me, but I do have multiples of many things and I thnk that's the way it's been for a very long time. You need to see my closet :) but there's just one ME!!! I love that tune too.

  2. I had not thought about this before! It's so true.

  3. Your post is sure a get you thinking post!
    Yes, we have too much STUFF and too many THINGS; yet, I can only imagine the joy on our "ancestors' faces" when they watch us not have to wait in line to use the bathroom!

  4. I've been pondering similar things as I think about how much my possessions own my time.

  5. After having an estate sale before I moved last year, I feel refreshed, but my "smaller" home still has three (THREE) bathrooms, for just one me. One of them just gets dusty! One memory I'll take from this, Alan, is the time we could get a longer cord for the phone. I was so happy that I could make it stretch a longer way! Maybe that was the start to "more than one"... Thanks!

  6. My husband would like to belong to the "one" club, exceptions being cars and bathrooms. I like to have "options" so I cannot join your group. BTW, I bet you didn't miss the parsnip in your soup, did you?

  7. I do think some things are better in pairs or multiples (like bathrooms), but I love your thinking about all these ones. I spent the last year cleaning out my house room by room and we still have too much. Like a second edit of a writing piece, I need to take this cleaned out house and edit it some more. It lightens the burdens of ownership and helps you see important things more clearly. Thanks for this thoughtful post. Quotable: "One is not the loneliest number. However, it is under pressure. Squeezed by affluence, gluttony and the desire for more."


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