Woog’s World / Playtime has changed over the years
Last week, “Woog’s World” focused on the ways in which work in Westport has changed over the years.
I wrote about the decline of commuting to New York City, the rise in home offices and co-working spaces, the increased importance of laptops and Starbucks.
Of course, all work and no play make Oliver and Samantha dull people. But over the years, the nature of play has changed all over the area too.
For example, it has changed the time we devote to fun. It once was rare to see anyone playing golf or walking on the beach at noon on Wednesday. Thanks to cellphones — and working at home — we now do that with ease.
One downside, though, is that we’re all on call 24/7/365. Another is that we are much more likely to work on a project at noon on Saturday than our parents. They had demanding jobs too, but they were usually done the moment they boarded the bar car.
There’s more to do at the beach now too. Once upon a time we swam, sailed and fished. Then we went home. Now there are pickleball courts and a skateboard park. On the water we enjoy new, hybridized sports like windsurfing and kiteboarding.
Compo Beach has always attracted runners. But Infants never jogged. Now they do. They bounce up around in expensive strollers, propelled by Mom or Dad, who stave off the boredom of merely running by listening to music, books and podcasts on every subject imaginable.
Bikes were once Westport youngsters’ ride of passage. When training wheels came off, off we went on independent adventures. First we explored our own hoods, then the entire town. The only rule was: Be home by dinner.
Once they learn how to ride now, most Westport kids no longer do. Bicycle racks have vanished from schools; even cruising up and down a private lane seems fraught with peril.
At 16, you get a driver’s license. No matter what age, there’s always Uber.
But don’t mourn for cycle shops. They’re doing fine, selling high-end bikes (and accessories). The shoulders of Westport roads — and the roads themselves — teem with men and women channeling their inner Lance Armstrong.
Their outer Lance Armstrong too, judging by the apparel they were for even a quick spin around the block.
Speaking of spin: the gym. Years ago, when the YMCA anchored downtown, it was the place to go to play basketball, badminton and squash, or swim.
And by “the place,” I mean the only place.
Now the Y has decamped to Mahackeno, where you can play basketball and swim (no basketball or squash, sorry). But you can also do yoga and Pilates. You can spin.
You can do that, and much more, at a jillion other places in town. Big gyms. Small gyms. Fitness centers. Studios. The Senior Center. Someone’s home. Today, everyone goes to — colloquially — “the gym.”
About the only time people don’t go to the gym, in fact, is when they’re driving their kids to and from sports activities, which is nearly every other waking second. Where young Westporters once played a couple of months of Little League baseball, and maybe joined Rec basketball or soccer, then spent the rest of their youth inventing their own pastimes, they now play travel, premier, elite and almost-professional sports, year round.
They drive and fly to games up and down the East Coast. Those are sandwiched — with military precision — in between sessions with their batting coach, goalkeeping tutor and mindfulness mentor.
Jimmy Izzo, former owner of Crossroads Ace Hardware, attributes part of the reason for the closing of his store last year to the changing nature of weekend activities.
Parents no longer have time to putter in the garden, paint a room or rake leaves. Whether all those homeowner activities were “play” is debatable, but the fact remains: We did them during our leisure time. That concept is now as dated as a Schwinn bike.
Though much of our play — then and now — takes place outdoors, there’s plenty to do inside. Movies — then and now — are a huge piece of our entertainment. But just as we moved from local theaters like the Fine Arts to ginormous multiplexes with odd names like Bow Tie that boast killer sound systems and $12.95 boxes of Jujubes, our habits are changing again.
Today — and tonight at 9 p.m., 3 a.m., whenever — we can watch movies on demand. We can stop and start, at will, just about any film ever made. Including “The Ice Storm.”
Which is, of course, just one more chilling example of how Fairfield County playtime has changed over the years.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.