Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Help! I'm suffering from obsolescence

When I was a kid, I had to walk 400 miles to school.
OK, it was 2 miles each way — snowstorm, torrential rain, heat of summer — my sister and I walked. The only way to cut a few minutes off was to cut across the golf course nearby, and risk being reported to the school and/or targeted by peeved golfers.
These days, I’m often met with opposition when I expect my son to walk to school — .34 miles. “Can’t you drive me?” he’ll ask. “My feet hurt.”
I remember when I was a senior in high school, walking to school in the morning in sandals — in April. A freak storm hit so my sister and I walked home mid-day in an inch of snow and slush. I couldn’t feel my feet for quite some time afterward.
During winter in junior high, I’d typically arrive to homeroom with the front of my thighs numb and my pant legs frozen solid. Sure it was miserable, but I didn’t complain. There wasn’t anyone to ask for a ride.
Yipes, I feel like my mom.
Can you imagine my 10-year-old faced with the telephone I grew up with — with the rotary dial? How about watching television without a remote control? We had a tiny TV with rabbit ears covered in tin foil that you moved around to get the best reception.
The other day, both boys were watching TV and T went up to it with a magnet, swirling it around the screen. Portions turned purple and fuschia. I fiddled with the brightness, color and contrast a little too fervently, then thought of something. I turned the color completely off.
“That’s how the TV was like when I was growing up,” I told them. They couldn’t believe it. “Leave it like that!” they yelled. “It’s cool!”
That lasted about 3 minutes, before the 4-year-old yelled, “Mommy! Put it back!”
How about computers? Both my boys could use one before they turned 3. Pretty pathetic when you think about it, but how about this fact: they don’t teach typing in schools. Hunting and pecking, once frowned upon, is now the norm for many people.
I feel old.
I can pinpoint when it happened. When the oldies station started playing music from the 1980s. “Hey!” I wanted to call in. “I’m not dead yet!”
Remember those spiral-bound typing books that taught you how to hold your fingers, which fingers to use on which keys, and those silly, repetitive sentences? Update: It’s called “keyboarding” now. I learned on a manual typewriter, and boy did your fingers ache afterward. When I got my first office job at 19, I had an electric typewriter, so I didn’t need to use that manual return anymore.
These were replaced by the short-lived word processor and then swiftly by the computer. With green letters.
Ah, I’m dating myself.
And I sound grumpy.
I can’t imagine what’s coming down the pike.
My kids probably already know.

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