My grandmother is 85 years old. She’s the only grandparent I have left, and one of my favorite people on earth. She has been known to say things like, “Men – aah, I’m not interested in men – unless I found one with a lot of money, that’s got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.”
I was talking to her on the phone the other day when she started telling me a story about her life – life before I was born. It wasn’t much part of the story she was telling, but more her mentioning in passing that she used to wash clothes on a washboard and she didn’t like having to heat her iron up with coals. That’s what inspired this blog post. I hadn’t actually put much thought into it, but before she said that, I didn’t realize I knew someone who washed clothes on a washboard. My grandmother knew that hanging your whites out to dry makes them whiter because the sun bleaches them. I’m sure there are a lot of other things she knows that I’ll never know because of her life experiences. I never had to think about how to get my whites whiter because I just poured some bleach into the washer.
I’m definitely not here to say not having technology is better. I’m the first person to complain about having to wash clothes in a machine where all I have to do is toss a pile in and push a button. But that conversation got me thinking about the things kids today will never know about, that I experienced growing up. How does it make me better? How does it make them better? Who cares… It’s just interesting.
6 Things Your Kids Will Never Know Because of Technology:
1. A world without cell phones
Sure, cell phones existed when I was in school. My dad had one… mounted to the floor of his car. And then a few years later, he carried one around in a lunchbox-sized pouch. Meanwhile, I had to make sure I had a quarter to use a payphone to call home if I wanted to get picked up from school or the mall.
When I started driving, I got a pager. At first I thought I was really cool. Then I realized my parents had a lot easier access to me than I cared for. They would page me and I’d have to find a pay phone to call them back within a certain allotted timeframe. If I didn’t I was in deep shit. Looking back, I can understand the “being in deep shit” part from their perspective. At the time, I was horribly burdened by this rule. In any case, kids these days needn’t carry quarters. Or even make phone calls, for that matter. They send a text message. Speaking of which – text messages have replaced a lot of things. They’ve replaced paper notes. Remember passing notes during class? There was an adrenaline factor involved in those that our kids will never know. The anticipation of sending your note across the room and hoping it made it to the person it was intended for without the teacher intercepting it. There were very personal words in those notes. Words we didn’t want the teacher, our peers, or worse, our parents finding out about!
2. Going to school without e-mail
I took a typing class in high school. A class I thought was empty credit. I didn’t take it seriously. I got a detention for chewing gum. We typed patterns on our typewriters to help us memorize the keys – “asdf;lkj (space) asdf;lkj”. If we made a mistake, we had to backspace, insert whiteout, and retype the character. I didn’t really learn to type until AOL Instant Messenger came out. I still don’t use proper finger placement for the keys.
Oh, don’t forget spelling and grammar… Now I can type an “I” without holding down the shift key and the computer says, “Hey Tonya, I bet you wanted to capitalize that lone, solitary “I”. Let me help you out with that!” ...and viola! My grammar has been corrected! I don’t really need to understand the difference between “effect” and “affect” anymore because if I use the wrong one, Microsoft Word puts a green squiggly line underneath it. If I misspell the word “misspell”, MS Word puts a scary red line underneath it for me. I’m much less likely to appear to be illiterate these days, regardless of my spelling and grammar skills.
3. Online dating
Somehow I’ve managed to avoid the online dating scene. As a result, I’m a skeptic. I do know of… well okay, I don’t know of any successful online daters. In any case, a lot of people use online dating now as a way to meet people. I used to meet people in class, through friends, and yes, of course, in bars. (Lots of commas in that sentence but fret not, it is grammatically correct. No squiggly green line.)
4. The World Trade Center
To anyone born after September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center will be a piece of history; a shadow in a photograph. To us, the twin towers were the tallest buildings in New York with 10,000,000 square feet of rentable space. They had seven levels underground. People worked there. 19 murders happened there. 17 babies were born there. 3 men parachuted from the top of the buildings.
Now it’s a memorial. A beautiful, huge, deep, somber memorial. I visited it for the first time in September of this year. I was surprised by how deep the fountains ran. I was surprised by how close the two buildings were. I think the thing that moved me the most though, was seeing and feeling everybody else’s pain. You looked around and you could see people remembering their loved ones. Some people were looking for a name. Some were crumbled over on a bench with someone’s arm around them, probably recalling that day.
For those of us who are old enough to remember, most of us remember the vivid details of 9/11. I remember driving to school and my cousin calling me to make sure my dad was okay because he traveled a lot. I remember getting to class and campus being silent. The professors turned on the TVs and we sat shell-shocked, watching the news. I wasn’t personally affected by the event of 9/11 in that I didn’t know anybody who died, but we were all affected by the results of that attack on America. We went to war, our economy spiraled downward. People lost their minds and got angry. Even me, even though I didn’t have half as much to be angry about as those people I saw at the memorial. As a result, we all said and did some irrational things. In a sense, those suicide bombers got what they wanted for a while – for a long while. 12 years, in fact. I truly think America is on the mend though. Let’s just stop being so pissed off all the time, okay people?
5. Libraries, Card Catalogs, Encyclopedias, Books
Jiminy Cricket taught me how to spell “E-n-c-y-c-l-o-p-e-d-eyyyee-aaayyeee”. They’re basically extinct now. People argue that Wikipedia is more reliable anyway. It’s definitely more accessible. Our kids will never have to spend hours at the library, first finding what we’re looking for in the card catalog alphabetically, and then searching endless rows of shelves for the numeric code.
How about books in general? Unless it’s an art book, a cook book or any other book that has big bold pictures and colors in it, I’m using my Kindle.
Okay, I’m about to admit something really nerdy. My “hangout”, when I lived in Ohio was Borders. It was the only thing to do there that wasn’t a bar, so I went there a lot. I met friends there. I took in the smell of books and browsed those beautiful rows of knowledge for hours. Now I buy my books online. In fact, I buy pretty much everything online thanks to Amazon. Amazon recommends books for me based on other books I’ve bought or looked at. I almost always like them. Amazon took away Borders, but gave me something else. I don’t really miss Borders, or books.
I never got into MTV but I do remember my older cousins lying on the pullout bed in their slippers and swooning over Bon Jovi. They would spend hours watching music videos. I honestly don’t even know what’s on MTV these days, but I do know I go to YouTube for music videos – or any other kind of video, for that matter. I don’t feel like our kids will be missing out on much here.
What Else Has Changed?
I watch Mad Men and I love when they depict things like these that have so clearly changed over the years. People smoking and drinking in the office. Women smoking and drinking while pregnant. Drinking a bottle of Jack, while driving already intoxicated. Littering in the park. All of these things give you the “ACK!”-factor, but then you realize it was the norm back then.
What else has changed? What memories do you have associated with these things?
Here are a couple more I can think of:
· Styrofoam containers at McDonalds
· Cigarettes – almost everybody I knew growing up
· Collecting baseball cards
· Seat belts – we never wore them!
By Tonya Cardinali