I am raising ingrates.
My children, like so many others, are ferried about in the automotive equivalent of a living room.
While riding, they watch DVDs, indulge their inner artists with lap desks stocked with multi-colored markers – hey, you don’t think automotive upholstery starts out that color do you? – and forage for snacks from a fully stocked on-board cooler.
So how do they respond to this automotive excellence? This road-tripper’s paradise? They are bored.
Cargo. In my day, children were essentially the equivalent of cargo. You got to stand up on the vinyl seat of the VW and hope mom would let you punch the buttons on the 8-track player,
Furthermore, I can assure you that the only movies I ever saw in a moving vehicle were those rare glimpses of a roadside drive-in movie as we sped along a late night interstate.
I dare say a moment’s glimpse of 2001 A Space Odyssey offered much respite from the “are we there yet” purgatory of the average car trip.
We were far more self-sufficient “back then.”
My children have no earthly idea how to operate a television set if they cannot locate the remote. They scoff in disbelief when I tell tales of the rudimentary method by which ancient people used to change channels.
Long trip. “Yes dears,” I tell them, “in my day it was discover fire, carve a wheel from stone, and walk all the way across the living room – sometimes traversing the entire length of the coffee table – to turn on Happy Days.
Not only would my children have nary a clue what “don’t touch that dial!” means, but I can’t for the life of me imagine where they would see a dial?
What happened to dials? To dialing? We don’t dial phones, radios, or televisions anymore. What insidious conspiracy took down the dial industry while we were asleep at the wheel – or dial?
Actual person. I can only imagine their disbelief if they were able to fully grasp the notion that when you called customer no-service back in “my day” you got an actual living breathing person on the line.
Sure, that person might have barked “hold please” and left you in Muzak purgatory immediately upon answering the call – but it was a person – and that was something.
There was none of this pressing business; as in pressing buttons and pound signs and such. Nope, we enjoyed the long, satisfying ratchet of a telephone dial grinding through the digits.
Redial? That required only that you had fast (and probably calloused) dialing fingers. Caller ID was activated when the caller told you who was calling. It was very much on the honor system and all seems quite quaint now.
No pushing buttons. Furthermore, when you had to give someone at customer no-service your account number you – get this – just told them. I know, it sounds pure crazy now.
There was no inputting the numbers, pound sign, and waiting for an automated voice to tell you that the numbers you entered were invalid.
Nope. A living, breathing, and generally annoyed response would tell you that your account, payment, address, or very existence was invalid in person. Man, that was living.
Fortunately, my children are still, for the most part, unaware of how rustic my roots really are. Nonetheless, cracks in the veneer of my coolness are already starting to show.
Started with Pong. Recently, my husband and I attempted to instill in our 7-year-old some gratitude for our reckless enabling of his Playstation 2 addiction.
We sought to do this by illuminating the fact that in our day (oh the dreaded phrase) we had no “Spongebob Squarepants Racing Game, no “A Bug’s Life” fantasy flights. We had “Pong.”
Pong consisted of two white bars and a dot on a black background. When switched on (with a dial, mind you) the dot blipped back and forth between the white bars.
There was no music. There were no “levels,” and there sure as shooting weren’t game guides to teach you how to unlock any codes to beat Pong. Nope. Pong could not be beaten.
Pong was pure. Pong was the arcade equivalent of table tennis without the bother of any actual physical activity. Pong – sadly – was a big hit.
Meanwhile, truly modern to the core, my children and their little friends have benefit of lessons, play dates, and a network of parents dedicated to, well, “networking” their offspring’s social lives like they are raising Kennedy kids.
Starting young. I heard tell of a fourth grader receiving a PDA for Christmas. Must we assume that penciling in all his important deadlines and commitments on a DayRunner
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