The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 20, 2012

Each generation contends with struggles

By Kelly Kazek
kelly@athensnews-courier.com

— Once again, my daughter, concerned you all might think she’s one grit shy of a bowl, asked me not to write about a recent incident. Of course, being a loving mother, I agreed.

Instead, I will tell you about something that recently happened to another girl named, um, Thannon.

Thannon, a talented and beautiful student at Auburn University who just happens to have an extremely stylish and intelligent mother, called recently to tell me she was without her debit card. Her boyfriend had used it to pick up fast food and accidentally kept it when he returned to the Auburn University-Montgomery campus, where he is enrolled.

Thannon was concerned. “I don’t know how I’m going to get lunch,” she moaned.

Of course, there was no need to ask if she had cash. No one under the age of 20 carries cash anymore.

“Can’t you write a check?” I asked.

This didn’t seem a suitable solution because the dust-covered checkbook she rarely uses was tucked away at her apartment and she was far away on campus. Plus, she only knew how to fill out a check in theory.

“Well, then, go to the bank and get some cash,” I suggested.

Pause.

“You can do that?” came the surprised response.

I explained how you just go in, fill out a withdrawal slip and get cash back – all without using a card or machine.

My daugh … I mean, this young woman is by no means stupid or naïve. She just never had the need to fill out a withdrawal slip, much less a check. Like all young people today, she does everything electronically.

I guess it’s fitting that a few days after the death of disco-legend Donna Summer, I write a column about the “good ol’ days,” just to remind the young’uns what they’re missing. I mentioned to some of my young staff members I used to roller skate to Donna Summer songs. I’m not sure if their rolled eyes were from the mental image of me roller-skating, or because I once skated to “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.”

I could have told them I knew all the words to “McArthur Park,” one of the most awesome tributes to cake of all time and, in Summer’s version, the greatest triumph of art-over-lyrics.

I don’t think they would have been impressed.

While those in my generation (errr, let’s say 40-something) can’t say we walked four miles to school in the snow barefoot like our grandparents could, we did have our own struggles to contend with. I did walk to school, although it wasn’t a long walk, and when I got home, I had only three TV channels from which to choose. Plus, there were no video games. We were a couple of years away from the Atari game Pong, where we watched a square “ball” bounce from one side of the screen to the other, where we used a control to “hit” it back again.

Can you imagine the trauma?

My brother and I had to go outside – outside! – and find something to entertain ourselves.

We suffered other indignities. When we wanted to have a private phone conversation, we had to pull the receiver on its coiled wire from the kitchen wall and down the hall, where we could crouch and speak in whispers. I had a phone with a cord when Shannon was a baby. For years, I kept it hanging on the wall as sort of a museum piece for her high school friends.

This generation of young people thinks art appreciation is LOLing at Google Doodles.

They don’t know dictionaries and encyclopedias were items you used to have to actually hold on your laptop, and they could be really heavy.

Shannon has never “developed” photos, or had to guess who was calling on the phone.

She never had to wonder what her friends were doing or thinking at any given moment.

She never had to write a “Dear John” letter, but on the downside, any “love letters” are all lost to cyberspace.

She’s never let her fingers do the walking in the Yellow Pages.

She doesn’t know phishing was a fun family activity.

I suppose worst of all, she can’t remember the days when Spam was a good thing.

Sigh.

I can only hope she comes through it OK.



Send your memories from the good ol’ days to Kelly@athensnews-courier.com.