All by myself, I can navigate using a paper map; write and read cursive fluently; do long division and figure out a tip without a calculator; find answers and information minus the help of Google, and express my opinions and emotions in more than 280 characters — and not a single emoji. And that, as they say, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Given such august achievements, I think it’s unnecessarily unfair and unkind for younger people, like our kids, for instance, to constantly and superciliously invoke my perceived age-related inadequacies whenever I struggle with certain tech devices and concepts.
They forget I can name our first five presidents — in order; tell you why the years 1215, 1492 and 1929 are important; explain the origin of tons of catchphrases, and remember the words to iconic jingles, pop music, and classic rock songs regularly being rediscovered and appropriated by people who never experienced an existence without the internet and social media.
Even though it’s not consistently at the tip of my tongue, I continue to store a lot of stuff in my brain, and I’ve been working at filling it since long before older key technologies were eclipsed by computers with Windows, iPhones that run your life, and flash drives that hold more information than the Encyclopedia Britannica were no more than concepts.* So why should I get knocked for needing help to download apps on my secondhand smartphone, figuring out what happened to a Facebook post that seems to have vanished and understanding that I may have inadvertently insulted someone by punctuating the last sentence of a text?
I don’t Snapchat, tweet or use Instagram, but I’d like to see someone born in the last 30 years dial a rotary phone fast enough to win an on-air radio contest, locate a library book using the Dewey Decimal System or fact-find via microfiche. These are things I know, skills I possess, even if they’re not of much use anymore.
Ultimately and inevitably, many of our accomplishments will become as irrelevant to our kids and their kids as the proper management of a coal furnace, how to crank a wall-mounted telephone and the necessity of good backyard outhouse etiquette became to the majority of us boomers. Yet such things were common knowledge to the rapidly vanishing Greatest Generation who birthed and raised us.
Each generation tends to pity the preceding one for its ignorance and closed-mindedness, and generally sticks around long enough to be completely baffled by what comes next. We’re forever forgetting that this whole human history thing is a compilation of what’s been, what is, and what will one day be. It’s too easy to overlook the reality that it was those unimaginably old geezers from another time who created the world we happen to inhabit right now. It all comes down to each of us knowing what we know, when we need to know it.
So, I’ll make a deal with anyone born after, say, 1985. If they’re more patient with me, I’ll overlook their smugness; and I’ll be more patient with them if they admit I know a few things too.
*Just for the record, the inventors of those tech wonders were all born four years before I was. So booyah to all you post-boomers.