Posts Tagged ‘generation’

Key Note

4 August 2009

Dear J-

Every time I pull my keys out I flash back a little to when I got my first key to the house — it came in its own little leather wallet (this kept it from rattling around and alerting everyone that I had a key, and I was five kinds of secretly pleased by another stealth tool), just like my dad’s, but scaled down, and represented a new sort of freedom,  not having to wait on the porch to be let in after shopping or other errands.  I could also let my parents in when their hands were full with bags or other sundries.  Later on, though, it became representative of my generation of latchkey kids, entrusted to go home, go straight to home and do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Every generation has new challenges, I suppose; when I was little and ran off in the store to stare hungrily at the video games, hot dogs, toys, or cereal, my folks knew where they could find me after getting through the rest of the store and shopping in relative peace.  Now, of course, if you haven’t already embedded a GPS tracking device or LoJack somewhere in your child, chances are that they will be stolen as soon as they wander out of arm’s reach.  Latchkey kids were the scourge of the streets, coming after a world of always-sunny Leave it to Beaver stay-at-home parents; dad with slippers, pipe, and newspaper, mom with apron and a ready smile, each rigidly locked into their roles without question.

I understand why — my mom worked 70 hours a week in the store for ten years, and my dad’s time was split between teaching and office hours; there’s no question that if they could have avoided it, they would have.  I still have fond memories of the ages before seven, with mom picking me up after school and whiling away afternoons in quiet play (Tinkertoys, you will note, do not typically make as much noise as LEGO or wooden blocks; we had a lot of Tinkertoys scattered around afternoons).  But it’s spooky coming home to an empty house; winters you hurried back to beat the sudden slide into night and stayed put in the rooms you’d managed to get lights on in time.  When the smoke detector battery ran low and started signaling, it sounded like the pulse of monsters in closets and dark corners.  You put the key in the lock and hear the tumblers fall, open the door (ours always gave a slightly reassuring shriek) and enter with trepidation and joy.  Keys to the heart manage to unlock all manner of old thoughts and dusty treasures, naturally.



Too Big

29 June 2009

Dear J-

Car advertisements lately like to play up superlatives; it seems like every car leads its class in one way or another — most horsepower, fuel economy, interior room, towing capacity, payload, warranty, etc.  Call it the commoditization of America, where we evaluate food ad gasoline based on unit cost rather than quality or other criteria; so long as you feel full at the end of the day, whether wallet, stomach, or fuel tank, so much the better.  Consequently we’re faced with both overarching envy and more than we actually need.

Consider the Camry we grew up with — a 1984 LE hatchback, automatic; the only real fault was a lack of power on hills (climbing out of Spokane west on I-90, we almost had to use the hazard lights and rub elbows with the tractor-trailers), but aside from that, it was plenty big enough for four adults, five in a pinch, stingy on gas, reliable (aside from exceeding the recommended timing belt life).  While not exactly stylish, it was in keeping with the designs of the times, but two years later, there we were stuck driving the old model, smaller and slower.  My parents upgraded after eight years, and then again ten years after that — bigger and more powerful every time, even though we were both out of the house by then.

How do you reconcile it?  The ___ (let’s say car) you want is not the ___ you need; it’s the advertiser’s job to sell you on the utility of a pickup, even if you’d only drive it with the bed unloaded, or the need for your typical three hundred horsepower sports car (guilty here; the new Camaro seems so cheap for so much; advertising works).  Recognize and separate your needs and your wants; I’m not saying that you don’t need that burly V-8, but unless you plan on driving somewhere other than the realistically 80-85 MPH-limited freeways around here, you’re far better off investing in nicer seats and a stereo system to keep you sane in traffic than a burbling monster you keep in check with your right foot.  Be smarter than the ads, that’s all.


Many Days

14 January 2009

Dear J-

I got a panicked phone call earlier today; figgy’s latest hobby is sitting with us at the computer and whaling away on the keyboard until something strange and wonderful happens.  I’ve been subject to any number of uncouth beeps and wildly varied brightnesses/volumes as she finds the secret control keys that have eluded us in several years of computer ownership.  Today she hit upon some secret combination of keys to magnify the screen — as you move the mouse, so does the focus change, so it’s like you’ve got a scrolling window on the world.  It was making theVet seasick.

We promise each new generation that they’ll be smarter than the previous but this is getting a little ridiculous!  There are kids doing things with Photoshop (okay, even my parents are doing things with Photoshop) that would have amazed me circa 1985 after patiently programming multiple Apple IIes to spell out words in LOGO welcoming parents to our school open house night.  We take the miraculous from twenty years ago (can you imagine the production it would have been to make Doug’s European Adventure?) and with a few clicks of the buttons, make it easy as slipping on ice.

Social networking is another amazing thing — the power of databases to put people together, in touch by entering a few common questions is remarkable.  We’re no longer limited to strictly waiting for search engines to beat a path to our virtual doors.  You might suspect that such application of computer power for trivial purposes is silly (c’mon; most desktops today could run rings around  decade-old mainframes, but that’s true of any ten-year-gap, really), but it’s as it should be:  unlimited applications, imagination and ideas coming to the forefront.  The easier we make it for ideas to leap from mind to mind, the better we become as a society.