The Tangential Thinker

Snowman with snow falling

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column on things our kids will probably never see in their lifetime, stuff like rotary phones or a walkman. Well, last week the kids had a snow day, and as I stared at Cranky, Whiny and Punch—all ensconced in various forms of technology—something else occurred to me: In addition to objects, there are actions these kids will never know.

They say “roll down the window,” but they never actually have. By the time Cranky is driving—perish the thought—she will probably not even need a key for the ignition. These kids won’t ever have to wait until the end of a song for the deejay to tell them who sings it. On long car trips, they will never have to count cars or look for license plates. Cranky can watch Twilight for the umpteenth time while she listens to Justin Bieber, updates her Facebook page and texts her friends. Whiny and Punch can kill zombies or compete in a virtual drag race. I wonder if they ever miss the three-dimensional world.

One of my greatest joys and challenges as a child was getting a song when you didn’t want to pay for the album. We all know how it was done: You recorded it off the radio onto a cassette. So let’s say you love the song Da Do Run Run by Shaun Cassidy. You would sit by the radio with your cassette recorder and wait for that perfect moment when the song started and hit ‘record.’ Of course you always got a little of the deejay’s voice or cut the song off prematurely, but that was our Napster.

When it comes to telecommunications, these kids will never untangle the coil wire of a princess phone or have to pull it to breaking to get the handset into the closet so your parents couldn’t hear what you were saying. I was just reminiscing with my girlfriend, Jody, about one of our fondest childhood memories: sitting in the basement rec room with friends and making prank phone calls.

My favorite one was to pretend to be the power company, tell the person we were working on the lines and not to answer the phone for the next ten minutes or you would give the caller a severe shock. Then you called back a minute later and when they answered you screamed like you’re being electrocuted. That was a good one because it was fun on both ends. Now with caller ID and auto redial, Cranky, Whiney and Punch will never know the juvenile, sophomoric thrill of asking someone if their refrigerator is running.

So as they sit, swallowed by the couch, the eerie blue glow of the computer reflected off their faces, I realize there are a few activities they can still experience: They can go sledding, make a snowman, or meet their friends in the schoolyard for a good old fashioned snowball fight. But Mom I’m winning a Facebook snowball fight!! Put on your coat and boots and get out of this house. Text me a picture of the snowman and I will microwave you popcorn and hot chocolate… ah, the good old days.

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