One generation becomes obsolete to the next

Published 3:00 am Saturday, December 6, 2014

While spending the Thanksgiving holiday in the mountains of North Georgia, I had several “opportunities” to sit and rest a spell. So did lots of other folks on the .4-mile hike up, up, up to Anna Ruby Falls.
Those of us who welcome senior citizen discounts called “time out” to catch our breath. The young folks stopped to text or talk or take pictures or whatever they do with those electronic devices that are replacing the gray matter between their ears.
I parked myself on a stone bench to let my weary legs rest a while and my eye rest upon the mountains. Then along came a gray-haired gentleman who had neither buds in his ears nor let his fingers do the talking. He sagged down next to me and, for a short while, we sat in silence and watched as the electronic world passed us by.
Then the man’s tongue got loose.
“I heard something the other day that interested me,” he said in a matter-of-fact way and as if we were old and like-minded friends or on the same wavelength in today’s lingo.
His story was that this wise, old man was sitting on a park bench – “wisdom” always sits on a park bench – when a young man came and sat beside him.
“You know, your generation has become obsolete,” the young man said. “Why, we’ve got computers, the Internet, iPods, MP3 players, smart phones…” He strung out a litany of brain-sapping devices and, with each one, the old man’s shoulders slumped more. Then, he straightened himself.
“You’re right, young feller,” he said. “We didn’t have all of those things … so we invented them. What will your generation leave for the next?”
For certain, this electronic generation will leave something for the next. Something that we can’t even begin to imagine. Just like the “obsolete” generation never imagined anything as farfetched as fax machines, microwave ovens, digital cameras and the know-it-all Internet.  Why, Polaroid cameras and electric typewriters impressed the heck out of us.
We grew up when folks actually needed to know their multiplication tables and how to add in their heads. We knew how to look up words in the dictionary, research information in the World Book Encyclopedia and how to use the card catalogue at the library. We knew how many pints were in a gallon and how many ounces were in a pound. Why, we even memorized things like telephone numbers and the Gettysburg Address and handwrote cards and letters.
As a child, one of my favorite playthings was a Poosh-M-Up Jr. It was kind of like a pinball machine except it tilted on foldup legs about three feet off the floor. With a spring lever, you shot tiny steel balls into open half-circles, each with a different number value and did the calculations in your head. The one with the highest score at the end of a pre-determined number of rounds was the winner.
A couple of years later, Aunt Eleanor gave me a similar game but this one actually added your score. I thought I had arrived in the space age.
When I was a teenager, I had two of the most important jobs in town. I worked the candy counter at the VJ Elmore dime store and the soda fountain at Hamrick’s Drug Store.
At the dime store, “candy girls” had to weigh the candy and hot salted nuts, sack them and figure the cost by multiplying the number of pounds by the cost per pound and then figuring in the sales tax. Then we had to give the change back by counting from the amount charged to the amount tendered.
At the soda fountain, we had to know how much Co-cola syrup to mix with the carbonated water to make a fountain coke and how to mix the solutions for cleaning the soda fountain as opposed to those for mopping the floor and cleaning the windows. We also had to know how to wash and sanitize dishes – in a dishpan of hot, soapy water.
As my granddaddy said, we used our heads for something other than a hat rack.
But, in today’s world, a hat rack is too often a major function for that nob between our shoulders.
“Looks like our brains will just turn to mush,” the stranger was saying.  “That’s what happens when you don’t use your brain. It just goes to mush. Turn your brain over to a tangle of wires and electrodes and it’s going to short circuit sooner than later ….blah, blah, blah.”
Thank goodness, I had a mountain to rest my eyes upon.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox