Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a conversation I will one day have with my children

I've recently started dating the most beautiful woman in the world, and she, being a few years younger than me, feels the need to tease me about my age, obviously because she is insecure about how incredibly distinguished, mature, and successful I have turned out to be.1

There have been a number of occasions in which I have mentioned normal aspects of my childhood which are met with what can only be described as "shrieks of laughter", followed by a statement to the effect of, "good story, grandpa".

All of which speaks to the necessity to have the following conversation with my future children, should I actually be capable of fathering children by the time I'm able to convince someone to marry me.


You have no idea how nice your lives are. Do you even know what life was like growing up in the nineteen hundreds? Can you even imagine the inconveniences we suffered?

Imagine a world in which, in order to get somewhere, you didn't just speak into a magical device and listen to a beautiful woman direct you how to get places. No. If you did speak to someone, it was a smelly man at a gas station, and he probably wanted to shiv you in the back with a rusty spork2 because you were stupid enough to go out without checking a map first.

That's right. A map. A physical freaking map. Made out of paper and the tears of small children. If you had to find a street address, good luck finding that on a map, sucker. You'd have to turn the map around and look at a listing of street names the size of the national deficit, trolling around for the street name, whereupon the map would list the "coordinates" of the street. Like, they'd stick letters across the top and numbers down the side in a "grid", and you'd be told a "coordinate" of a street, like G-6,3 and you'd spend the next thirty minutes with a magnifying glass trying to find the street among a series of roads with a complexity approximating tangled cellular DNA. Of course, the street might pass through a small corner of G-6, but the street name would be written in G-7, or H-6, or sometimes A-12, and you spent the evening scouring the map and swearing, wishing you were old enough to buy booze so you could break the bottle on a bar countertop and slash the face of the man who implemented the "coordinate" system.

Then you'd plan your route out beforehand or your buddy riding shotgun4 would flop open a map, or maybe a road atlas the size of a giraffe with every state in America, except you only ever went to like three states, and when you went there what you really wanted was a street-level map, and you had to stop at a gas station at three in the morning to get the street-level map and hopefully avoid getting raped at the same time by a cross-dresser named Jim, and good luck calling the police if that happens because there's a phone booth every three miles and the phones are filled with cockroaches, hookers, and blow, and if you touch the handset you get Gonorrhea.

And that's assuming you knew where you wanted to go. If you wanted to go to a mechanic or a barber, or even a barber who didn't slash your ear with a dirty razor giving you an infection for the next two weeks,5 you had to pull out this monstrosity called the yellow pages which disintegrated in your hands and you'd get ink all over your body if you so much as looked at it, and choose people based on the verbiage of their advertisement, and hope they weren't mass murderers or undead chickens or something, instead of just opening up Yelp and finding the best of everything.

And good luck trying to meet people places.

Whenever you tried to meet anyone anywhere, someone was stuck waiting for an hour in the rain, wondering if the other person was coming or not, wondering if the other person (coughmomcough) even remembered the other person had children, and nobody really knew where anyone was ever because the pay phone was broken or the dude at the cafe didn't want you touching his phone because phone calls cost like a zillion dollars and he probably didn't have that darn phone technology anyways.

The closest thing we had to "technology" were pagers and you couldn't use those because teachers all said that only kids who worked for gangs had pagers. I'm not really sure about being gang members, but I do know all the kids at school into drugs sure did have pagers and man Tyler sure smelled good in ninth grade geography and how in the world did the teacher not pick up on the smell of pot which I basked in every day of that year?

If you had any sort of school assignment which required a computer, you'd go to a computer lab where dinosaurs once roamed the earth with the librarians who insisted on teaching you the Dewey Decimal System, which is this thing they invented before Google in order to torture little kids with useless facts like books about ducks and pigs were located at 82345300.16, and books about ducks and dogs were located at 123004343.9801, and good luck memorizing that for the test they made you take about an information retrieval system made obsolete by those new-fangled computers, and the librarian would crawl out of her sarcophagus and show you the latest in the fanciest technology, a LaserDisc player, which looked like a CD the size of a record, but you don't know what either of those things are, but I do because I used to listen to a record of the soundtrack of The Parent Trap, and no, that's not the really old movie with Lindsay Lohan, it's actually a lot older and weirder than that and it definitely didn't involve a Concorde jet, and you'd watch a slideshow on the LaserDisc player and the TV was the size of a cow, but it was really cool, because most of your multimedia presentations involved actual multiple media: a tape player and an honest-to-goodness reel projector, and the soundtrack was on the tape and it would beep occasionally to tell you to advance to the next slide, and no it wasn't like PowerPoint, because sometimes the film would break, but regardless of physical breakages, you were always assured that you would lose track of which slide you were supposed to be on and the tape would be using Jimmy's voice while the slide projector showed you a dog.

But when you used the fancy computers in the dungeon lab you had these things called floppy disks which you would store your school stuff on, except they weren't really floppy, because there were actual floppy disks that they used to have until they realized they were the stupidest thing ever and came out with the non-floppy floppy disks, and each disk had an approximate storage capacity of three bytes, and if you wanted to store something bigger than a WordPerfect doc, oh wait, you don't know what WordPerfect is, it's basically Word except worthless because nobody uses it ever, and if you wanted to store anything more than a WordPerfect document, you'd get another floppy disk and you could buy them from Mr. Pearson for a dollar, and you'd maybe do that or buy a zip drive, which was a bigger disk which would work with about two percent of all computers, or you'd just ignore him and play Oregon Trail and gossip about the teacher who was supposedly fired because of sexual misconduct or buying sex or something and nobody really knew what sex was because there was no internet, but we all assumed it was something fun because we weren't allowed to say it.

And good luck getting anything done without the internet. Like, seriously. Good luck. Do you know what life is like without Wikipedia? Can you even conceive of it? Do you have any idea what it's like to want to know something and have absolutely no way of obtaining that information? Almost every conversation we had in the nineteen hundreds ended with someone declaring one fact, someone else declaring another fact, and everyone else just standing around, stumped, like a bunch of stunned dwarves, wondering who might actually be right.

So children. Be grateful for what you have. I may not have hiked to school uphill in the snow, but I did hike home from school downhill in the snow, and with absolutely no possibility of conceiving of the wonders that you currently enjoy.6

1. And by successful, I mean I have absolutely no qualifications to speak of.
2. Thank you Mulligan for allowing me to steal this idea.
3. Like a G6 baby. I hope that song is now stuck in your head too.
4. Brittney, we invented the term riding shotgun back when we were using stagecoaches to get around, and the dude in the passenger seat would hold a shotgun to shoot outlaws.
5. Not that this just happened to me or something. Oh wait, it did. Do I have AIDS now?
6. I realize this is the longest post ever, so I congratulate you intrepid readers for making it to the end. I had to make up for last week's lame short post, or, as my friend Kevin put it, the worst post ever. Happy now?


Unknown said...

If 4 is really the case, (as wikipedia suggests it is, therefore it is truly irrefutable,) then how come I don't get to use a gun when seated in the passenger seat? I just might have to get a shotgun and whenever I have passengers, tell them to hold it up and ensure our safety.

Chris said...

I immediately started grinning like an idiot when I saw "shiv."

Melody said...

Thank you for an excellent giggle-filled frolic through the joys of growing up during the late 20th century. And I guess my crippling stupidity must have resulted from the fact that in my elementary school we never got to play Oregon Trail, we only played Carmen Sandiego. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Jess said...

I will read this to my kids one day...(if we still have the internet by then)

LRH said...

I looked up sex and fornication in the dictionary when I was a kid. It wasn't too helpful though... :)