When I was a teacher there was nothing that upset me more than my students using their cell phones in class. One day I blew up about it and a student said, “Relax, Mr. Spo. Don’t act like you didn’t play with your phone when you were in high school.” I was so shocked by this kid’s faulty grasp of history that I launched into an “in my day” speech so fuddy duddy that it embarrassed even me.
“When I was your age I’d never met anyone in all of my life who owned a cell phone,” I said while shaking my cane. “I’d heard rumors about them though. They were said to be as big as a Shaquille O’Neal shoe and cost more each month than a mortgage payment!”
My rant lead to my students asking how people in my day got in touch with each other when they were away from home if there weren’t any cell phones, so I tried to explain about pagers. It wasn’t long before a student interrupted me in disbelief.
STUDENT: “Hold up. All this thing did was light up with a phone number? What good was that?”
ME: “A lot. It told you someone wanted to speak with you.”
STUDENT: “But you had no phone!”
ME: “No, but thanks to my pager I knew I needed to find one.”
STUDENT: “Find a phone?”
ME: “That’s right. A pay phone. So off I’d go, searching, and once I found one I’d dial the number to find out who wanted to speak to me. Actually, I usually had to get change first, so I’d run into a store and beg the clerk to break a dollar into quarters, but once he did I could make the call. Well, that is if someone wasn’t already on the phone and –”
STUDENT: “How long did all of this take?”
ME: “Fifteen minutes. Sometimes more.”
STUDENT: “Please tell me it was some sexy girlie calling you.”
ME: “Actually, it was usually my Mom.”
My students laughed about my pager all year, and rightfully so. It sounded so archaic that I might as well have been talking about blood letting or cigarettes “that relax the nerves.” (Note: My students were pretty hilarious. If you’ve never read about the obscene “My Boo” letter I found in my classroom one day, do yourself a favor and read it now.)
I bring all of this up because it occurred to me today that, if teenagers from 2007 found my youth hopelessly outdated, what would Annie think of it when she was their age in 2025?
Here are a few things that will undoubtedly horrify her:
Not Being Able To Solve An Argument With The Internet
Nowadays you can settle a stupid argument in a flash. “No, Tommy, it actually WAS 1927 when Babe Ruth hit sixty home runs. (swivels laptop around) See?” But back then your best hope to win an argument was by asking another person.
ME: “Dad? What year did Babe Ruth hit all those homers? Tommy says 1928 but I’m pretty sure it was 1927.”
DAD: “Hmmm. That is a good question. Let’s see. I almost want to say it was a little earlier. Maybe ’26?”
ME: “No, it was ’27.”
DAD: “I think it was ’26.”
TOMMY: “It was ’28!”
DAD: “You know who would know? Grandpa. We’ll call him after his nap.”
Basically, you never, ever won an argument back then.
Back then you could only watch what was playing at that exact moment and nothing else. Even lamer, if you didn’t want to miss any of your favorite show you had to ignore phone calls and frantically do your bathroom business during the 90 second commercial breaks.
Nowadays you can download an album in twenty seconds. In my day (here I go with the “in my day” talk again) you had to drive to a record store and search through bins for it. And if it wasn’t a major release? You could spend all day driving from record store to record store searching for one stupid album and still never find it.
While on the subject of music… What will Annie think about not being able to carry around thousands of songs in her back pocket? She won’t be impressed with The Walkman, which gave you the ability to travel around with one crappy tape like “Sports” by Huey Lewis and The News. There was a girl in my class, I remember, who always lugged around a shoe box full of tapes everywhere she went. For her troubles she had access at all times to literally tens of records!!! Oooh!!”
Computers make writing a report easy. Make a mistake? Hit delete and you’re back on track in seconds. I had no such luck in my day. I did all of my high school reports on a typewriter. This meant hen pecking each letter as slowly as possibly so as not to make a mistake, and nervously wiping sweat from my forehead like I was defusing a bomb. And if I did make a mistake? That meant taking out the ink cartridge, putting in the “erase” cartridge, writing over the offending passage, and then putting the original cartridge back in. One mistake would set you back three or four minutes and make your paper look like crap. You could, of course, speed up the process by using Wite-Out, but that made things look even worse! Oh, memories.
Go ahead, Annie. Laugh all you want. The more I think about it, it does all sound pretty ridiculous.