Thursday, June 09, 2005

When My Daughter Grows Up, Her Life Won't Include...

This column appeared on the Op-Ed page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch June 9, 2005:

Recently, my brother was in the car with my two nephews, and when they reached their destination, he told them to "crank the windows up." The two boys had never heard that expression, and my brother realized it's because they've never been in a car without electric windows. Sure, they exist, but not in the world of these six- and four-year-olds.

With my daughter's eleventh birthday last week, I started making a list of all the things from my own life that will never be part of hers. When I mentioned it to my wife, friends, and listeners -- all Baby Boomers -- they chimed in with suggestions, and the list grew to include:

Movies on videotape. Double features. Drive-in theaters. Theater marquees proclaiming: "Held over for 30th week!" Signs under the marquee advertising "It's Air Conditioned Inside" in letters that look like dripping ice.

Rabbit ears. Using pliers to change the channel because the knob's broken. Getting up to change channels. Wired remote controls. Waiting for the TV to warm up. Having to watch a show when it airs or missing it forever.

Cassette, 8-track, and reel-to-reel tapes. A Walkman that plays cassettes. Cassingles. CD singles. Records and turntables. Adapters for 45s. "You sound like a broken record."

Cameras with thumbwheels to advance the film. Cameras with film. Flash bulbs, flash cubes, flip flash.

Ultra-bright home movie lights. Home movie screens. Home movie projectors. Slide projectors. Editing small reels of Super-8 film onto bigger reels.

Film strips at school with a next-frame beep that every kid could imitate and drive the a/v guy crazy.

Phones with dials. Phones with cords. Changing your phone number when you move. Pay phones. Busy signals. Really expensive long distance calls. Party lines. Answering machines.

Smoking on airplanes. Smoking in movie theaters. Smoking at work. Ash trays on restaurant tables.

Bank tellers. Writing checks. Buying tickets for games, concerts, and movies at the box office.

Going to the library to use an encyclopedia. Copying something out of the World Book for a school assignment. "The Reader's Guide to Periodicals."

Gas stations with the rubber hose that dings when you drive over it. Gas for under a buck a gallon. Free drinking glasses with a fill-up.

Rear car windows that open all the way. A foot switch to activate bright headlights. Cars with wing window vents in front. Cars with bench front seats.

Scoring your own bowling game. Women wearing swim caps at the pool. Only boys playing sports at school. Lawn darts.

Soda in glass bottles. Soda made with cane sugar. Church keys for cans without pop tops. Cans without pop tops. Pop tops that come off when you pull them.

TV weather reports without Doppler radar. TV weather forecasters who use stick-on pictures of sun and clouds. TV news that's on on in the evening. TV stations that sign off in the middle of the night.

Floppy disks. Computers that fill a room. Dot matrix printers. Green-and-white computer paper with tractor feed perforations.

Typewriters. Carbon paper. Correctype. Wite-Out. Thermal fax paper. Mimeograph machines. The smell of mimeograph machines and paper in the school office.

Prices on food items at the supermarket. Jiffy Pop you shake on the stove. Coffee cans with keys. Coffee percolators on the stove.

Metal ice cube trays. Defrosting the freezer with a turkey baster and a yardstick. Yardsticks with furniture store names and logos. Yardsticks.

Susan B. Anthony dollars. Sacagawea dollars. $2 bills.

Writing letters. Postage stamps you lick. Envelopes you lick. S&H green stamps.

Cotton diapers. Rectal thermometers. Bar soap. Portable bubble hair dryers with the carrying strap. Wearing curlers to bed.

Metal keys for hotel rooms. Winding a wrist watch. Tonka trucks made of steel. Styrofoam boxes at McDonald's. Rubbers -- the ones that go over your shoes.
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Copyright 2005, Paul Harris
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Some more that were not included in the print version of this column:

K-Tel collections of "the original hits by the original artists!"
Car radios with an analog tuner dial.
Mailboxes in the neighborhood.

Finally, three that aren't generational, but are indicative of the post-9/11 world we all live in:

Going to the airport gate to meet someone.
Going to the top of the Statue Of Liberty.
Going to the World Trade Center.