Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kids These Days

So there it was, one of those moments of clarity, when you suddenly see your life as it really exists, without all the built-in illusions. I had experienced a similar situation years earlier while participating in my last Blue Mountain Bike Chase. It was my 40th year, and I had peddled, pushed and shoved my bicycle to the summit of the Abajo Mountains. As I congratulated myself for making it to the top, and started “racing” down the backside of the mountain, two young turks went screaming past.

The Simpson Men from Twin Rocks Trading Post.

My initial instinct was to turn up the heat and catch them. My mind, however, had other thoughts. It declined to accelerate my body, telling me I was too old to go faster, and reminding me that if I crashed on that rocky road, it would really, and I mean really, hurt. That was the moment I lost my cycling courage, and I have never recovered.

On the most recent occasion, I was standing behind the sales counter of the trading post, rearranging the merchandise, when a couple in their late 60’s came lurching through the Kokopelli doors. As is my habit, I asked how they were getting on, to which they replied, “Well, the grass is still under foot, not overhead.”

A group of young people with wild hair, tattoos and pierced bodies stormed in right after the older couple. When the kids finally retreated and calm had been restored, the elderly woman said, “Can you believe it? Kids these days; many of them don’t even know how to read a watch. Just last weekend my husband was at the Farmington Mall and two teenage girls asked him for the time. When he turned his wrist towards them so they could see the dial, they became confused; couldn’t read it, because they were used to digital, not conventional watches.”

“Yeah,” the husband, who was built like a fire plug, and was also a bright shade of red, said, “and they probably didn’t know how to use a shovel either.” “Kids these days,” I sheepishly repeated, shaking my head, and realizing that I was not very good on the end of a shovel either.

As the dialogue continued, the wife began rotating her body to the right in a slow, evenly measured motion. After about a 90 degree rotation, I began wondering where this was all going. “Can’t read a watch,” she said, “so how do they know which is clockwise and which is counterclockwise? Can’t get that from a digital watch!”

Looking down at my own digital watch, and beginning to sympathetically tick myself, I wondered exactly how today’s kids can be expected to know anything about chronological cycles. As I slowly continued my circuit, Jana happened by, and, poking me in the ribs with her elbow, stopped my rotation.

It was about that time Kira and Grange came renegading through the trading post, and I cautioned them to cool their jets, before I had to trim their sails. “Grandchildren?” the couple asked. “No, children,” I responded, once again begin to tick. “Mid-life crisis?” they returned. “No, seventh marriage,” I replied, showing more than a little disdain. “Can’t be,” said the hydrant, confident I could never find seven women foolish enough to make that commitment, and in unison the pair turned; she clockwise and he counterclockwise, and tottered out the door, shaking their heads.

Later that day, I was standing next to my nephew, Adam, who makes me very proud, even though we don’t always agree. As we talked, he kept reaching into his trousers, extracting his cell phone, briefly peering at the display, rapidly pushing a few buttons on the key pad and returning the instrument to the pocket of his baggy, hole infested jeans.

After observing the process several times, I asked, “Just what are you doing?” “Texting,” he said, and patiently gave me a short tutorial. Now, I have known about text messaging for some time. I have, however, refused to make it a part of my life.

Feeling obsolete, and a bit like my father, who has never turned on a computer, and sees no need to do so, I suddenly realized that the concept of clockwise and counterclockwise was as unimportant to those kids in the mall as text messaging was to me or computers to my father. Their lives had rocketed past conventional time pieces, just as those cyclists had flown past me on the mountain road. Let the old folks worry about the old ways, the young people have moved on and they have no use or patience for antiquated processes. Kids these days, . . . aren’t they great.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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