Friday, May 14, 2010

Facing Strange Changes

If you watch TV long enough, any night of the week, early enough for the kids to still be up, you’re likely to see commercials featuring voluptuous young underwear models strutting around wearing barely enough to cover their naughty parts. It’s the kind of stuff for which we used to make fake ID’s and pay good money to see at the movie theater. In the words of Eddie Murphy in “48 Hours”, “TV has changed.”

And then there are some bad changes.

I was speaking with our young office assistant a while back as I was working an insurance claim for a company called “Nottingham”, something or other. Flippantly, I said something about that Sheriff of Nottingham claim.

“Who?” she asked.

“Sheriff of Nottingham”, I said, “You know, like in Robin Hood?”

When the words “Who’s Robin Hood” came out of her mouth I couldn’t believe my ears. But she wasn’t joking. The same girl had never seen “The Big Lebowski” or heard of Cheech & Chong. Three cultural icons, right there. My day was ruined.

She explained that she was a young mommy, and most everything she had to deal with was mommy stuff. That’s understandable. Robin Hood has probably been replaced with something equally as compelling in literature for young people. I didn’t have the nerve to ask her about Tom Sawyer. And maybe the Big Lebowski, and certainly Cheech & Chong, were geared for an older audience. So after a few weeks of that – or more likely my own mortality – wearing on me, I let it go.

Just about the time I was over it, last Wednesday, the wife and I were eating dinner at a local steak place and a young man (maybe 26) we knew from his previous job there, happened to be in the building and sat down to talk with us for a while. We had a nice visit, until, somehow, something was said about fried eggs.

“Fried eggs? What’s that?”

Of course, at first I thought he was kidding, and I laughed. “OK, I know you probably have a healthier diet than us.”

“No,” he said, “Is that like scrambled eggs?”

About to choke on my steak, I patiently explained the concept of fried eggs to him as he listened with genuine interest. On the one hand, I was happy to be expanding the boy’s horizons, such as they were. On the other hand, the letters WTF kept running through my mind. I started flagging over waitresses so I could point at the kid and tell them that this restaurant’s ex-assistant manager didn’t know what fried eggs were, and they all found it mildly amusing. A few minutes later, one of them came back to the table and said “I was telling (let’s say) Brandi about that and she asked me what fried eggs are.”

So I asked her to go get Brandi, and she returned to the table with the (even younger) girl in a couple of minutes. Sure enough, this girl had never heard of them. The young man started explaining the concept to her, using the information I had given him, and their conversation turned in to a series of “Eeeeww!” and “Gross!”, and “You mean that yellow stuff just runs across your plate?”

Compelled to fork out my own eyes, I resisted, if only because that would surely have been more traumatic for these kids than the mental image of some over-easy chicken embryos.

My son is a brilliant and worldly businessman who carries more information in his cell phone than all that I acquired in the first fifty years of my life. He wheels and deals, making multi-million dollar contracts on a daily basis, jetting from one coast to the other with the captains of commerce and industry seemingly in the palm of his hand. He has an inherent understanding of mysteries like “blue tooth” and “4-G” - terms that are completely foreign to me. But he recently asked me where to put the stamp on an envelope. I realized then that he had never had to involve himself with such an archaic method of communication as what we now refer to as “snail mail”. He pays his bills, sends his messages, and does God knows what else, all from that I-phone – in less time than it takes me to text back an answer to the envelope question. But the boy knows The Dude, and he’s actually met Cheech & Chong; and he’s eaten many real American breakfasts. He even knows Robin Hood and Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher, so the past is not completely forgotten, and my spirit is not totally lost.

Now, if I can get him to utilize that information to help me find some tapes for my VCR, me ‘n the missus are going to watch a movie at home tonight….in color.

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© 2010, Rick Baber