IF you are 35 and over ...

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dave Mason
  • 490th Missile Squadron commander
If you are 35 and over, you may be able to relate to what you're about to read and hopefully you'll find this article even a little humorous.

Not long ago, I promised the kids on my Youth Center basketball team I would write an article and dedicate it to them. We teased each other all the time, in great fun, about how kids today don't focus on fundamentals to better their game in basketball. Today, it's all about flash and the "And One" leagues. But when I started writing this article, I realized what an absolutely great opportunity I had to move our "fun" beyond basketball and look at some of the generational differences we all have.

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to death with their tedious diatribes of how hard they had it when they were growing up. I'm sure you've all heard at some time or another your parents bragging about how they walked 15 miles to school, one way, and uphill and how they didn't have a choice of the food they ate during dinner. They ate whatever mom prepared and were very appreciative of a good meal. Tastiness was strictly relative at times and the fact you had some veggies with your meal was the most important aspect of nightly dinner. The local pizza parlor didn't deliver and a trip to McDonald's could have never happened because the golden arches had not been invented during those times. As a kid growing up and hearing my parents speak of how "different" they had it, I made a promise then I would never lay a bunch of guilt like that on my kids about how easy they have it as opposed to the life I lived growing up.

Now that I'm now at the ripe ol' age of 41, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today and how easy they really do have it. Compared to my childhood, the youth of today live in a Utopia. They, including my kids, really don't quite comprehend the true hardships my wife and I endured as compared to the luxuries they experience and sometimes take for granted.

When I was a kid, we didn't have the Internet. If we really wanted to know something, we had to hop on our bicycles and ride to the local library and look it up. Forget about Google-searching a science project. We spent countless hours in the library conducting research by way of the card catalog or pestering the local library assistant into submission and finally getting her to help us find whatever it was we were looking for. Carrying a library card, back then, was viewed as a badge of honor. Sometimes I don't think it equates to the ATM card the kids carry today.

There was no e-mail. If we really wanted to write to somebody, we had to put pencil to paper, write them a letter, walk down the street and stick the letter in a mailbox. If we were lucky, the letter would arrive to its intended destination within a week or maybe a little more.

Working at a fast food joint when I was of age to work wasn't all that it was hyped up to be. We had to know basic addition and subtraction to ensure our registers had the proper balance at night's end. We had to use basic math in order to know how much change a customer was to receive. We couldn't just press pictures of a Bic Mac, fries and soft drink and expect the computer to conveniently decipher everything for us and spit out change. We knew if our registers were short at days end, our employment with that company would be short as well. Accountability was one of the very first lessons I was taught growing up and I still appreciate that valuable lesson. 

There were no MP3s, Napster or iTunes. If you wanted to download the latest music, you stuck an 8-track tape in the player and recorded some of dad's all time classics on vinyl. And back then, the 12" cover served as more than a record cover. They were the latest in household decorations whether they were placed neatly on the coffee table or hung with style from one of the walls. 

We didn't have telephone options like call waiting or caller ID during those times. If you were on the phone and somebody tried to call you, they got a busy signal ... that's it! If someone called, we had to answer the phone and take our chances on who it could be. It could have been our teacher, a relative, or the church pastor ... we just didn't know. Every phone call was a big event because of the anticipation of who was on the other end. It made us sit quietly and recount all of the day's activities at school, that's for sure.

Speaking of great anticipation, what's up with this Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view stuff and why are there so many youngsters attracted to this? At almost $50 a pop, my teenagers don't get the priviledge of "anticipating" watching this. Back in my youth, ultimate fighting was a "free-for-view" front row event at any spades card table. For those of you who have no knowledge of this all-time classic card game, stop by my office so we can talk. Back in the day, you were guaranteed to see the absolute best of fisticuffs during any spades card game without having to shell out 50 bucks. Just the look of someone pulling the Big Joker from underneath their shoe would bring out the absolute best in people. Ahhh, those were the good ol' days. Times were indeed different back then.

There were no Playstations, no XBox game systems or WII. I remember my first video game being Pong. Boy, was that a lot of fun hitting a little small circle back and forth between two small lines on the TV screen. There were no life-like tennis figures to make the game more realistic ... we used the good ol' imagination which added the realism we needed to keep playing that game for hours or until mom called us for dinner. And don't get me started on home computers. We didn't have desktops, laptops or home networks. My first computer was a Commodore 64 and for the life of me I couldn't get that gadget to perform the way it was advertised. I'm convinced to this day the Commodore system was all smoke and mirrors, and whether it worked or not, was truly up to the imagination.

As for television, the kids of today have a buffet of cartoon channels to choose from whether the household has cable or one of the local satellite providers. Cable wasn't offered in my hometown until I was in the eighth grade and even then, there was only a small sampling of channels to choose from. When the wind blew more than five knotts, we could count on the cable going out for an unspecified period of time. There was no Cartoon Network and the limited variety of cartoons that came on were broadcast only on Saturday mornings. Kids, do you hear what I'm saying? We actually had to wait a full week before we could watch cartoons again!

We didn't have the sampling you have available to you today. I think I've seen every episode of Bugs Bunny and could never quite understand why sometimes the all-too-clever Wiley Coyote could never catch up to the Road Runner or why Daffy Duck would always let Bugs out-fox him during any occasion. Today's cartoon characters, like Johnny Bravo, could have been any of my uncles, and Two Stupid Dogs were any of the neighbors' pets that came into the yard and turned over the trash. That used to really make my day, I'll tell ya.

Although I could go on and on and share many more stories, I won't. I think the generational gaps are pretty clear. To all of the parents out there, we paid our dues and survived, even though we didn't have a lot of the same luxuries and resources our kids have today. I tease my kids all of the time about how easy they have it versus how much more difficult I had it growing up. And although I think I'm getting my story across to them, at least most of the time, I think it turns out, it's being lost in translation. Sometimes I find myself looking back at how I grew up in the 70s and 80s and wondering how I ever survived, intellectually, considering all the resources today's youth have at their disposal. Being able to complete an essay or science project without stepping foot into the local library is well beyond my level of understanding. Kids today are smart, they are resourceful and maybe, just maybe, in the not too distant future, they will have their own stories to share about how hard they had it growing up. But for some reason, I don't think being over their text message limit really equates to a hardship story. 

To the young boys and girls from the Warriors basketball team, this story is for you. Now back to working on those fundamentals!