My daughter and I were in the car the other day, listening to a stand-up special we had downloaded from Netflix.
Before I continue, please take a moment to realize how awesome that is: I pushed a couple of places on my phone screen and an hour-long stand-up special was suddenly playing over my car speakers via, I guess, magic. Or maybe technology. Who really knows.
Anywho, the special was from comedian Hasan Minajh, who is an eloquent and gifted storyteller. His special weaves in both stories of his life as a first-generation American with immigrant parents as well as general stories from life.
One of his bits was about being a child and dreading when the phone would ring, out of fear that your parents would answer it before you. It’s a great bit, and I won’t unfurl it here, as you should listen to him tell it, as it’s his comedy.
That said, I told my daughter, “You will never know the struggle of trying to make a late night phone call with a friend.”
She gave me the look that can only be interpreted as, “You’re old.”
“Look,” I said. “You’ve got it great. You can talk to your friends whenever you want. You can text, call, Snapchat whenever you want, and you can do this in your room.”
Again, Dad is old.
That’s when I decided to lay out the “I walked five miles uphill to school both ways in snow and the occasional lava flow” for my generation.
“You don’t know what it’s like to try and coordinate a late-night call with someone using call-waiting and the movie listings recording!”
It occurred to me that my daughter has no idea what call-waiting is (was?) or that there was a time when you had to call the movie theater and listen to a recording of what was playing when.
That second one hit her especially hard. “That seems awful…” Indeed, child. The struggle was real.
I explained to my daughter that if you wanted to talk to someone late at night, without your parents being woken up, you had a very well coordinated strategy.
Step one: Synchronize your watches. Gotta get on the same time page.
Step two: Designate a time for said phone call. 11:00 was usually a good time, as parents were presumably asleep.
Step three: First person calls the movie theater at 10:59 to listen to the recordings of movie show times. (“Adventures in Babysitting will be playing at…” “Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise will be playing at…”
Step four: Second person calls your home number at 11:00.
Step five: Click over to accept call.
Step six: Victory. And a 30-minute conversation about probably some of the stupidest stuff ever uttered into a phone.
My daughter’s response: “That seems like a lot of work just to talk to your friend.”
A lot of work indeed, child. A lot of work indeed. We did the heavy lifting of the 80s that I can only hope ushered in the era of technology that lets you communicate ad nauseum with your friends into the wee hours of the night without disturbing your parents.
I am sure my daughter has a new appreciation of the struggles of my youth and is now eternally grateful for how easy her life is compared to the hard scrabble world of an 80s kid. Should she, at some point, fail to show that grasp of the divide between our worlds, I will have no choice but to sit her down and have a long talk about what encyclopedias and card catalogs are.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.