Posted by: laughs4dads | September 1, 2010

Not As Old as I Used to Be

On the road of life, there are many signs that let you know that you are getting old. For instance, there’s “WARNING: KID ABOUT TO CALL YOU ‘MISTER’” and “STOP! THE NEXT TIME YOU PLAY FULL CONTACT FOOTBALL YOU WILL REQUIRE SURGERY!”

But since 1998, Benoit College in Wisconsin, (motto: “It gets really frigging cold here in winter”) has been helping us feel old by publishing its Mindset List, which, according to its website, is “a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.”

The original intention was, again, according to the website, to remind “faculty to be aware of dated references.” The serendipitous side effect, however, was to make anyone over 30 suicidal.

I still remember the first list, which informed me that the Class of 2002 (entering college in 1998) …

  • Had probably never played Pacman and had never heard of Pong.
  • Could not fathom what it was like not having a TV remote.
  • Did not know of a Tonight Show host other than Jay Leno (they do now, however briefly).
  • Had never seen Larry Bird play.
  • Considered the Vietnam War to be ancient history as much as World War II.
  • Thought that Michael Jackson had always been white.
  • Did not know how to make popcorn other than in a microwave.
  • Had always had cable TV, answering machines, and VCRs.

Of course, it doesn’t exactly make me feel like a spring chicken to know that some of the things that the Class of 2002 “had always had” are now, themselves, virtually obsolete. Or dead.

But I’m happy to report that this year’s list does not make me feel nearly as old as that first one did. For one thing, there is very little technological stuff on there. Computers have always had CD-ROM drives, for instance. Well, okay, even I can barely remember when they didn’t. And they may never have used a phone handset with a coiled cord attached to it. It so happens we still have a few of those which come in handy during a blackout when the others don’t work.

But it seems to me that this year’s list really had to stretch. Like number 59: “By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola’s new Tab Clear, it was gone.” Or number 36: “Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.”

Really? Those are “cultural milestones?”

I’m not sure what it means that Benoit had to work so hard to put together this year’s list. Does it mean that change is slowing down? Are we getting older more slowly? Are more senior citizens going back to college, so that the average age of this year’s freshmen is 47?

Of course, the very fact that most people who are entering college this year were born in the 1990’s is enough to make me want to move to Florida and drive at 15 MPH in the left lane.

But there are two things on the list this year that gave me pause. This first is that, for this year’s college freshmen, Czechoslovakia has never existed. This doesn’t make me feel old as much as it makes me feel stupid; I had forgotten that it doesn’t exist anymore. (Kind of like when you can’t remember if certain celebrities are dead or alive.) There is still the Czech Republic, which I guess I kind of think about as being the same, only easier to spell.

The second thing is really telling: For the Class of 2014, Nirvana is a band that you hear on a classic oldies station. That not only makes me feel old, it would make the Class of 2002 feel old!

Anyway, it’s gratifying to know that perhaps I have more in common with today’s college kids (at least the ones in Wisconsin) than with past generations.

Because when it comes to the signs on the road of life, the ones you really have to watch out for are the ones that point to exits.

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