The “Good Old Days”

When I was very little, I remember thinking that forty, thirty, and even twenty was old.  I couldn’t imagine being that age.  Surely someone at that advanced of an age would do nothing but sit around and talk about “the good old days.”  My parents, wanting to make sure I understood how easy of a life I had, what with color television and the invention of HBO, made sure to frequently tell me stories of their youth.  These stories mostly involved some version of how they had to walk to school uphill, in the snow, both ways, or some variation of this story that was meant to ensure I realized how tough their lives were in comparison to mine.  I can remember thinking that I would never be that person.  I would never be someone who would tsk, tsk at the poor habits or laziness of those younger than me when I was twenty, thirty, or (gasp!) forty.

I am now forty five years old and have begun to notice certain things that make me pause and shake my head in disgust.  And the thing is, it’s nothing really.  There aren’t any huge infractions or circumstances that make me want to leave this country for another.  There have been, however, countless times where I look at those younger than me and wonder how they’ve managed to survive this far with the stupidity they are demonstrating at the moment.

For example, youth today can’t count change.  For the most part, they are incapable of giving change back to a customer unless it is staring at them from the computer screen.  And if, after you’ve given them a twenty dollar bill find you have that four cents in your pocket?  Well, forget it.  They can’t figure it out.  They’ll look at you with a look between horror and confusion and say, “I already punched in the twenty.”

Then there’s this whole ‘can’t tell time thing.’  Even my own children will look at me with utter confusion on their faces when I answer their “what time is it?” question with, “Quarter of four.”

“What?”  They will cry.  “What do you mean, ‘quarter of.’  How many minutes is that?”

I will groan inwardly and wonder why our schools are not teaching the basic fact that the hours can be divided into four, equal fifteen minute increments.  But alas, our children can only tell time if they are looking at a digital letters on a screen.  It’s sad, really.   I shudder to think what will happen if, forty years from now, the power goes out in the nursing home and I’m relying on these bozos to give me my meds.  I can only imagine the scene as people who’ve never seen a clock with only twelve numbers on it, try to determine what time I am due for my next dosage.

And then, perhaps the most annoying to me is this business of not keeping a register of all your purchases and checks you’ve written.  With the age of on-line banking, most of our youth today feel they don’t need to keep track of, say, an outstanding check.  They simply look at the balance on the screen and assume they have said amount of money in their account.  What they don’t realize is that they’ve written a check for something that has dropped the balance in their account by several hundred dollars.  But these people go about their business as though they have more money than they actually do!.  The kicker is, if you are the unfortunate business to whom they’ve written their check to, you are the one to receive the astonished, angry call from the customer who blames you because their mortgage came out of their account and then you had the audacity to cash their check!

This has happened to me and I’ve actually had to tell grown men that they should keep track of all their checks so this sort of thing doesn’t happen in the future…But they don’t get it.

This past week, I took my fifteen year old to the bank in order to open a checking account for her.  The first thing I did was ask for one of those paper check registers.  I explained to her that while she can look at her balance on-line, the bank may not show the true amount of money she has.  I gave her the example of writing a check to a friend who, instead of cashing it, keeps it in her pocket for several weeks.  The money is, in essence, spent, but the bank doesn’t know about the check because it’s in someone’s pocket.

Imagine how thrilled I was when I saw the lightbulb go off above her head.

Others may not get the whole checking account thing, but my kid?  She’s going to get it.

Oh.  I’ll also teach her to how to tell time.  When my health is failing, I want to make sure someone around me can tell time and ensure I get my meds!

Donna Small is the author of three novels, Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and the forthcoming, Through Rose Colored Glasses.  Her books can be purchased here:!donna-small/c1ewn

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