When history reflects on this sliver of time, it will no doubt remark on the technological advances we have made. Since I was born, we have developed more ways to communicate with one another than in the previous recorded time of human history. I base this fact on something I just pulled out of thin air, so it may be astonishingly accurate or way off. Either way, let’s go with it.
When I was fresh out of college, I took a job a college textbook editor in Florida. (Today’s career advice: When fresh out of college, do not take a job in which you are required to read college textbooks, especially in manuscript form. It doesn’t matter if you are being paid to do it. For one thing, no one has taken a college textbook manuscript and highlighted the key parts for you. You have to read it, cover to cover.) Anywho, that was where I first was introduced to the Internet. I had AOL, and I would often come home for lunch and hop on the brand new Internet and see what was happening. And, after 45 minutes of downloading a single picture, it would occur to me that I had to go back to work, and that I never did get any update on, most likely, the O.J. trial.
But since that time, we have flown at light speed ahead in developing ways to deliver information. We all carry these little pocket information producers that give us instant updates, constant contact and unbridled entertainment. Our phones, tablets and computers have become the things of science fiction when I was a kid. And while we may recognize their awesomeness in the future, we will most likely neglect the most important thing they have given us. I am afraid that our great-great-grandkids’ history books will miss the key impact of these awesome technological advances – we have mastered waiting.
When I was kid, waiting in line was one of the most dreaded things you could face, along with acne and your older sisters having sleepovers. Kids today will hardly know waiting in line.
Used to be, the only line that offered any solace from the mundane was the grocery line, where at the very least, when you got close to checking out, you could pick up the tabloids and read about celebrity gossip and alien invasions. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter how far back you are stretched in line. You want celebrity news? TMZ, in the palm of your hand, dispensing celebrity news like a mini-gossip fairy. Magical.
When was the last time you were at the DMV? Did it bother you as much as it did 10, 20 years ago? Chances are no, because you were playing Words with Friends or checking news headlines or posting about your disdain for the DMV on Facebook.
And amusement parks? A breeze now. When I went to Disney as a kid, we started waiting in a line and did not get on the ride until what seemed eight years later. These days? Angry Birds is one of the greatest salvations of theme park lines.
Now, I know some folks like to offer up the “Back in my day, we didn’t need a smartphone to keep us busy. We stood in lines like men, and also built the Hoover Dam, Stan Musial and democracy!”
That’s all well and good, but I will tell you this much – if smart phones and portable DVD players had been available when I was a kid, my parents would have sold vital organs to get one for all four of us kids, just so they could have a peaceful drive to visit family.
Sure, folks often complain about “kids today” and their need for constant stimulation and entertainment. To which I say, sure those kids today are reaping the benefits of constant stimulation via the Internet and smart phones and such. And pretty much the only reason I would get put out with it? Because I didn’t have it when I was a kid.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.