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All They Are is Dust in the Wind

Point Blank Perspective is a blog addressing common places, events, and experiences that we encounter in life.  These are described in a column-style with a blunt and one hundred percent upfront attitude. 

I have been one of the few Millennial recipients of an experience demanding the ability to read a map.  Yes, the archaic piece of topographical and highway-riddled paper that inevitably returns to its place in the glove box folded in a different way than how it emerged from the same place.  

Due to inconsistent internet connection that one encounters while driving across the country, I was in charge of navigating from California to Georgia by way of one of these road maps we so carefully tiptoe around as if it were a 98 year old napping in the corner, on the verge of meeting his maker–”no one tell him he’s almost done, let’s just leave him there, turn on Jeopardy, he won’t bother anyone,”.  

Before I continue, Google Maps must allow me to tell it how ardently I admire and love it.  Technology has created its own vitality in this world just like a pushy know-it-all at a spelling bee.  It’s here to stay now, so you might as well accept it. Eventually I had to come around to technology and these days it’s almost impossible to function without it.  It’s sad but true, so the subject doesn’t deserve dwelling on.

Google Maps is convenient and I use it more frequently than I’ll ever admit but there’s something far too shocking about meeting someone that can read a map.  It’s a skill that we have lost over time. A tangible form of directions, one that does demand a little brain power, true, has become an archeological discovery.  “You still have one of these?!” we exclaim as we withdraw a road atlas from the deep depths of our friend’s console, after pushing old napkins and Tic Tacs that have melted to the container aside, in search of our portable cell phone charger.

Which brings me to my next lost skill of the empowered and yet seriously deprived generation I belong to: using a landline.  I had a startling moment of clarity the other day while I was at work and had to make a call using the landline provided by my superior.  The phone felt awkward in my hands and my fingers danced around on the plastic handle, trying to find a comfortable place. I genuinely couldn’t remember the last time I’d used a landline.  Suddenly all of those pretend scenarios I’d acted out as a little girl–I was a busy secretary with nails longer than a middle aged woman’s shorts and had so many phone calls coming through on my red Fisher-Price telephone that I was constantly placing people on hold with a no-patience Jersey accent I’d unreasonably adopted growing up in California–seemed irrelevant.  They had prepared me for a life of holding square cell phones that didn’t demand a certain grip around their surfaces. In fact, Past ‘me’, dressed up in my mother’s all important business skirt from 1987 would have no doubt been disappointed in present ‘me’, fumbling around with the same shaped landline I’d dutifully practiced with.

But the saddest part of all about this lost art of learning to maneuver with a landline cord tangled around you, is that it has also cut off so many of my peers, and those younger than me, from learning how to make a phone call.  This once worshiped custom, one that we saw being prioritized by expectant teenage girls a week before the big dance or the days following a first date, has also been swept into the same corner with the dying man watching Jeopardy.  Arguments between siblings over abusing phone time privileges seem ridiculous now. The ceremony of receiving your own phone in your bedroom is one that we can now compare to the totem ceremony witnessed in Brother Bear, though the historical context was surely a little skewed, the idea still stands.  Does anyone remember the whimsical and impressive shapes that phones used to come in? Who didn’t envy DJ Tanner’s lip-shaped phone or Elle Woods’ furry landline that we all secretly wanted to wear as a slipper? Making a phone call is an inconvenience now, and it’s one that I’ve observed has plagued those outside my own generation as well as my own, those that used to sprint to the phone when it rang–I’m talking to you, 25-40 crowd.  ‘Human interaction? Hear your voice? Jeez, might as well make me write a letter with a quill you made from the turkey you shot for dinner while you’re at it.’ are some responses that I might hear in regard to the prospect of calling someone instead of texting.

It seems that communication, in any way, shape or form, is a hassle now.  Even some of the most important written forms–resumes, cover letters, letters in general (come on, don’t you miss getting mail besides bills?)–are not valued among many.  Where does that leave more trivial and unnecessary but considerate communication forms such as ‘Thank you’ notes? I haven’t written a formal ‘Thank You’ note since I was about eight years old and my mother handed me a stack of dusty cards she’d dug out of a back closet somewhere and informed me that we weren’t having lunch until I wrote a ‘Thank You’ card to everyone that had sent me something for my birthday.  ’Yes,’ she said, ‘even Grandma,’ who had sent me a “You’re Five!” card for the last three years. I can confidently assert that very few people my age suffered through a similar experience and therefore never learned such a skill. If they did, they’ve probably shelved it along with learning how to rewind a VHS. I wouldn’t even know where to buy ‘Thank You’ cards anymore.  It might require ensuring the security of the wheels on the covered wagon for a trip ‘into town’ to the Mercantile.  Who knows?

Perhaps the 98 year old dying in the corner would know, though we won’t ask him.  He just might talk our ears off with a story about the really important things in life.  You know, a boring story from his youth.

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