If you’ve been following this blog for even a few days, you know that my birthday was this past Sunday. I continually attempt to trick myself into believing that I’m younger than I actually am. I do this by hanging out with a group of friends who are, on average, 10 years younger than me. I do this by doing ridiculous things like staying up past 10:00 on a school night… or any night. But, as my driver’s license is so fond of reminding me, I’m 36 now. And there are just certain things that I must accept about myself and my aging, decrepit mind and body. These items go beyond the Murtaugh List. These aren’t items that I’m getting too old for. They’re items that remind me that I am, in fact, just old.
1. I remember (im)patiently waiting as the modem dialed into America Online so I could access the internet.
And it was loud. There was no such thing as quickly sneaking onto the internet in the middle of the night to Google something just because you couldn’t sleep until you found out what actor played the stagecoach driver that died 2 minutes after he was introduced in the movie version of Maverick. That modem would wake everyone in the house, y’all. And then Dad would come out at 2am and whisper, with authority, “What are you doing?!” And did he buy my explanation of trying to find out who played the stagecoach driver? No. Because this was before IMDB was a thing. You just had to accept that, in this life, you were not meant to know the entire cast for a movie. You had to be happy with the principle actors who were important enough to make it onto the VHS box.
2. I remember the incredible feeling of euphoria when I heard the words, “You’ve got mail!”
Kids, in the 1990s, email was still catching on. Today, I have four different email addresses, all connected by Gmail. Back in the day, I had one email address which was directly connected to my AOL screen name. And people didn’t just send an email to find out small pieces of information. That’s what telephones were for. And I do mean telephones… land lines… we weren’t texting yet. So if you got an email, it’s because someone took the time to sit down and log onto America Online (which probably took 20 minutes in and of itself) and compose a well crafted literary masterpiece. Like I said, it was before text, so people were still actually spelling things out. Sure, you had your young upstarts throwing out abbreviations like “LOL” or “BRB” while communicating through AOL’s Instant Messenger. But it was a rare thing to see an indecipherable email with incorrect punctuation.
3. I remember the hassle of memorizing phone numbers.
Y’all, phone books used to be a thing. And they were enormous. They weighed about 30 pounds and probably contained a dozen trees’ worth of paper. So looking up someone’s phone number was kind of a pain. I mean, it was a real work out. You had to warm up before you just picked up the phone book. If you didn’t, you could seriously injure yourself. And what teenager wants to go to school with lower back pain? You’d walk to your locker slightly hunched over, trying to ignore the stares and whispers of your peers. “He didn’t stretch before he went for the phone book, I bet.” So you didn’t want to go to the phone book every time you needed a number. You memorized them. And when you wanted to call people, you picked up the phone and dialed those seven little digits. You didn’t just scroll through your contacts and tap on your girlfriend’s selfie and connect automatically. You had to punch in the actual numbers. And when I was real young, like five or younger, I had to deal with the rotary phone. If you’re not sure what one is, I’m pretty sure there’s one in the Smithsonian.
4. I’ve lived long enough to catch up to Marty McFly and Doc Brown since they left for the future.
They climbed into that DeLorean in 1985 and arrived in 2015. That time has come and gone, kids. And where are our hoverboards? Not the ones that were all the rage last Christmas that randomly catch fire. I’m talking about the real hoverboards that are basically skateboards without wheels. I’m not saying the advances we’ve made in technology have not been impressive. The fact that we’re not tethered to the house whenever we want to make a phone call is pretty great. That we don’t have to lug around an 800-pound phone book is even better. Oh, and we don’t have to deal with competing commercials telling us whose long distance service is better. Because everyone with a cell phone has long distance service. Although, I guess the cellular network debate is the new long distance competition.
5. I’ve been legally capable of operating a motor vehicle for more than half my life.
I realize now that I turned 16 a long time ago. 20 years to be exact. And I’ve been successfully driving for that length of time. Sure, there have been a couple of hiccups here and there. But, statistically speaking, my driving record is a pretty good one.
6. I remember what it was like to pay less than a dollar per gallon for gasoline.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t much lower than a dollar and it wasn’t for long after I got my license. But I know there were a number of times when I filled up for 90-some cents per gallon. Much different from today’s world when we often feel that $2.00 is cheap for gas. I’m fairly pleased that gas around these parts is down to $1.50ish right now, but I don’t expect that to last. And I certainly don’t expect to ever pay less than a dollar a gallon again in my lifetime.
7. I’ve been a part of the American workforce full-time for just as long as I was a part of the American public school system.
Including kindergarten, I was a part of the public schools for 13 years before I walked across the Civic Center stage and received my diploma. I’ve been working, basically without interruption, since I graduated from college 13 years ago. That second number will only increase, as I don’t see retirement happening any time soon. That first number? Well, it’ll always be 13 years.
8. When I get down on my knees, they hurt for about a week afterward.
This is especially difficult in my current career in which I work closely with small children. I’m often required to get down on their level, which often results in pain. I’m not saying I have bad knees or am a candidate for knee replacement surgery. But I feel like it’s a glimpse into my future when I’m walking down the sidewalk and then just break a hip.
9. My trademark embarrassing laugh takes longer to recover from each time I do it.
You probably don’t understand the laugh I’m talking about, unless you know me in real life from either church or college. It’s a loud, long, obnoxious, fake laugh. It usually embarrasses the people around me. So much so that there have been some who have threatened to never be seen in public with me again. These are empty threats. Because I’m awesome. But that loud, long, obnoxious, fake laugh tends to take a lot out of me these days. Once upon a time, I could let it go for several minutes before I cut it off. Now, I can go 15 seconds and I’m a little light headed.
10. I remember M&Ms before they had blue ones. And before the brought back the reds.
That’s right. Did you know there was a time when there were no red or blue M&Ms? When I was a kid there was yellow, green, orange, dark brown, and light brown. I’m told that, prior to my birth, there was an urban legend that spread about the red ones causing cancer. I’ve never actually researched this, so I don’t know that it’s true at all. But whether it was true or not, the people at the M factory stopped making the red ones to save face. Then they brought back a safer red M. In my teenage years, they got rid of the light brown and brought in blue. That was kind of fun because they let America vote on what new color they should introduce. I voted for blue. Democracy at its finest.
BONUS: I know what it means to “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”