Technology advancements are now becoming punch lines for my slightly older generation colleagues as we veterans stand aside to perpetuate instant gratification with stronger signals of virtuality with the next generation. We are unwittingly allowing technology to take over the lives of our offspring. We do our best to make the occasional relevant comment at the dinner table, though sadly even our most insightful technical comments, are often ignored because most the young diners are using their phone to take pictures of the over baked potato to share on Twitter. Today’s commentary however does contain an encouraging message of hope.
This young over-informed millennial generation, clings to their cell phones like grandma clung to her knitting needles. Of course the difference is after a few days with grandma, I gained a sweater I would never wear, where as the children simply accumulate 3,000 texts they will never remember. The striking commonality to these examples is that both Grandma and the children had very sore thumbs as a reminder of the accomplishment.
As I continue to sound like my out of touch parents, allow me to press on. This summer, as with most summers, my wife and I without any consultation with the teenaged members of the household committed to a week at the cottage. Yes the people who pay the bills flexed their position of power with one concession. Our households longstanding tradition for a week at a rented cottage, was to allow each kid to bring a friend, to ensure the kids did not have to spend too much time talking to the old people.
I will demonstrate the very trendy business term “transparency” to show how I apply my business acumen to my family life. To demonstrate full disclosure to the potential vacation participants, I shared the unwelcome news that this primitive cottage had no WiFi connection. I explained that because of these things we call trees, that any hope of communicating with the real world was not going to occur for seven days of their lives. The reaction from the younger ones was similar to the reaction of those Apollo 13 astronauts displayed, when ground control informed the crew there might not be any oxygen available in their spaceship for their trip home. On the long drive up north I couldn’t resist humming those wise words from the theme of Gilligan’s Island “No Cable there, No satellite, Not a single luxury, Like Robison Crusoe, As primitive as can be.”
After arriving to this oasis in the wilderness we placed the kids and their friends in a decompression chamber for hours to help them to adjust to their new environment. Clearly this was an important requirement as the offspring and their delegated friends seemed to demonstrate a very exploratory attitude to the new surroundings. They found cliffs to dive off, the found an old rowboat to fish in and we barely saw the young adults until I lit the barbeque for our first meal. With plenty of sunshine still available the badly burnt tube steaks were followed by an hour of tubing. Like untrained synchronized swimmers, each paired rider was violently dismissed from the tube with jolting precision. Because some of the real men in the boat still laugh at the Three Stooges, we couldn’t help ourselves from snorting as we observed each rider’s demonstration of slapstick comedy.
As the colourful summer sun slowly disappeared behind our little lake the adults faced a new dilemma… Now What? Well desperate times called for desperate measures. In this case, we dusted off the board games whose boxes were very tattered from over usage by a previous generation. That dusting led to wonderful evenings of playing Monopoly, Sorry and Apples to Apples. In a remarkable reversal of role, the children taught the adults new card games like President and Spoons. Each game went for hours and each game was app free.
On the third evening of our stay, a storm was approaching our antique place. As we watched foreboding clouds move over our lake, it was clear a lightening and thunder show was imminent. These teenagers decided to invent a new game I will simply call, “Who can stay outside the longest in the rain.” To my knowledge this game has not been marketed to the masses, though getting a patent for the explanation might prove frustrating. Eight kids with great determination sat out on the cottage deck getting drenched as this game with improvised rules transpired. After about ten minutes one of the young adults, lets call her the sensible one, ran back into the cottage. The other seven had passed the point of drenching so now it was simply a game of endurance. My wife and I just marveled at the stubbornness and the competitive spirit of these certifiable teenagers. One by one a soaking wet defeated teen ran into the cottage until the winner was declared.
This night ended like every night as the adults went to bed while the teenagers searched for new distractions to keep them awake. One of the younger ones had packed every episode of the CSI TV series in her duffle bag. With her oversized laptop, they gathered around the screen with varying degrees of optimal viewing and watched episode after episode. It struck me that there must be a rite of passage as the younger generation inspects the TV shows of the previous one. I have vivid memories of watching reruns of the Honeymooners, as my parents smiled with approval. Of course technology in the previous century could not offer the immediacy of binge watching, so we had to wait a whole week to see the next episode. As these kids meticulously watched every episode of CSI, my wife and I fell asleep to the surprising symphony of young people talking. Each morning we would gently maneuver around eight young, tired bodies in differing positions of sleeping comfort on the crowded living room floor of the cottage.
Another surprising ritual occurred after each night after my varying degrees of success on an unfamiliar barbeque. One pair of the teenagers would insist on doing the dishes each night to allow the married couples to consume much more alcohol than we had anticipated. That evening tradition contributed to a longer explanation of the new card games introduced at night. Though not been studied by medical researchers, I am convinced that there is a direct correlation between the quantity of alcohol ingested and the ability to learn new things.
Well like that cliché says, all good things must come to an end. The last day of our vacation was dominated with cleaning, packing and a little longing for a return to civilization. The young adults transformed from thriving pioneers to a more natural state of people with an uncontrollable desire to get back to the real world of unlimited access to virtual connectivity.
But here’s the thing. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence). I have left out the most remarkable part of this week away with that new techno dependent generation. During those seven WiFi less days in July, the kids laughed more than they had all year. They were more active than they had been in a while and every conversation, and there were many, were never assisted with a mechanical device. On the very long drive home the natural evolution occurred as WiFi connectivity improved from sporadic to regular. Cellphone texting slowly replaced back seat conversation with all the very tired children.
Then something surprising and remarkable occurred. The same question was asked by every kid, as they begrudgingly helped unpack the very tired looking vehicle in the driveway. In a tone that I must say sounded a lot like begging, each of the offspring simply asked to their slightly bearded patriarch , “Dad can we please do this again next year?”
Cue the Blong: This song pretty well wrote itself as I watch the world of technology pass me by.