Friday, September 19, 2014

Older Than Salad

I once knew a man who, when asked how old he was, would reply, "Older than salad."  When I asked him what he meant, he said he could remember the days when a person could sit down at a restaurant and not be able to order a salad.  "There was no such thing as a salad."

I have no way of knowing if this is true, since salad has always been available to me wherever I have eaten, and it is hard to imagine that something as simple as a salad was once not available to restaurant customers.  But, then again, it is hard to imagine a day that once existed in which people did not have cell phones or desk top computers; a day when people did not have DVD players or VCR's;  a day when people actually had to get off the couch to change the channel on the television; a day when there were only three television stations; a day when people had to climb onto their roof tops to adjust their television antenna; a day when people did not have television!

My grandmother was almost 102 when she died.  When she was born, there were no commercial airplanes, and cars were scarce. Radio was still in its infancy.  Think of it.  All of the things that we take for granted and even think of as old fashioned did not exist just two generations removed from my birth.

We live in an age when things seem to have a very short life span.  Not long ago, the powers that be decided that Winkler Dorm at Appalachian State University was too expensive to renovate and should be torn down. I was a student at ASU when Winkler Dorm was built in 1974.  I can now say that I have outlived a dorm.

The computer that I am using to write this is five years old.  In computer years, it is a dinosaur.  Smart phones change and evolve at an ever quickening pace as do Ipads and Ipods.  It is now possible to go to the beach and carry a thousand books and a thousand albums with you in a bag no larger than a shaving kit.  We have information about almost any subject at our fingertips without having to leave our chair.  I can correspond with someone who lives across the world from me instantly.

Children being born today will one day look upon this age in which I am now living as the ancient of days.  And when one of those children asks me what it was like, I will tell them, "It was wonderful.  It was a time of great discoveries; a time of great challenge.  A time of unusual things."  I will tell them that "I once knew a man who said he was older than salad."

And they will ask, "What was salad?" 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

And the Boys Stayed Home

Years ago, when our children were children, my wife Melanie was a Girl Scout leader for my daughter's Girl Scout troop when they were planning to go to Savannah, the Mecca for all Girl Scouts.  Needless to say, my daughter, Erin, and my wife, Melanie, were excited.  They were leaving on a Saturday and not returning until the following Tuesday evening.  During this time they were going to visit the Juliette Low House, take a haunted carriage ride, and tour the riverfront.

I was taking Monday off from work so I could stay home with my son, Jeremy.   For some reason, Jeremy did not find this as exciting as a trip to Savannah and was pleading to be taken along.  I began to feel a little useless, so I decided to fight back.

"You don't want to go with them," I told him.  But he slowly shook his head up and down as he looked at me with sad, rejected 5 year old eyes filled with tears.

"No" I said.  "If you go, you will miss out on the big plans that I made for us."

"What plans?" he asked.

"Well, on Saturday I thought we would go to a movie and order pizza, have some root beer, some chips and dip, and make some popcorn."

His eyes lit up.  His mother frowned.

But I continued.  "Then, we will set up the tent in the backyard and camp out on Sunday night.  We will build a campfire, and we'll cook supper over the fire."

"What's for supper?" he asked.

"Hamburgers."

"With cheese on them?"

"Yes, with cheese on them." I answered.

"What about Monday?"

"Well, I have some yard work to do..."

Jeremy's face fell.

"But after that we are going to go swimming and go to the park."

"The Mint Hill park?"

"Yes, the Mint Hill park."

"And Tuesday?"

"Tuesday is the best day of all.  We are going to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go out for breakfast, then we are going to go to my office and do some office work."

He looked skeptical.  "Can I sit at your desk?"

"Sure, and while I am in a meeting you are going to get to sit at a table in Robin's office and she will have all kinds of things for you to do.  She will probably let you staple some papers."

"And use some markers?"

"Yes, especially the markers."

"But, I still want to go to Savannah!"

I felt the heat of frustration building.  I had given it my best shot.

"Well, you are not going." I said.

"Why?"

"Because you are not a Girl Scout."

"Oh," he said, the light coming into his eyes.  "O.K.  I will stay with you."

He ran to Erin's room and shouted, "On Saturday we are going to have chips and dip and pizza and watch a movie and have popcorn and you're not!"

Melanie looked at me with one of those looks.

I turned and walked down the stairs.