My birthday quickly approaches, being a Scorpio and all. I’ll be 38. Now 38 doesn’t seem like that high of a number until you think that 38 is knocking on the door of 40.
It is then that I start to feel old. As if I needed confirmation of my ripe old age, I had my first hot flash during a NaNoWriMo write in. How absolutely embarrassing. My face was blood red and I was fanning myself like I would pass the hell out if I didn’t cool down my body in record time. The woman sitting across from me was much older and just gave me the “poor dear” look. I wanted to rip her throat out. I don’t know why. I’m not a violent person but her confirmation that I was going through what I was going through made me very unhappy.
But I told myself, “Self, you’re not that old.”
Self laughed at me. “Yes you are.”
Then I looked at my children, one 18 and one about to be 14. The 14 year old constantly whines that he’s bored. Bored! Can you imagine? When I was a kid, we didn’t have cell phones. No one did except the military and they were about the size of a 1979 Pontiac Bonneville. Oh Christ, I just referenced 1979. I digress.
When you left the house, you simply missed the call. Yep. We weren’t in touch with one another 24/7. When you wanted to talk to a friend, you rode your damned bike to their house (rain, snow, it didn’t matter.) We talked face to face. We made eye contact. When we hung out we listened to music, talked about stuff, watched a movie. We didn’t sit for hours and play video games together. I mean really, how do you kids even know you like each other when you’re sitting next to one another for hours doing something that does not require eye contact?
Speaking of watching something. When I was your age, I was the damned remote. When Dad wanted the channel changed, I got my lazy ass up off the couch or floor and stood at the TV turning the dial until he told me to stop. And if I was really lucky, I got to stand outside (rain, snow, wind, it didn’t matter) to turn the enormous fucking antenna back and forth to that sweet spot where there was no snow on the channel. Dad would scream so I could hear him outside. “Go back! Go back! Yep, right there. No, go back. Toward Chicago. Turn it toward Chicago!”
We had about 10 channels on a good day.
Riding in the car was a hoot. We didn’t have car seats or automatic seat belts. Mom threw your ass in the back seat and you held on. If you were unfortunate enough to call “shot gun” and sat in the front, you would get mom’s arm in front of your chest if she had to stop too fast. If you were really lucky, you didn’t slam your forehead on the dashboard. Cause screw seatbelts. Our cars were older. They didn’t have them most of the times and when they did, they’d cross over the bench seat in the front.
No we didn’t walk uphill both ways in waist deep snow to school. We did stand out in whatever weather there was (and in Northwest Indiana, winters are a bitch,) to wait for the bus. Once it arrived, I had the pleasure of riding to one school to switch buses to go to my actual school. Total ride time: about an hour. Yep, an hour on a stinky bus with other stinky little shit heads. It was a blast.
Getting in trouble in school meant getting my ass kicked at home. (Not abuse, actual discipline.) CPS wasn’t going to come running to your door for a spanking. As a matter of fact, my friend’s parents could have kicked my ass if I were disrespectful and no one would have done a thing about it.
When I wanted to heat up food, there wasn’t a microwave. I stood over the stove and reheated what I wanted. There was no dishwasher. I WAS the dishwasher.
There was no Caller ID. We didn’t know who was calling, but you’d better answer by the third ring!
We didn’t have the internet. When you had to do a paper for school, you had to sit your scrawny little ass at the library and use the card catalog to find the material you needed. Papers were handwritten. The first keyboard I used was attached to an actual typewriter…you know, the old thing with the inky ribbon and if you were really lucky, it had correction tape built in. It was loud. It was obnoxious, but it was better than writing things out by hand.
When I wanted money, I got a job. My first job was picking strawberries. But since I was just a kid on a minors crew, we got to pick berries after the migrant workers. When you get paid by the pound, this means working all damned week for about $20. So I stepped it up and detassled corn. Oh hell, that was a total riot. Imagine, if you will, having thousands of tiny paper cuts all over your arms, hands and face. Then imagine the pleasure of your salty sweat stinging in each cut.
I drove my moped to that job. Dad gave me a loan and each check went to gas, then to him until it was paid off. So basically, I suffered thousands of little cuts, sore hands, working in the down-pouring rain of Satan’s fucking heat to pay for a moped. But the moped was paid off by the time I had my third job, waiting tables in a hole in the wall tiny truck stop. The boss was a drunk Greek guy. The cooks were non-English speaking Mexicans. It was awesome. No one knew what the other was saying. Until one day, the new girl started and she spoke fluent Spanish. All I can say was that those cooks were perverted assholes, and they quit talking shit about my rear after she busted them publicly. It’s a sad state of affairs when the lonely truckers are the most well behaved in the bunch.
But there wasn’t a fancy Point of Sale system. There was a calculator and an old cash register with a wooden drawer that weighed about 20 lbs. The day I quit was the day the drunk Greek came out screaming at me in his native tongue. The restaurant was packed and I was the only waitress on staff. It took a customer to translate for me. I was being accused of stealing. $1. Yep one fucking dollar and this dude was going ape-shit on me in front of an entire restaurant full of hungry customers. I walked over to the big ass register and pulled the drawer to count it myself. That’s when a wadded up $1 bill fell on the floor that had gotten stuck behind said wood drawer. The money wasn’t missing. But the drunk proceeded to call me a “white cunt.” So I threw my order pad at him and walked away from Kathy’s Kitchen forever.
I finally had my license and a car so, I went to go work for two Italian broads down the road. It was a bigger truck stop and they didn’t abuse their staff. I worked there until I went off to college. Still, hours on my feet, speed (it was legal back then, sold over the counter) to keep me going because third shift didn’t like to come in on time. So there were days I wouldn’t get home until 1-2 a.m. then up at 6 to get ready for school. That was my life as a kid. I managed. I damaged my heart with all of the Ephadrine, but I managed.
That was decades ago now. Gas was less than a dollar. I drove old vehicles that maybe squeaked out 10 miles to the gallon.
Parents and kids were smarter back then. We had to be. Dad took away my keys, so my cousin taught me how to hot wire my car. Dad figured out I’d installed a toggle switch so for the next grounding, he pulled my plug wires. SMARTER PARENTS. To this very day, I can hotwire a pre-80s car, thanks to my cousin, Chuck. Hey, don’t judge. If the zombie apocalypse happens, I “got me some skillz.”
Dad made me change my own oil. He taught me how to change a tire. I learned a lot because I was made to. I wasn’t “busy” with Facebook. I wasn’t distracted with text messages. I wasn’t wrapped in bubble wrap. There was lead paint, CFCs, and riding bikes with no helmets and no seat belt laws.
The world around me has changed. I’ve changed with it. But damn. At 38 I feel old. I cannot imagine how the retirees feel.