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The Olive Loaf To Your Wonder Bread

December 29, 2009

So I was reading this magazine article the other day and what impressed me most was that it was proof that the indomitable hopefulness of the press lives on.  As a general rule, the press seems to believe that if you give something a name (think “Brangelina”), it’s yours forever.  This particular article was about the different generations that have emerged since World War II, and by giving the generations names, and promising to feed them and to play with them and to take them for long walks every day even when we have a lot of homework and to clean up after them even when they poop on the carpeting, they seem to feel we readers would somehow buy into letting the press keep them.  They talked about the Baby Boomers and Generation X and Generation Y and Generation Pants-Way-Too-Far-Down-To-Possibly-Cover- Your-Butt-How-Are-You-Not-Embarrassed-To-Be-Seen-In-Public-Like-That? and a slew of others I’m probably too senile to remember.

My own generation falls somewhere between the true Baby Boomers and Generation X, and the media has decreed that we are to be called the Sandwich Generation, primarily because after the most recent economic meltdown, that’s pretty much all there will be left for us to eat.  I’m sorry, I read that wrong;  apparently we are the Sandwich Generation because people are living longer and we are sandwiched between caring for our elderly relatives and raising our children at the same time.

This got me thinking about my own situation.  The kind of generation gap I find myself in is not one of having to care for my parents, who are still very independent as long as you don’t count the occasional phone call from them that starts with, “WHO IS THIS?!  DO YOU KNOW WHY I CALLED YOU?”  Instead, I find myself to be the sandwich spread in what I am officially dubbing the Technology Sandwich Generation.  The people of my generation are caught between the elderly who are generally confused by technology but want to learn just enough to be dangerous and the small alien life forms in our households who seem to be born knowing not only how to download porn onto the TiVo, but also how to keep us from watching it finding it and grounding them for doing such a bad, bad, inappropriate thing.

In my case, it started with the VCR.  For those of you born after, say, the premiere of Melrose Place, there used to be a way to watch your favorite movies and TV shows by recording them just like you do now, except instead of having all of the information compressed into a format that hamsters could play Frisbee with, you recorded the show onto a cassette that looked like and weighed about the same as your average brick.  This was amazing to us because, for the first time, viewers could set a timer on the machine and not even have to be home when the show was on.  Stop snickering, you kids.  And while you’re at it, get off my lawn.

Of course, not everyone understood the technology behind this miracle right away.  I realized there was a problem when my mother started canceling social activities to stay home and watch TV.  At first, I was concerned that she was developing some sort of social phobia.  It wasn’t until I watched her trying to record a movie off the television that I realized what was wrong.

“I can’t leave”, she would whisper anxiously, “If I leave the room, the machine might stop recording.”

The method in which technology is welcomed into my parents’ home has not changed much since then.  The way it works is like this:  A new technology is announced, and my father immediately goes out and buys one or more of whatever it is just so he can say to his friends, “Oh sure, I bought one of those when they first came out.  Of course, they don’t make ’em like that anymore…”  My father then magnanimously bestows one of said technological wonders on my mother, who promptly “forgets” where she put it, mainly so she doesn’t have to learn how to use it.  This triggers the paternal Discussion About Why Your Mother Doesn’t Appreciate How I’m Trying To Make Her Life Better, followed immediately by the maternal I Stopped Listening To Him Ages Ago Because I Also Refuse To Wear My Hearing Aids Rebuttal.  While all of this is going on, my children have re-wired all of the TVs in the house to receive free HBO (Ha ha!  Just kidding, HBO.  Please don’t arrest me.)

The latest was the new cellphone.  Phone conversations with my mother all have the same basic arc, starting with a formal introduction as if she was a telemarketer, transitioning smoothly into the Guilt Portion and then plunging rapidly into Confusion.

Mom: Hello, dear.  This is your mother speaking.

Me: Hi Mom.  How are you?

Mom: Well, I just hope you weren’t worried about me.

Me:  Why would I have been worried?  Is everything OK?

Mom: When you didn’t hear from me for a few days.

Me (now legitimately concerned): What happened?  Is Dad OK?

Mom: Oh yes.  My cell phone died, so your father bought me a new one.  It’s so complicated.  I don’t know what any of the buttons do.

Me: Well, what kind of phone is it?

Mom:  You know.  The same as my refrigerator.

I consider this a successful phone call because, despite the confusion, I’ve already ascertained a few key pieces of information: Nobody in my immediate family has died, my mother has a new cell phone that appears to resemble her refrigerator, and odds are good that my mother and father are not currently talking to one another, which actually gives me time to help my mother.  At the same time,  I also now have a lifetime, free subscription to Netflix, thanks to my kids.

While I’m confirming with my mother that she’s not actually trying to make phone calls using her refrigerator, I make a mental note to speak to my kids about hijacking content off the internet;  later on, I change my mind.  They could be doing a lot worse.  They could be smoking.  Or pulling an Ivana Trump on an airplane.  Or robbing the taxpayers of their life-savings.  Something truly obnoxious.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 12:35 PM

    If I am to be a part of the “Sandwich Generation”, I’ll make mine ham on wry.

  2. Rich Fuchs permalink
    December 30, 2009 4:42 PM

    indomitable?…You sent me running to with that little pearl…thanks for contributing to my cultural-educational advancement today.
    Oh…and I must say…funny…very funny…

  3. Betsy permalink
    December 29, 2009 3:07 PM

    Snortleful, as usual. Do your parents know how to get to your blog? 😉

    • Deb permalink*
      December 29, 2009 5:58 PM

      They actually do, Betsy. I’m now officially out of the will 😉

  4. chrsbee permalink
    December 29, 2009 12:09 PM

    Great blog Deb. But how can we be the sandwich generation if we’re
    not supposed to eat carbs?!

  5. Kevin permalink
    December 29, 2009 1:40 AM

    You make a niiiice sammich. A Niiice sammich.
    Mine goes another step further. Colleen’s (GF of 11 years) family is half a generation off of mine, and she has had the mad skillz technologically speaking for years. My mother is closer to her grandmother’s age than her parents . . . So I am sandwiched between Mom, Colleen and my kids.
    Help Me, Mr. Wizard!

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