Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Frank Watson
Freelance Columnist 

Generation Gap

 

October 31, 2019



My kids caught me reading a book. An actual book, printed with ink on real paper. I was lectured about my abuse of the planet and was told how many trees went into making paper. Paper that would line the bottom of our bird cage and eventually be discarded. I argued that I own books I have treasured for many years. They ignored my nostalgic argument and went on to demonstrate how easy it is to dial up an electronic copy of whatever I wanted to read. Instead of a traditional newspaper, my kids get an abbreviated version of the daily news on their computer tablets. I just can’t bring myself to do that. I need something tangible I can feel. Headlines with pages I can turn. What will we line the birdcage with when we go totally electronic? I am condemned as a dinosaur.

At dinner, I was criticized for my main dish of red meat. Did I know what that would do to my arteries? Did I even care about the level of my good cholesterol? I didn’t know that cholesterol came in both good and bad varieties. Not knowing how to reply, I sat there as one of my children offered to show me studies promoting the health advantages of an all vegetarian diet. I was informed that burgers can now be made entirely of plants. These veggie patties can be made to look and taste like real beef. They can also make chicken nuggets out of soybeans and hot dogs out of barley. I am not impressed. Why go to all the trouble to make vegetables look and taste like something they are not? Why not eat processed broccoli wafers without pretending they are meat?

One of my children pulled a phone out of his back pocket and offered to show me how to record and analyze my daily food intake. He even offered to show me how to upgrade my phone so I could store data on the cloud. I knew that “cloud” must be some kind of code word, but I had no idea what it meant. I explained that phone upgrades would confuse me. The last upgrade I had to my phone was to convert to direct dial. Before that, I turned the crank and told the operator who I wanted to talk to. Now I have to know the number before I can place a call. I’m still not sure how that was an improvement. Computers have taken over. One of my assignments in the Air Force involved computerizing the entire nuclear war plan. We used a central processor about the size of a gymnasium. That machine had a mere fraction of the capacity of one of our modern cell phones. With one touch on the screen you check the flight schedule to Singapore or find out what is showing at the movies in Dallas. Touch another part of the screen, and you can get maps and detailed directions to the theater. That would be really cool if I knew how to operate it. My youngest doesn’t even have to touch his phone. He talks to it, calls it by name, and it answers back. He can carry on a conversation without including another human being.

As I passed the peas and potatoes, one of my grandchildren looked at the vegetables with some concern and asked if they were raised organically. I said, “I grew them myself”. My grandchild persisted in asking if I used organic methods. I parried the question and tried to explain that world’s growing population made it impossible to stave off world hunger without chemicals. I added that organic farming required animal waste for fertilizer. If we need to use chicken manure to grow organic peas, what do we do with all those chickens? There was a bit of silence before another grandchild said something about “free range”. She said that “free range” chickens are happier than cage raised, so they taste better. I asked how she came across this tidbit of wisdom. She simply replied, “Everyone knows that”, and refused to discuss it any further.

After I finished my steak and declined a dessert of frozen yogurt with sliced kiwi, I put on my coon skin fur hat and retired to the porch to read my newspaper. I wonder just how much modern innovations have improved my quality of life.

(Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and a long time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free lance columnist for over 18 years.)

 
 

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