Years ago, when I was a teenager, I was driving back from Washington, DC, coming down I-95, and I saw something utterly amazing: Other cars had pulled over to the side of the interstate and everyone had gotten out and they were standing there looking up into the sky.
As I drove, I passed under several bridges and each one was lined with hundreds of people who were all staring up into the sky transfixed as well. I looked around and noticed that I was the only car on I-95 moving in either direction.
It was like in those science fiction movies when the world is coming to an end because of asteroids or aliens or whatever, and the main character in the movie is only now finding out about it because everyone around him is at a standstill gawking at something incredible.
Extremely curious and very worried about the impending apocalypse, I pulled over and got out of my car. I was going to ask someone what in the world was going on, but, before I could, I looked up in the sky and, to my utter amazement, right over my head, was …
OK, we’ll get back to that in a moment, but in order to get there, we need to talk about something else first – today’s teenagers and a few things I’ve noticed about them through my astute skills of observation.
I don’t have any kids that I know about but I do have nieces and nephews and I have friends who have teenagers. Those teens are growing up with every imaginable convenience in the world, yet a lot of the time they are rebellious or angry or are moping around discontent, and I constantly want to shake them and give them my speech: “You have no idea how good you have it! You are spoiled rotten to the core and don’t appreciate it! If you knew how hard your parents had it when they were your age, you would never, ever even think about complaining to them about your life. Instead, you would have a wild amount of sympathy for your parents.”
Take that $1,000 iPhone your parents just bought you and that you shattered to bits on day two. Do you know what we would have given to have had something like that when we were your age? Do you know how we would have treated it? We would have treated it like it was a gift from God Almighty that angels had delivered to us personally on a golden platter.
Listen, you guys may not know it but you have been completely spoiled rotten by technology and modern conveniences. Lately, I’ve been trying to remember all I could about the 1970s and, let me tell you, it is not pretty. Don’t complain about how your phone is a hand-me-down. Think about what your parent’s cellphone was like in the ’70s, which your parents didn’t have because they didn’t have a million dollars to buy one.
The first handheld cellular phone call ever made in public was made by Martin Cooper of Motorola on Tuesday, April 3, 1973 from Sixth Avenue in New York. The phone weighed 2.5 pounds and was about the size of a loaf of bread.
Think for a second about how you charge your phone for 30 minutes and get 10 hours of battery life out of it. Well, that first 1973 cell phone? You – no joke – charged it for 10 hours and then you got 30 minutes of battery life out of it.
Today you have your choice of thousands of highly immersive high-resolution VR video games. In the ’70s, if your family was really well off, and if you could convince your parents to spend the money, you got one single video game, Pong, a fuzzy little game with a fuzzy little ball in 4-bit graphics or whatever. “Now the ball is moving left, now it is moving right. Look, it hit the paddle so now it is moving to the right again! How exciting!”
And for teenagers today, if they want to know something, they can just call out any question in the world into thin air and they will hear the answer back.
Back then, if you had a question you couldn’t answer – “Who won the World Series in 1942?” or “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” – well, too bad. You could just wonder forever thank you very much.
And listen to this: In the ’70s, we didn’t even have bank ATM’s or McDonald’s drive thrus. Drive thru windows we didn’t have! The first McDonald’s drive thru opened for business on Friday, Jan. 24 in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Arizona, and it wasn’t until years after that that we got them in Greensboro.
So, in other words, in the early ’70s when your parents were your age, if they wanted some Chicken McNuggets, they had to (1) park the car, (2) open the door and get out, (3) lock the car (by hand), (4) walk inside McDonald’s, (5) stand in line, (6) order face to face and (7) hear the cashier say, “The wait time on that order will be 10 years because Chicken McNuggets won’t be invented until 1983.”
If a movie you really wanted to see left the theater before you got a chance too watch it, well, boo-hoo for you – you could just forget about seeing it. You couldn’t buy it or rent it at any price. The only thing you could do was wait two years until it was on your tiny TV screen as the ABC Movie of the Week and then you could watch it with hundreds of long commercial interruptions and with every great line of dialogue turned into comically bad lines by the same network censors who made Jeannie wear a jewel in her navel because showing her belly button on TV would have been too racy.
Speaking of the TV, you know how upset you get if you can’t find the remote control? Well, we could never find the remote control because there wasn’t one to find. Every time you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up from the couch, walk over to the TV and turn the knob. The same for volume. What’s worse, if your parents were in the room watching then you were the remote control. Your dad would make you stand for hours by the TV and then tell you to move to the next channel and then the next one.
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. You have absolutely no idea what your parents (and myself by the way) went through when we were your age. It was a very backward time; we had no cell phones, no real video games, no ATM’s. We were basically living like animals. Back then, we had to make do with whatever we had and, even though we had no conveniences, we somehow made it work. No matter who you were, in fact, you just had to get by in whatever way was humanly possible.
In the 1970s, even the top NASA scientists had it hard. Now, remember, these were the smartest people in the world with access to virtually unlimited money, and they were dealing with the most precious invention in existence at the time – the space shuttle.
Each shuttle cost $2 billion ($6.1 billion in today’s money) and it was designed to go up into space. The problem, however, was you also needed to move it around the country for repairs and takeoffs. So they had this big problem to solve how to move it from one place to the other while on Earth.
Do you know how we moved the space shuttle around? Do you know what our high-tech solution was? It was the biggest makeshift fly by night on the seat of your pants jury-rigged job you’ve ever seen. One day they just got some rope and strapped it onto the back of a 747. So back then, the world’s top scientists moved the world’s most expensive machine in essentially the same way as rednecks move their oversized couches from out of their ex-wife’s place before she shoots holes in it. You know, they just get some rope and strap it to the biggest available vehicle that looks like it might be able to carry it.
This was literally our “Rocket science” at the time. I’m sure when the NASA scientists did it the first time, they had no idea if the plane would take off or if the shuttle would blow off in the air, and NASA would take $2 billion out of their paychecks. But hey, you had to get the shuttle to the launch pad somehow.
The idea was so incredible that one time, after they knew it worked, the proud scientists flew the shuttle very low down I-95 and they announced ahead of time they were going to do it. It was NASA’s way of saying, “Hey look, everybody – we tied a space shuttle to the back of a commercial jet to move it around and it worked!”
Back then we were all doing whatever we could with whatever we had at hand and simply making it work. Parents were turning their children into remote controls and NASA was strapping its multibillion-dollar pieces of equipment to the backs of passenger planes.
So, you kids today, please don’t give me this sob story about how bad you have it. If I were you, I would stop complaining.
Or we might have to get old school on you and strap you to the back of a 747 and fly you around until you come to your senses. Don’t think we won’t do it – we did it with the space shuttle for goodness’ sake.