The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 7, 2000


'21' Century

The new century is upon us and so far so good. Some of us have been dragged, kicking and screaming into it and others, the younger set, much younger, seem to be making a joyful leap.

I think of my grandmother who said she stayed up all night to see the 20th century begin. I'm sure that means that she stayed up until midnight. Her comment was, "What a waste of time." My grandmother was born in 1870, on what was left of her father's plantation in North Carolina, just after the Civil War. Just think of the changes she saw in her 96 years. Automobiles, airplanes, electricity, indoor plumbing, first the icebox and then the refrigerator, radio, television, air conditioning, synthetic

fabrics, and frozen food. She always called my bicycle"Your wheel," and she missed seeing someone land on the moon by just two years. I must say that she managed to adjust and accept much of what was new in her "new century," although she still preferred to cook on her old wood stove, much like Carlisle's own Gloria White, and she insisted on making her own lye soap out of coal ashes.

My grandmother managed to bend, accept and adjust. I wonder if I can do the same. First there's fabric. Grammy switched from cotton and wool to nylon and rayon, Now, we are told that cotton breathes better, and wool is warmer, real leather shoes are more comfortable than plastic. OK, I can adjust and agree with that. Natural foods are better than junk food. Right. You really do need eight hours sleep, but you don't have to go to bed when it gets "dark under the table." (That's my grandfather speaking). I can remember when my brother and I first visited Boston from New Hampshire and rode on the "moving stairs." We were thrilled! To us, that was an advance in technology. Today kids still love to ride the escalator, but they take it more in stride.

It's just possible that someday I will be able to not only set the clock on my VCR, but also be able to actually set it up to record something a week in advance without the help of one of my sons. Maybe there's hope for me yet. While we're talking about VCRs, why do they make black on black controls with writing so small that only someone under fourteen years of age can see it?

Then there is the computer. I still want to call it a machine; I guess I get that from my grandmother and her "wheel." I notice a lot of pre-computer people call it a machine. Maybe that's how you tell the computer-literate from the typists. This device doesn't seem to faze young children or twenty-year-old-so-called nerds, but if you were born in the first part of the 20th century, "Oh, my!" Now, we are not completely stupid, but that computer only does exactly what we tell it to do. Even our own kids didn't always do that. It doesn't do what we meant to do at all. Notice the use of the first person plural; I think I have lots of company. Push the wrong button and you're in big trouble. I yell, "No, no, stop! That's not what I meant," and it just keeps chugging away until it is darn good and ready to stop. Then it's time to shut down and start over.

I have to admit that I have managed to absorb some of this computer stuff, but I seem to hit major road blocks like: how do you turn it on? Why do they hide the button? "Are you sure you have the correct path?" Obviously not, or I wouldn't be seeing that message. Save as, save in, input, you have performed an illegal operation, frustrating to say the least. Don't tell me how the program is set up with lots of funny letters, all too small and too many for me to see anyways; just tell me which button to push. Still I type on. Ever the optimist. Fortunately my son is just a phone call away.

Even the car has a computer hidden some place inside, saying "time to change the oil." We changed it already, ourselves. That doesn't mean a thing, that light will never go off. My refrigerator is supposed to be programmed to defrost itself at night, but as soon as the power goes off in Carlisle four or five times, the computer doesn't know night from day. People have cars that start when they push a button, before they even see the car. Now that's magic. Automatic toll scanners, money from an automatic ATM machine, and check out your own grocerieswe seem to use real people less and less. Is that because they might actually listen to you, and tell you just what you want to know?

Kicking and screaming, I am being dragged into this new century. If my grandmother could cope with her new century, I probably will be able to adjust to mine.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito