Special Characters

We are the thirty-somethings—more specific—the 34 to 37 somethings. In this thin band we reside precisely in the middle of the current epoch. We didn’t see the World Wars or Korea or Vietnam and many of us didn’t have to march off to the very first Desert Storm (we were likely in high school). We didn’t have to worry about anything really. We had everything. McDonalds was everywhere. Our teachers in elementary school taught manners. We learned cursive. We had classroom parties for every holiday. We went trick-or-treating.

Our first brushes with technology included the Oregon Trail on a tiny Apple Computer, math and spelling problems on Texas Instruments products, and VCR’s. Most of us were born into homes with rotary phones and converted to touch-tone in the mid-80’s. We had a UHF dial on the television that took us to one or possibly two other lesser-known but exotic channels until cable exploded. Our first cell phone circa 1993 was a brick.

The poorly-dressed oyster of the 90’s made way for the pearl of the 2000’s. We got the internet and e-mail, and laptops and smaller faster phones. We started voting and helped get into office leaders that began to twist and weasel things with ease and with the whole world watching. We also got September 11, 2001 (our very own Pearl-Harbor-Kennedy-Assassination-what-were-you-doing-and-where-were-you-moment!) and a war to follow to which many of us marched off to. Things were getting more complicated. But they were also getting faster. So fast that everything seemed to change all at once and overnight.

And so here we are, well into the 21st century and it appears as though everything has caught up and been integrated. We’re unified socially and must live with phones and applications and several accounts and passwords with at least eight characters, one which must be a capital letter, another which must be a number, and another which must be a special character. It’s just the way we live. We need these things to survive right now.

In this middle band of living humans (namely in this country) there are some obvious features about us related to the previously stated. We didn’t have the technology that is around today, and then we suddenly did. Our parents never had it, but imagined it and some invented it. Our grandparents certainly never had it. The generation just behind us, the Millennials–or whatever social scientists will come to call these special characters–however will never know life without this technology. They will always have it. They will always rely on it.

They will always rely on the new fashioned. They will always have an application to get them out of jam. They will interface without facing each other. This is good for them. Great for them, actually. But what they miss is the last of the crude. They miss the tiny spark of figure-it-out-on-your-own-ness that was born into to us because we weren’t standing in front of screen waving our arms around to make a kitty jump at age three. They will be amazing, but they may never know how to be humans of the old world. They may never know how to handle people because they don’t know how handle someone without a handle.

Most of us in this tiny band of thirtysomethings have adapted. It’s freaking cool to have the world at our fingertips. It’s very Jetson and Richie Rich. Very Silver Spoons and Back to the Future all rolled up. We need to adopt it all otherwise we won’t survive. But, we won’t—and don’t forget this—be natives. We will have had to learn this language after arriving. There will always be a trace of our old accent. A throwback to the grunting of our ancient ancestors; ancestors who never imagined there would be a time in humanity when battery powered devices, not free will, advised us on what to do next and how to do it.

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