Experience is a Most Effective Teacher, “Go Find Yourself” and Think About a Road Trip

I think today’s kids (i.e. Steve-o’s age and younger) are mollycoddled way too much.  For Steve-o it’s a major crisis if his phone battery goes dead.  I never had a cell phone until the late 1990’s and even today I consider it sort of a mixed blessing.  No one needs to be able to contact me 24/7 except for God, and He has infinite ways at His discretion to get my attention should He wish to.   There are times I have to just turn the damned thing on “silence all” and let the voice mail get it.  Most of the time I’d rather not talk to anyone because I have to do enough of that at work.

Back in the dark ages of the 70’s and 80’s there were certain things that were inevitable if you were a kid- at least a poor kid growing up in a Midwestern backwater, that is.  I have to qualify that.  I’m sure that there were rich kids who never had to endure hand-me-down clothes or eating leftover tuna casserole over burnt mashed potatoes and/or Cream of Wheat for dinner three or four days a week, but I wasn’t one of the lucky ones.  I wasn’t even lucky enough to be an only child or to have my own room.

Nobody wore helmets to roller skate or ride bikes.  The only kids who had helmets were boys who played football.   No one thought twice about climbing trees.  My sisters climbed the TV antenna (Dad left it up even after he got cable, for some unknown reason) to go on the roof and sunbathe. Nobody used seatbelts, let alone car seats for kids.  If Mom rear-ended someone and you went through the windshield that was tough titty.  Mom did roll one of her cars when she had the dog with her- Mom was unhurt, the car had a few scratches, but the poor dog ended up with three broken ribs where Mom landed on her.   The dog lived for another 12 years after that, but she never liked being with Mom in the car again.  To put it in perspective, I put my dogs in harnesses and belt them in the back seat.   I blame the Toyota automotive safety training I took years ago where you had to watch crash test videos as part of said training.  It’s amazing to see just how far a seventy pound child in the back seat can be thrown out the windshield.  That visual changed my perspective, (I’ve seen a lot of real live body shop carnage in my time too,) but back then nobody gave it a second thought.  Kids would routinely ride around in pickup beds.

Back in the day you had to learn by experience, i.e. by screwing up.  I must have learned a lot because I screwed up a lot.  The pity is not so much in screwing up but in one’s reaction to it.  Ignorance is screwing up because one doesn’t know any better.  Stupidity is screwing up in the same manner over and over again without learning something from all the repetitive failures. 

Kids today are not given the permission to fail.  I know that sounds sort of twisted, but in our desperation to protect them from the evils we had to live through, we end up shielding them from the experiences they need to learn. 

Steve-o has absolutely no idea what it is to go a day without cellular service, cable, high speed internet, and an endless river of Mountain Dew.  He’s never had to wear anyone else’s old clothes with the exception of his early teen years when he grew from 5’5″ to 6’1″ within a year and a half and I had to buy his clothes at the Goodwill because he outgrew them so fast.  I am not going to buy a kid a new pair of pants (at $40-$70 a pop) that he will outgrow in a month or two.  He screamed and cried about it until I threatened to send him to school in my clothes.  I don’t think capris have ever been in style for men, and there is a lot of pink in my wardrobe.

They don’t get the experience that we had at an early age, save in the areas of premarital sex and experimenting with drugs.  I am sad to report that Steve-o has probably seen more carnal action in his 19 years than I have seen in almost 42.  He doesn’t care much for drink and drugs (thank God for small favors.)  I liked the booze and the homegrown back in the day, but for the past 15+ years my track record of overall clean living would make any temperance crusader proud.  As far as having to learn the hard way the value of a dollar by having to work shitty jobs with evil managers and impossible working conditions, they have no experience at all.  I don’t think Steve-o has ever had to scrub a toilet or scrape down a filthy floor.  I know damned well he never did either of those things at home. (Shame on Jerry’s poor example of  “you’re a man, and housework is for women” attitude- I couldn’t get Steve-o to lift a finger on household chores even when he was a little kid and should have been doing them!)   Society doesn’t help the situation, as it expects us old codgers to indulge their extended adolescence (no I am NOT supporting him until he is 26- supporting him at 19 is bad enough) which I say is complete and utter bullshit.  Then again, he has not been in any rush to go down and sign up at the plasma center to earn a few bucks, even though he should know Dad is just trying to scare him by telling him you can get the AIDS from selling plasma.

Grandpa (Mom’s -technically- stepdad, although I always thought of him as my Grandpa) always used to joke about people going off to “find themselves.”  He would always say, “Why do you have to go find yourself?  Can’t you see that you’re right here?” Grandpa was from Norfolk, Virginia (complete with the Foghorn Leghorn accent) and was the perfect example of the ultra conservative, cultured Southern gentleman.  He had a rather pithy sense of humor, which made conversation with him most entertaining. 

In the literal sense Grandpa was right- you should be able to see what is right in front of your face.  It always used to confound me that seemingly logical individuals would go off on some grand quest only to realize that they had already found what they were looking for before they left.  The irony in this is that sometimes people (me included) keep on looking when they have already found what they’ve been looking for.  You don’t always find the object of a search in the last place you looked.  Sometimes you find it, don’t realize it, and keep on looking anyway.   Irony turns to tragedy when you finally realize that you did find what you were looking for, but when you try to go back to where it was it’s gone again.  Sounds like the story of my life.  Then again, hindsight is 20/20.

I would so enjoy a road trip right now, but the closest I’m going to get today is making it home and possibly to Kroger’s because there is no food in the house.  I don’t need Jerry’s “no food” rant again tonight.

Man I would love to have another 72 Super Beetle, even though air cooled VW’s are not the vehicle of choice in Central Ohio in the winter.

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