Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Past Used to Be a Foreign Country


Last weekend I went to the movies.  As I ordered my small, 128 oz. Diet Coke at the snack counter, the young lady waiting on me asked what I was planning to see.  “Harry Potter, “ said I, to which she exclaimed, “Oh, it’s so sad!”  I asked, “What?  Does Harry die?”  (I’m always the last to know these things.)  She answered, “No, but all my friends who have seen the movie come out crying.  It’s like the end of their childhood.

That’s a pretty deep discussion with a young woman whose job purportedly is to sell me a giant box of Raisnets.

This morning I heard back-to-back stories on the radio, another quaint technology: the space Shuttle is performing its final mission, and Borders is bankrupt and going away.

My children are only teenagers, but they are already discovering what it took the deaths of cool summers and Ronald Reagan to convince their parents: The past really, truly is a foreign country.

They do things differently there.

Although, come to think of it, with YouTube, Facebook, Skype, student exchange programs, ubiquitous summer travel, offshoring, outsourcing, Thomas Friedman, and nice Indian customer service teens providing advice on my operating system deep in the middle of their nights--foreign countries aren’t what they used to be anymore, either.

(There is still France, I suppose.)

So, maybe with future shock and all, the past used to be a foreign country.  Now that we’re not sure what a foreign country is anymore, or at least, they don't seem nearly as foreign to us, my teens’ Millennial or i-generations are going to have to devise a more apt metaphor.   

Maybe they’ll decide, too, that the past is never really past at all; it just gets captured and stored somewhere in the Cloud.

Which, come to think of it, is what we used to call heaven--another quaint old concept.  

Harry Potter, the space shuttle, Borders, foreign countries. . .all gone in my children’s lifetimes.

Oh, and did I mention the 8 oz. Diet Coke?