Lately, there’s been a lot of stuff written about the ever-widening “technology gap” between older and younger generations–about how, for instance, if you’re over thirty and you’ve never texted, you probably never will. (Back in my day the example was about how the older generation couldn’t program a VCR; try making this reference nowadays, though, and all you’ll get out of most kids is “Program a what?”).
For the most part, these jokes about techno-savvy children and techno-dumb parents go way over the top; in fact, judging from the current sitcom crop, you’d think that the average parent-child relationship is the intellectual equivalent of a meeting between Stephen Hawking and Sasquatch. Still, it’s hard to deny that some of the stereotypes do contain within them a grain of truth–albeit truth with a twist. For example: while it may be true that I need Clementine’s help to use a cell phone (she keeps sneeringly asking me when I’m going to get my “Jitterbug” phone), I do, however, still have some advantages over her in the technology department: for one thing, at least I know how to use a broom.
True, a broom cannot really be considered the height of technology (it is rare to see a store advertising their “new and improved” brooms; like stairs, brooms are one of those items that were perfected a few millennia back and have rested on their laurels ever since), but it is, nonetheless, a tool. A tool that, for reasons I have yet to comprehend, is completely unfathomable to Clementine.
“Could you sweep the kitchen for me?” I’ll ask, thinking that that might not be too much to hope for in the way of household help as I put away the groceries, fold another load of clothes and gather up the fifteen-thousandth balled-up crusty sock from beneath the couch. The next thing I know she is poking the broom–bristles first–around the kitchen, wielding it so tentatively that it seems like she must be under the mistaken impression that what she holds in her hands is not so much a broom, but rather a deflated–yet still dangerous– porcupine on a stick. This “sweeping” method of hers makes it absolutely certain that nothing smaller or firmer than a Twinkie will be in any danger of ever actually getting picked up. When I point out the spots that she has missed using this questionable method (and the fact that she is using the broom backwards), she will sigh once before reversing the broom so that she is now dragging it along behind her like she is a demoralized hockey player and it is her stick. When I point out again all the stuff that this new method causes her to miss, she will roll her eyes and say, “You can’t expect me to get everything,” at which point I will concede that, no, I cannot–although it would be nice if she was at least able to sweep up some things, like maybe that half of a piece of toast on the floor by her feet, or perhaps the three inch dust bunny that the broom’s errant bristles have managed to pull out into the middle of the room.
Eventually, of course, her sighing and poking will get to me, and I’ll take the broom away from her to “demonstrate” yet again how to sweep the kitchen properly. At this point her eyes will widen and a sarcastic “oh” will pop out of her mouth, and I will begin to feel once again like I have just “demonstrated” how to whitewash a fence to Tom Sawyer.
Which is probably why I still make Clementine punch in the numbers every time I use a borrowed cell phone. And why, to her chagrin, I refuse to buy one for myself (and, by extension, for her). After all, Tom Sawyer’s friends ended up getting their revenge, too.