Much love to my Millennials & Gen Z. I’m not here to decry where you part your hair or how you prefer your jeans. As a Gen Xer, I’m staying out of the fray because with all generations, there are things—fashion, music, and technology—that are available to you that were not available during the previous generation.
However, I am a firm believer that every generation should experience a few things that the prior generation experienced just to appreciate what you have today.
So, on behalf of Generation X, here are a few things that you should experience at least once:
Almost all of us probably rely on some form of GPS, whether it be Google Maps, our in-car GPS, or an app on our phone. It definitely makes life easier. However, there was a time every serious road tripper had to have a Rand McNally paper map in their glove compartment. If you never served in the military, it didn’t matter because these maps forced you to learn how to navigate.
How many of you have ever made a collect call? How many of you have ever had use a phone with a cord that extended the length of the house? How many of you have used (or even seen) a pay phone? As funny as it may seem, land lines are damn near Apocalypse-proof. If you know anyone who has lived in a house when the power goes it, a land line is almost the only thing working.
Try taking a road trip and NOT using your Sirius XM, or your mp3 player, or USB/Auxiliary connection. Instead, just use the AM/FM stations. You will quickly learn the value of music, news, and sports. Imagine going through an area of the country that no radio stations reach. Yea, it’s that serious.
Years ago (around 2005), I was talking to a young college protégée and he was working on a party. I asked him how he promoted the party, and he said Facebook. I said, “That’s it?”
He said, “Yeah. How did you promote parties?”
I told him that we put flyers in dorms, contacted frat brothers at other campuses, and talked to young ladies in the girls’ dorm. More work, same outcome.
There are still a few malls floating around, and if you can find one, consider yourself lucky. In my world, they were the staple of socialization and you could determine the population based on the location of the mall. Malls weren’t just a place to shop but a right of passage.
You want to skill? Try rewinding a cassette tape to your favorite spot. And worse, make sure you have a butter knife ready for when your tape gets stuck. (Who knew a butter knife could be so important to music?)
Most of us are used to having our voicemail on our smartphone, attached to our hips. There was once a time when we relied on an old fashioned robot called an answering machine that you actually could call to get your messages. That thing was so loud that if someone stood outside your door, you could hear it clicking when it answered your phone. The messages were saved on mini cassettes, so make sure you keep that butter knife ready.
You may be able to find a VCR/DVD hybrid in Best Buy, Walmart, or Target if you are trying to convert video tapes to DVD. However, you are probably going to need to go to a pawn shop to see an authentic VCR. I swear you could talk to aliens from another planet on this thing.
Again, if you have the chance to try at least ONE of these things, consider yourself lucky. You can truly appreciate all of the things that Gen X experienced.