Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

Last week, I attended a state legislative dinner and sat with a delegation from my community. Half the table consisted of “young professionals” with the emphasis on youngyoungyoung.  I know all of them and enjoy their company.  In fact, when I’m around them individually, I don’t believe in generation gaps.  They are smart, respectful, and wise.  They are involved.  They make me feel young – sometimes they make me feel almost as young as they are.  (That’s actually a scary though.)

But, when they are together, they do it!  “It” separates them from us. Them being Y and us being O.  Y being young, and O being old(er).  Y multitasks in ways my grandchildren understand all too well.

I grew up being told I “wasn’t paying attention.” I didn’t know to tell my teacher I was multi-tasking. Daydreaming and drawing pictures in class qualifies, doesn’t it?)  I told my young friends this.  I explained I had read people cannot be effective when they multi-task, that something has to give.  They said ridiculous.  They can do “it” just fine.

To prove it, one young lady texted me.  Before I read her message, I questioned her to prove she couldn’t write to me and listen to the speaker at the same time.  “What did the speaker say?”  She answered without hesitation.  “About the economic impact of his Senate Bill on the unemployed or the part about the working mothers needing more assistance in single-parent homes.” I never liked her, anyway.

Even before I read her text, I knew without doubt what she had done.  She could recall what was said because she had merely texted me what the speaker was saying.  I was wrong.  The message told me about her two children, and how one was taking horseback riding lessons, but her youngest daughter preferred swimming classes, and it was tough getting them to both lessons twice a week. And, by the way, I hadn’t eaten all my broccoli.   I never liked her, anyway.

Then I grinned.  Big.  Bigger than Big.  Huge!  “What are you grinning about,” she asked.  ”I knew you couldn’t multi-task without sacrificing something,” I smirked.   “What are you talking about,” she retorted.  “You misspelled a word,” I double smirked.  “Instead of ‘their,’ you said ‘there’.”   She rolled her eyes at me.  I never liked her, anyway.

I asked, “If you’re sitting next to each other, why on earth would you need to text?”  She didn’t answer.  She just looked at me as if I were a generation or two older.  (Uh Oh.)  What really was happening was that she didn’t consider the question relevant.  Then I remembered Deedie, a neighbor and childhood friend of mine.  We saw each other all the time.  Going to school.  Coming home from school.  After school.  On weekends.  We were friends. Yet, frequently when we were in school, we would pass notes. Even though we saw each other all the time. It’s not any different.  Except that today’s “pencil and paper” costs $400 with a monthly data charge.

She said, “Why does it bother you when I don’t give the speaker all my attention?”  “I guess it seems a bit rude,” I said. She reeled me in like the hooked fish I was.  “I noticed during the speech, you leaned over to Larry and asked about his family.  You were quiet, but you weren’t listening.”

I never liked her, anyway.

Date of Blog Story: 
January 18, 2009

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