There’s an old axiom that some people can learn from seeing another make mistakes while others just have to pee on the electric fence. I’m sure that the vast majority of parents would like to impart the experiences of their own lives to their children. Being the protectors of our young, we naturally want to help them. We would certainly not want to watch them make the same mistakes we made and we offer them advice, though many, if not most, times it is unwelcome.
And, if I am being totally honest, some of the advice I would give to my children is woefully out of date. I’m not sure what that would be, but I know the world is changing so rapidly that most of what I “know” is relevant only in a millennium past.
One glaring example of this would be when I rode along with my son while he was on duty as a patrol officer. He had told me he nearly arrested a certain person and I asked the crime. He told me and I immediately told him that the person didn’t “fit the elements” of that particular offense. He looked at me and said, “You’re sure?”
I said, “The elements of (that crime) were A, B or C (three specific things, the details of which are unimportant here).”
He let me finish and then made a few keystrokes on his laptop, then spun it around for me to read that, since I had been working in a patrol unit, the elements were still A, B or C, but now included D, E and F…” So I kept my mouth shut for the rest of his shift and realized how useless was anything I might add to his day.
I think there are simply things that are lost between generations. I recall some advice I’d gotten from my father. One that had obviously been handed down to him from his father was, “Take care of your razor and it’ll take care of you.” My grandfather had shaved with a straight razor. I’m assuming my father must have learned with one, too. But by the time I was beginning to shave, razors blades were disposable. And they gave you the razor for free to get you to buy the blades! So there was nothing useful in his advice on that subject.
It’s funny how some things stand out in one’s memory. Another of his life-lesson-tidbits to me was, “When you’re stepping into the tee box, always carry an extra golf ball in your pocket. That way, if you hit one out of bounds, you don’t have to walk back over to your golf bag to get another.” The only problem with that was, when I was a teenager, my golf slacks were so snug that I could barely get a few tees and ball markers into the pocket! (Styles back then were very tightly-fitted.) So his advice in that instance was again impractical. And, tangentially here, walking over to my cart or golf bag gave me a bit of time to cool my temper after having sent a tee shot into the adjacent housing development.
A variation on this theme is often brought to my attention when spending time with my 90-year-old mother. Things were quite different in her day than they were/are for me. She, of course, lived through the depression, so we often heard about how they all had to save navel lint to build an ox cart because they couldn’t afford transportation or how they had to use lemon rinds to make furniture or some such nonsense.
One time, on our yearly trip to Montana, I was exchanging barbs with a friend who tossed a zinger my way. I responded by telling him that I was going to “kick him until he was dead.” All of it harmless guy talk. Except later, back at our cabin, my mother encouraged me to go apologize to him for “being mean.” That evening my friend wrinkled a curious brow during my apology and I capped it with, “My mother is making me say this…” He smiled in understanding.
About a year ago, she and I were traveling on one of the SoCal freeways. She’d been telling me about a CD where Barry Manilow sang songs from the 1940’s and had a duet with Rosemary Clooney. I told her that I knew of it and that he also made one from the 50’s and had a duet with another female artist; I thought it was one of the McGuire Sisters. Since we were driving, I thought I’d (show off a little and) ask Siri who sang with Manilow on that CD.
You know how Siri is. She gives you everything but what you’re actually looking for.
“Siri, who sang with Barry Manilow on his fifties CD?”
Perry Como was an artist in the fifties who first recorded with—
“Not Perry Como! Who sang with Barry Manilow on his fifties CD?!”
Barry Manilow began his career writing jingles—
“Wait. What songs are on Barry—“
Bill, are you looking for terry cloth towels?
“Stop! Find a list of tracks for Barry Manilow’s CD Songs of the Fifties.”
Tracks of my Tears was first recorded by Smokey—
“DAMMIT SIRI! WHO SANG WITH BARRY MANILOW ON HIS SONGS OF THE FIFTIES CD?!?!?”
Here’s a list of CD’s by Barry Manilow…
“THAT’S NOT WHAT I—“ It was at that point that my mother glared at me. “What?”
“You can’t talk to someone like that. Apologize.”
“You’re not being nice.”
“Mom, it’s a robot.”
“Then how does it know your name?”
“Mom, it’s— Siri, I apologize for raising my voice and swearing.”
No offense taken, Bill.
I glanced at my mother to see her looking back with a raised eyebrow, indicating that Siri had called me by name and accepted my apology so, therefore, my mother knew there was a real person talking with me.
I opened my mouth to speak but, instead, said, “I’ll look on the internet for you when we get home.”
Sometimes there are things that are lost between generations. Sometimes they’re things neither can ever understand about the other. Sometimes I feel like peeing on an electric fence.
Oh. It was Phyllis McGuire.