We hear it all the time, right? Kids today are ungrateful, lazy, entitled; they’re flushing the future of the planet down the toilet, they couldn’t math their way out of a paper bag, if it’s not on google they can’t be bothered to learn it.
It’s all true, of course, and it’s all also woefully simplified. Kids by and large are going to use the technology and the means of the day to put in the least amount of effort and get away with what they can. Of course, if life is a slippery slope, then the automated chairs that keep us from even being forced to do so simple a thing as walking in a movie like Wall-E are not so very far off.
They’ve got this new thing — maybe you’ve seen it — called a hoverboard.
It’s kinda like a Segway, keeping the rider balanced using gyroscopic technology. But with a minuscule footprint and using literally only your feet, it’s the hottest hot thing, especially among the youths.
I’m a high school teacher, so I have a pretty high tolerance for youthful entitlement and sass, not to mention casual indifference to the world in favor of a tiny glowing screen. But even I was taken aback by the display my wife and I saw in Target the other day. (Why do so many of my stories take place at Target? Why am I always seeing stuff to get good and twisted about at Target? More evidence, I think, that Target is the glowing sun at the center of our capitalist universe.)
We’re shopping, somewhere around the hair products aisle (it’s funny how much I still notice the hair products aisle, as if they made an ounce of difference for a baldy like me), when two teenage girls swing into the main aisle in front of us: one walking, the other riding a hoverboard.
Now, if you haven’t seen these things yet, you really are limited when riding one. You have to hold your body very still, lest you throw yourself out of balance and wipe out in dramatic and delightful fashion (just do a youtube search for “hoverboard crashes”, and laugh away a few hours). So you’re limited in the first place to a sort of zombielike pose. And, hey, since you’re standing still while you roll around the store anyway, why not entertain yourself on the go with a book? HAHAHAHA of course not. The hoverboard girl was, of course, staring into the magical world of her cell phone as she trawled the aisles of the ‘Get.
Then she and her friend had to turn around. Presumably because they forgot to pick something up, or — this is Target, after all — some subconscious advert suddenly took root in their brains and they realized they needed to go back and spend more money. So they turn, and I get a look at them face-on.
And the walking girl looks perfectly normal and average. Face blank but engaged, looking around, you know — signs of life. But the hoverboard girl lowers her phone for a moment and looks where she’s going. (Presumably so that she doesn’t end up in the search results for “hoverboard crashes.”) My god, her face.
If you were to try and personify “disinterest,” her face would have been a good candidate. If you wanted to try to explain to somebody what it felt like to watch C-SPAN for fourteen hours, you might start with a picture of her face. A torture victim, deprived of food and water for days and given to believe that there was no escape in this life, might adopt an affect as empty and hopeless as hers.
I wish I’d taken a picture, but I wasn’t a quick enough draw with my phone. Also, I’m way too much of a chicken to take a picture of somebody doing something dumb to their face. (Unless I know you. Then it’s open season.) The eyes were half-lidded, like the collapsing blinds in an abandoned house. The mouth, open and slack, as if waiting for a train of ants to march in and start retrieving crumbs. A tiny line of drool from lip to shirtfront would not at all have seemed out of place. She looked, in short, as if she had just emerged from a nice, deep coma, except for the whole standing-upright thing.
Honestly and truly, just add a little costume makeup and dirty up her outfit, and she’d have been a perfect extra on The Walking Dead.
And she had just come out of a coma, hadn’t she?
What use has your brain when everything that interests you and excites you is delivered straight to your face by a device you can carry around in your hand? What use have your legs when you can get wherever you want to go by leaning ever so slightly forward? (Except for stairs, I guess.)
Technology is awesome. The science behind these things is mind-shattering.
But for some, it all just seems so mundane.
Not that I think it will happen at this point, but here’s hoping I never lose the ability to wonder at how fargoing amazing the world around us is.