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The Class of 2014

By Larry Gross · September 1st, 2010 · Living Out Loud

I’m the kind of guy who usually comes around to modern technology sooner or later, but most of the time more later than sooner.

I resisted e-mail for years, wasn’t all that interested in the Internet and was one of the last people on the planet to get a cell phone — still I came around to all of it. Thing is, modern technology doesn’t stay modern forever. Something I read recently reminded me of this fact.

Every year, Beloit College in Wisconsin does a study for its professors on the incoming freshman college students for the fall with this year’s students being the class of 2014. This study is to remind the professors what cultural factors have shaped the lives of their students.

The study has been going on since 1998 and most students entering the college this fall were born in 1992. This world is an ever-changing place and cultural and technology changes are normal. Still there are a few changes that caught my eye.

Students entering college this fall find e-mail too slow and passé. Of course. Now that I consider this part of my daily life, it’s old news.

These students would rather send text messages. I find this a little surprising as I consider this new technology irritating and a nuisance to deal with. I mean, sometimes I have to answer the damn text message back, and after I do I feel like I’ve wasted boatloads of time. I can answer an e-mail back much quicker.

The class of 2014 also finds wristwatches unnecessary. Wristwatches aren’t considered modern technology at all anymore, probably more vintage or retro. I’m not surprised.

Why wear a wristwatch when you can get the time off your cell phone where you can also send those text messages? This makes sense to me, but this is the change that makes me a little sad.

Telling time by looking at a wristwatch has become old-fashion.

I feel bad that this class won’t know the pleasure of wearing a really good timepiece. I feel a bit worked up about this, so excuse me if I turn sentimental for a minute and do a bit of reflecting.

I got my first wristwatch as a Christmas present back when I was in the sixth grade. It was a Timex. I was so proud of that watch and I wore it for years and years. It never stopped ticking.

Throughout high school, college and my early life, I had various watches — all cheap — but most of them kept good time. It wasn’t until 1990 when I got a fancier timepiece.

Christmas 1990: I was married then and our kids were small. We were all out shopping at Western Hills Shopping Center. McAlpin’s still existed back then and we were looking to get a relative a new watch.

While looking down at the display class, a Seiko caught my eye. It was thin and oval shaped with a textured champagne dial with Roman numerals. It was a quartz watch, a great looking watch, and my then wife no doubt saw me staring at it for too long.

That staring paid off. For Christmas that year, under the tree, was that Seiko watch. I couldn’t believe she had gotten it for me — the most expensive watch I’ve ever owed. It cost close to $200.

Over 20 years later, you’ll still find that wristwatch on my arm.

I usually take it off while I sleep and once I had to go without it for two weeks due to a routine battery change.

I always take the watch to this little watch shop in Tower Place to replace the band when it needs replacing and to get batteries changed. A few years back, I made the mistake of taking it to a regular jewelry store on Race Street.

Run by two older women, I wanted to give the jewelry store some of my business. This was a mistake. While changing the battery, they broke the crystal to the watch.

The ladies were quite upset about it, but being the kind of guy who goes with the flow, I told them not to worry about it. They had to send it off to get the crystal repaired and the ladies gave me a “loaner watch,” a thing so massive I felt like I was wearing 20 pounds on my left wrist. I couldn’t wait to get my watch back.

That’s the end of my reflecting. I’ll be quiet now. The class of 2014 won’t have to worry about this type of thing happening. For them, wristwatches are a thing of the past. I need to get over it.

While I can allow myself to get sentimental about wristwatches, maybe some of these kids will have fond memories of a certain type of cell phone they once had. While this is possible, it’s probably not likely. I think it’s hard to get attached to something as cold as a cell phone.

It doesn’t really matter. The reality is the class of 2014 isn’t part of my generation. I’m sure we can coexist with the differences between us.

This fall, I’ll no doubt run into some of these freshman kids on the bus texting messages to their friends. I’ll try not to look down on them as they use their thumbs to send these things. When they look at me, they’ll probably realize I’m the old guy waiting to get back home to check my old-fashion e-mail.

Hey, kids, if the batteries in your phones start running low, you can always ask me for the time. I’ll have my wristwatch.

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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