Monday, September 5

Everything I Really Need To Know I Learned in Maine

Okay, so this is something that I wish I didn't get.  Does that still count?

Caution:  Cynicism ahead.  (oh, like that's something new)

So here it is.  Remember, way back when, there was this hubbub about this thing called "Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten" (or something like that)?   It was all the rage.  Posters, mugs, even a book, as I recall.   Saw it posted on the back of bathroom stalls a couple of times (I mean, if that's not evidence that you've arrived, I don't know what is...that's one of my dreams, to have my writing adjacent to the Hiney-Hider logo, which you should know about because what else do you have to do while you're on the pot rather than read the logo on the stall door lock--other than text or read email on your cell phone, that is, ugh, man, is nothing sacred anymore?).   Never bought any of 'em (kind of surprising since I was a preschool director at the time), never was a particular fan, but some of it was cute (cute being one of my least favorite words of all time--right up their with "pus"--but it is the right word for this list).  Honestly, I don't remember most of the things on the list, but any one of us can probably figure them out.  They're about the regular stuff:  sharing, making friends, listening, being fair.  You get the idea.

Well, as of this weekend, I am seeing that period of time, which I think was sometime in the late 80's or early 90's (yeah, I could look up the publication date of the book, which sounds just like what I would normally do for the blog because I'm a nut for veracity, but I'm just too lazy.  I've been driving all day, gimme a break) as a social marker of sorts.  You know how something happens, and in retrospect, it is a historical turning point, an event that, for better or worse, marked a shift in consciousness or in social trends?  Well, that's what I'm talkin' about.  I am now realizing that that book (and poster and mug and accompanying hubbub) was a harbinger (I like that word).  They were--for those of you who prefer sports analogy--a penalty flag to alert us of the coming shift. 

There is the Victorian Age.   There is the Age of Reason.  There is the Hippie (once and for all, it's' spelled "hippie", NOT "hippy", which is an adjective describing a certain endowment around the hip area, NOT people in tie-dye clothes, love beads, and long stringy that major annoyance out of my system, spelling snob that I am) Era.   There is the Disco Era.   And now this.

When I was in grad school, I took a class on creativity, which turned out not to quite be about creativity (at least in my book), but which was really interesting anyway.  In that class, we talked a lot about the phenomenon of "co-incidence", which is a fancy (i.e. academic, cuz it's important to say things in grad school that no one who was not in grad school would understand, you see, gotta separate ourselves from the riffraff.)  way of saying "in the right place at the right time with the right skills or talents".  Well, that's what I think happened here.

That guy, I think he was a minister, came out with that list of all things that he learned in kindergarten.  It's really a list of how to be a civil human being.  Everyone raved, nodded, clucked knowingly.  Murmurs of "that's right" and chuckles of recognition were heard in every tzotchke store in the land.  And why?  Because on some level, we all knew it.  This was the beginning of the end.

Just for today, I'm blaming it on technology.  I say just for today because I think it's right, but I might change my mind tomorrow, and I want to keep my options open.  You understand.

So where did this particular rant originate, you may be asking?  Where did she go?  What did she see?  What thoughtless oaf did she meet?   I'm glad you asked.

First, the factual answer.  I went to Bar Harbor, Maine (lovely place, a few too many tzotchkes, probably sold many copies of that poster back the day, maybe adorned with lobsters and blueberries) and Acadia National Park. Never been before.  Beautiful and peaceful place (although---more cynicism alert--the overwhelming degree of hubbub about it's gorgeousity leaves me wondering if folks have been to Yosemite, or Glacier, or Waipio Valley--not that it's valid to compare, but still, if you haven't been to those places, you definitely should go).  Much of the park, blessedly, is without cell phone signal or (gasp) wifi. 

No, people were really quite friendly.  It wasn't a hotbed of people who missed civility training (or kindergarten).  But it was a place where there was an overabundance of Oblivious.  And Oblivious is where the whole technology thing comes in.

People walking down a crowded sidewalk staring at their cell phones or texting away kind of  Oblivious.
People who sit (and sit and sit) in their car at a stop sign (probably doing something on their cell phone) while cars line up behind them kind of Oblivious.
A family of five that pulls their bikes up and parks the bikes, standing alongside them, effectively blocking a 15 foot wide walkway that is the only entry way to restrooms, for 10 minutes kind of Oblivious (humility alert:  there I was, thinking "only Americans would do this", and it turned out they were German, which was an interesting, though not irrelevant twist).
A person who is finished drying her hands at the only dryer (paper towels are out) in the bathroom and chooses to stand in front of it and rearrange the contents of her purse as multiple people hover with dripping hands kind of Oblivious.

I know what you're saying.  Geez, here you were in this beautiful place, and you're focused on all of the irritating parts.   The whole glass half empty kind of thing (which I don't really get, since half empty and half full seem like pretty much the same thing to me, half is half, but that's another post for another day).  I hate to disappoint you, but...not really.  It was really more of an observation.  I'm  like that.  I was really struck (not irritated) at how many different languages were being spoken in the park.  I was amazed at the incredible strength or determination (or both) of those who ride their bikes in this mountainous park, and watched with wonder as I drove carefully around people who cycled up steep roads alongside the crashing ocean...beautiful.  I noticed that almost none of the people on a steep hike were carrying water (which made me feel better because I didn't have any.)  And I noticed that there were a lot of people who were Oblivious. 

Here it is:  I predict that this period of time---the early part of the 21st century--will come to be known as The Oblivious Age.

You heard it here.

Now put down your smart phone and make some eye contact for a few minutes.   Just like your kindergarten teacher said.

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