Earlier this week I sat in the driver’s seat with a set of keys in my hand with no idea how to start the car I had just rented.
My husband was standing outside waiting for me to pull it forward just a bit so he could put my suitcase in the trunk.
I looked at the “key” and pushed a few buttons thinking perhaps an actual key might pop out. It didn’t.
So there we were in the parking lot of the rental company, the very first segment of a weeklong trip that would toss together my longest childhood friend and both our mothers on a northern Florida island.
Finally, frustrated, I opened the car door and yelled to my wind-blown, cold and impatient husband, “I don’t know how to start the car. There is no key.”
Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m not sure which, he came to help and had no more idea than me about how to get it going.
At 50 and 54 years old we found ourselves feeling technologically outdated.
Eventually we found the push button start and with an additional minute or two we had her running.
A few hours later I was sitting on the plane beside my mom who has flown many, many times during her life, but not in the past 10 years.
The flight attendant let us know she was coming around with complimentary coffee and soft drinks and if we wanted anything harder she would gladly take our debit or credit cards.
“We do not take cash.”
“Did she just say they don’t take cash?” my mother asked incredulously.
So far on this trip we had learned that keys and cash are a bit passe.
There has always been a generation gap, of course, some decades bringing more change than others, but the rapid rate of technological innovation is widening the gap like never before in our history and leaving our elders in the dust.
It is so rapid that experts say we are now experiencing mini generation gaps. In other words, 10-year-olds are living in a completely different technological world than their 5-year-old siblings.
On a recent evening in Key Largo I sat with a small group of high school friends. We graduated in 1981. We turned 50 this year. Two of us had smartphones. Two of us didn’t.
One of us spoke of helping to babysit her granddaughter via Skype.
Her daughter could put her child in front of the computer screen and perhaps get the dishes done or the floor vacuumed while my friend read her granddaughter a book from miles away.
So much of technology, of course, is a good thing. A blessing really, keeping us connected to each other in a way like never before. Daily face-to-face time with a granddaughter who lives 100 miles away can’t be a bad thing.
But on this trip it became very evident to my friend and our mothers that technology also was serving to separate and isolate us from one another.
Both of our mothers rely heavily on their local libraries. They actually check out books and DVDs.
They don’t know what a flash drive is and probably never will. They miss the day when pictures were printed and put into photo albums rather than stored on a hard drive and shared mainly on Facebook.
They sometimes feel irrelevant and choose to step aside so as not to get in the way of the speedy world that is passing them by.
Can’t get your shoes off and into the security bin at the airport fast enough?
Step aside, please. Others who move faster have places to go.
As my high school friends discussed our own difficulties trying to keep up on a daily basis — some of us still aren’t sure how to properly work our TV sets, it turns out — we realized that in 20 years when we are 70 we are probably going to feel even more irrelevant and outdated than our parents do today.
I’m guessing now that I’ve got the push-button car starter down pat it already is being replaced in a factory somewhere with something else.