Time for an upgrade?

Twenty years.

That’s how long it’s been since I graduated from college. My reunion was this past weekend, and I decided to skip all the formal stuff and attend the free, kid-friendly Fall Fest with my boys. Last year we went with my sister (graduate school, class of ’08) but she had a race this year and couldn’t make it. The boys and I still had fun playing games and winning swag. I ran into one person I knew from school, someone who I had, ironically, ran into for the first time since Rhetoric I this past summer. “Two times in one year,” she said laughing, and then went off to deal with her kiddos while I chased after mine.

Later, the boys and I went on a tour of the campus, which has changed dramatically in the past twenty years thanks to a large land purchase from neighboring nuns, an even larger pile of donation money from a local billionaire, and a dramatic increase in tuition rates. “Sorry, boys,” I said when our tour guide told us the current cost of attendance. “This is a great school, but you’d be in debt forever.” I spent the rest of the tour jealous of the amazing new dorms and apartments, the shiny new academic buildings, and the general youthfulness that surrounded us.

I felt old.

Youngest proudly announced that I hadn’t been there in twenty years, and I started far too many sentences with, “I remember when…” Yep. I have officially hit the stage of my life when sentences begin with a wistful phrase of nostalgia.

My favorite library turned 50 this year. I remember what it looked like in its infancy. Checkout table near the door where the librarian would stamp your due date cards; I would dutifully open all the books up to the back and stack them neatly on top of one another. Card catalog that took up most of the center area, an area now occupied by computers. Colorful rugs in the children’s section where I sat curled up with a tower of picture books way, way, way back when in the early 80’s.

Really old.

Today I reached the pinnacle of feeling like a curmudgeon. Sadly, my one and only smart phone that I have had since 2014 is starting to, for lack of a better word, decompose. The battery drains rapidly, and just yesterday I discovered that all of my photos disappeared. I try to dump pictures onto my laptop every few months, but it had been a while. And no, I didn’t back them up on the cloud. They are gone. Poof. Depressed but mildly hopeful, I went to the phone store that shall not be named and prayed that someone would be able to help me recover my pictures.

It went down a bit like this:

Me: So my phone battery has been draining quickly and I’ve been trying to fix it and somehow now my SD card is messed up and all my pictures are gone.

Much younger worker guy: What is this? An S7? (scoff)

Me: Haha, no it’s an S4.

Guy: (not even trying to hide the scornful look on his face) Did you back them up with Google photo? (rapidly flips through screens to try and locate my missing memories)

Me: Uh, no.

Guy: Well, your phone is old. This kind of stuff happens. (secretly cackling at the prospect of his upcoming commission upon new phone sale)

This kind of stuff happens to old things. I am an old thing. My battery life is draining and sometimes the memories in my gallery fade and may eventually disappear if I don’t back them up. (THIS IS WHY I BLOG, PEOPLE)

My alma mater and favorite library have experienced a lot of upgrades over the years, and it’s only a matter of time before I have to give in and buy a new phone. And I suppose I’ve tried to upgrade myself too, albeit kicking and screaming. Friends and family know how obsessed I am with the 80’s, particularly 80’s music. And my boys know how much I love to talk about the “good ol days”. (insert eye roll) They patiently followed me around campus as I swooned in waves of nostalgia.

The thing is, I like it that way. I live in the now because I’m forced to, but if I could trade streaming music for mixed tapes, I would. If I could throw away my phone and not be connected 24-7, I would. Every generation has something they long to hold onto, and us Gen X-ers are no exception. (Why else would so many modern TV shows and movies pay homage to the best decade ever?)

So, no, Mr. Young Hip Phone Guy, I won’t be helping you earn a big commission today. I’ll figure out a way to make my sad 2014 phone work for a bit longer, thank you.

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9 thoughts on “Time for an upgrade?

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  1. Great blog! I’ve been “feeling old” for quite a while now. My oldest is a senior (A SENIOR?!?) in high school, my youngest a sophomore. My oldest graduates (GRADUATES?!?) in June 2019, coincidentally 30 years after I graduated from high school (oy…). My youngest conveniently reminded me in front of her tennis teammates yesterday just how old I am, by asking, “Dad, you’re 47??” 😐 As for nostalgia, last summer, I took my final elective in a class called “Digital Nostalgia.” We spent the summer reminiscing over our pasts and how digital and social media has influenced the feeling of nostalgia. An interesting book that we read for that class was “Present Shock,” by Douglas Rushkoff. Speaking of blogs, I need to get back to mine…

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  2. I loved the phone as a metaphor for self! I give you lots of credit for going to your reunion and looking back, reflecting. Also, the description of opening the books to the back page for the stamp is such a comforting memory for me and my childhood. Now I just put my library books on the scanner, not even opening them or talking to a librarian. How strange and impersonal–but also handy when you are checking out embarrassing book titles like “I’d rather be knitting!” Or “So you have athlete’s foot!”

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  3. Coincidentally, I only learned how to back up photos on the Google Photos app today of all days. I use an LG G5 phone now but it could be considered a phone that is getting old. I’ve had it for about a year now. Prior to that I was using an iPhone 5. Being the cheapskate I am (lol), I consider it good enough to even have a phone of my own to use, so I feel befuddled at how easy it is for other people in my life to suggest I get a new phone.

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  4. Beautifully written piece. I have to disagree with the “librarian thing” though. I worked as a librarian for over 35 years in public, community college and special libraries (NASA) and never checked out a book or any type of material for that matter. Librarians are usually too busy. I spent most of my time answering reference questions, cataloging media materials, working with faculty, supervising staff including hiring and evaluation, scheduling, monitoring the budget, keeping an eye on maintenance of buildings, teaching students how to navigate their research assignments, developing a new course on how to use the Internet etc. When I was in college and a student, I did work at the circulation desk and when I was earning my master’s degree at the Univ. of Illinois I worked in the main reference room on Friday evenings and answered reference questions at the local public library. It was a great career but did not include stamping books either by card stock or electronically. Now librarians have become information specialists helping patrons navigate the ins and outs of electronic media and compatibility issues.

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    1. Thank you. And yes, you are likely right that it was a checkout clerk rather than the librarian who stamped my books all those years ago. I have memories of librarians helping me choose what to read and running story hours in the community room. My boys absolutely loved going to story hour as toddlers and we were extremely sad when one of our favorite librarians passed away this past year. I have several friends and former classmates who became librarians and I know they have a multitude of responsibilities.Their service is incredibly valuable to the community!

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