Old Fogy After All

Published: May 2, 2005

By Dorothy O’Conner

Dorothy O'Conner

Often, in conversation with other seniors, I hear them “dissing” today’s young folks and referring back to their own childhood as a time of unmitigated bliss. I beg to disagree, respectfully. I believe today’s young folks are, for the most part, hard-working and goal-oriented, doing a good job of coping with situations that didn’t even exist during our adolescence. I also believe that we humans tend to obliterate the negative aspects of certain times and remember the positives. Yes, most of us had a happy childhood, but there were problems that we tend to gloss over. In short, in my vanity, I like to think that I am not old-fashioned.

Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about myself. For example, on a recent visit with Russell to his doctor I was distressed to notice that the doctor hardly looked at his patient. Instead, he stuck his face into the computer, with his back to Russell. I thought nostalgically back to a favorite doctor of my adult years. He and I used to sit at a beautiful desk in a tastefully furnished room and play what I jokingly called “Twenty Questions” before we went to an adjoining examination room. He never seemed rushed or hurried over his examination and during our conversations he always looked straight at my eyes.

On the same day as the unsatisfactory doctor visit, Russell and I had occasion to go to J. C. Penney in search of a new wallet. We spend little time shopping, so it was a dismaying experience to realize there were no friendly salespeople around to advise us. The only employees were at the Customer Service kiosks, glued to a cash register/computer, with long lines of customers waiting. We were on our own. Again, I thought longingly back to the days of yore when one could find helpful salespersons whose job it was to spend time with you and answer your questions.

The final downside that day occurred when I sat down at home to make some phone calls. My one and only child was about to celebrate his 40th birthday and I planned to give him four gift certificates, each from a different type of store. I phoned Borders, where an alert young man took down all the information and said the gift card would arrive in the mail within a day or two. (It did.) I repeated the request to a Whole Foods store, with the same pleasant result.

Then my plans hit a snag. When I called Macy’s I was connected to the inevitable disembodied voice reciting a menu. None of the choices had anything to do with a gift card. I tried again, making menu selections haphazardly. Inevitably I linked to yet another menu. Panic rose in me as I wondered frantically if I would ever again talk to a real human being. Finally, just by a fluke, after I had wildly punched any old number, I was connected to a real person and ordered the gift certificate.

I fared even worse when I called two sports stores. No, neither one sells gift cards over the phone; you have to GO there. I cannot imagine why. In desperation, I planned to give Dan a check for that part of his present, but Russell’s son came to my rescue and obtained one over the Internet.

The sum total of those events: the doctor visit, the department store errand, and the phone shopping, made me stop and think. Perhaps I AM an old fogy after all!