Thursday, February 05, 2015

Getting used to it...

      The other day I was listening to a friend describe a truck/train accident that he had once witnessed. Apparently the semi was crossing the railroad track, but before the attached trailer could make it across, the train hit it, tearing it loose from the tractor and pushing it sideways down the track. He told how the trailer continued down the track, clipping off telegraph poles as it went along. I suppose referencing telegraph poles is a telltale sign as to which generation you belong too. My generation would probably have called them telephone poles if one of us had been telling the story. I suspect that one day my grandchildren will have no recollection whatsoever of telegraph or telephone poles, or the wires that connected the poles, along with the people that used them. Probably when I try to tell them about the poles and wires, they’ll look at me the way they do when I tell them about walking across the room to turn channels on the television.

     We had a similar situation last week with a doctor in the hospital. Dad was in for a few days, and the young doctor was explaining a test they were going to do on Dad’s heart. He told Dad they were going to perform an ultrasound, which would give them the same type of image he could see of his children when Mom was expecting. As I said, he was a young doctor. I guessed around 12 or 13, but my wife assured me he was at least in his early 20’s. I suppose he thought ultrasounds had always been around, and I’m sure they have been around as long as he has been a doctor, and probably as long as he has been alive. But when my brothers and sisters and I were born, the closest thing we had to an ultrasound was when the doctor would draw a stick person picture on the chalkboard in the waiting room.

      I think we have the tendency to accept what we are most familiar with as being normal. Another friend mentioned the other day that he thought it was rude of people to use their smartphones or kindles when they were in a social setting, but thought it would be more acceptable if they chose to read a book or newspaper in the same setting.  Another generational “tell”, I think. And while I have the tendency to agree with him, I also realize that many of the taboos my and previous generations think should remain in place will fall by the wayside like telegraph poles when the next couple of generations reach the “previous” status, and the new normal takes ahold.

     Truth be told, as individuals, we probably don’t have a lot of control over what is normal for society. We might have some control over what is normal for ourselves, and maybe some but not quite as much control over what is normal for our families. I think most of the time we have even less control over what is normal for the government.

     Last week, after a big snow storm out east, a report came out of Bridgewater, New Jersey, about a couple of young men who were walking around the neighborhood offering to shovel the snow from the sidewalks of homeowners. A couple of policemen stopped them and informed them that they were in violation of an ordinance that required them to obtain a permit from the town hall before doing any soliciting. I was happy that there was so much public outcry over the action that the police chief and councilmen in Bridgewater felt it necessary to apologize, trying to explain that there was a misunderstanding over both the intention and implementation of the ordinance.
     But it made me think again of how normal it is for the government to regulate so many things that they didn’t used to regulate, and wonder how many generations it will take before we accept that requiring permits for shoveling snow is normal, and the politicians won’t even apologize for it.


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