5 Things '80s Kids Did Growing Up That Our Children Will Never Understand

I recently made a list of crazy things Gen Xers used growing up that are completely antiquated now. It reminded me of conversations I had with my relatives, when I was a child, where they told these fantastical tales about things my generation would never experience. Like, walking 20 miles to school ... in the snow ... uphill ... shoeless. Or running into gypsy bandits that lived in the woods near their house or even sitting around the radio to listen to your favorite shows.

As crazy as all of that sounded (exaggeration and all), I'm pretty sure the things I grew up doing as a Gen Xer wouldn't sound much less abnormal to my own offspring. And so, I imagine these are the yarns I will spin as my kids grow up.

"Well, youngin's, you think you've got it tough with your Facebook and your Google and your iParaphernalia? Why, in my day, we had to ..."


1.) Work a car with our own two hands. Sure, people in the old old days didn't have automatic transitions, or steering for that matter, but do you know what my generation had to do? We had to pull up the locks with our fingers!!! And that's not all, if you wanted a breeze or to let out an odor or some cigarette smoke (oh, everyone smoked in my day, even the kids), you had to turn a crank around and around and around to simply open the window a crack. And don't get me started on positioning the seat!

Also, there was no guarantee you would make it out alive as seat belts were merely suggested and you were allowed to sleep along the back ledge or sit in the front seat by the time you were talking. Not that you had a proper car seat leading up to that point anyway. No, the only thing between you and a windshield was your mom's outstretched arm. Thanks mom.

2.) Turn the channel. Oh kids ... you think rolling down the window seemed exhausting? Try lumbering over to the television. EVERY TIME you want to change the channel. I kid you not, the channels were located on the set ... and there were only 13 of them! And only like four of them had programs! And sometimes you had to walk to the TV across shag carpets that shocked you as you shuffled! And you HAD to watch all the commercials! And if the show you were watching didn't get good reception, you may have to adjust the bunny ears! Or just stand there and hold them for the duration of the show, because the TV inevitably worked better when you were touching (or near) the bunny ears to ensure you never got to sit back down. No, I am not referring to the stupid V you make behind people with your fingers when you photo bomb them!!! Sheesh, forget it. Why don't you just go watch the Disney Channel on your phone or something?

3.) Put a needle on the record. Sooooo, they used to have these big round things called records. Maybe you've seen one in a YouTube video where someone is DJ'ing. They were like supersized CDs. I'm sorry, you don't know what that is, um, DVDs. Sure, we can say Blu-rays. Anyhoo, you had an arm with a needle that had to be placed on the record to play a song, but you had to be so careful when you put it on because the slightest pressure could scratch the whole thing. You know, like the way you have to use your Sonicare -- gently and let it do all the work? Now, if you were really adept at record playing, you could find the right groove for any song you wanted to hear. Oh, and you know how your speakers are the size of a pin head? Mine were the size of furniture. In fact, they took up most of my room. In fact, one speaker doubled as my bedside table and the other speaker doubled ... as my bed.

4.) Use a map. Maps were how we pretty much got anywhere far or got lost trying. You see, we didn't have those fancy shmancy GPS systems that feature maps, log traffic, and offer alternate routes. No, we had massive papers that seemed to keep unfolding and unfolding and unfolding with tons of tiny lines on them that remind me of the backs of my once sexy legs. We had to use our fingers to plot the lines that would get us there. You could lose your place in the blink of an eye. It was harrowing.

Yep you're right, it is kinda like Google Maps except no automated voice or pop-ups alert you when to turn and if you've gotten off-course. That's what people who worked in gas stations in the middle of nowhere were for!

5.) Look things up manually. See, we didn't have a massive database like the Internet at our fingertips. No, we read things that were made from trees. They called those things books and there was a whole section of them that were considered references. They included things like dictionaries, encyclopedias and thesauruses ... thesarii? Damnit, I'll have to Google the plural of thesaurus later, but you get the point. 

We found these reference sections in places called libraries where a man named Dewey Decimal was king. There we didn't buy books, we simply shared them with other people and got their book cooties. We even got information for reports and school papers from these books. In fact, I once got an encyclopedia set for a birthday present (yeah, we didn't get fun things back then because knowledge was expensive). Anyhoo, Nana (my mom) bought it in two installments -- the first half and second half of the alphabet. But we couldn't afford the second half, because like I said, encyclopedias were like a million dollars and do you know what happened? In sixth grade, I had to do a report on Switzerland and I failed because I only had A through M.

Damn you Jane Lewis for getting Madagascar!

So, don't come crying to me when you forget to charge your iPad or a lightning storm affects the satellite TV because, now you see how tough we had it growing up.

What things did you do growing up that would make your children laugh?


Image via Denej/Flickr

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