It was one of those questions you dread as a parent.
My teenage son wanted to know ‘Grandpa keeps talking about the good old days. When are we getting ours and what are good old days?’ How do you explain to an inquisitive teenager when he will get his good old days and what these are?I swallowed hard. The inquest had begun. I knew I had to tread carefully. Youngsters don’t believe in good old days and they don’t reckon there’s anything to enthuse about. This called for a lot of creativity and of course a lot of spicing up to win a convert.
My good old days would have been the 80s during my teenage years. These were characterised by really fine music, advent of hip-hop culture, cheaper goods, Michael Jackson, Toyota Cressida, Haley’s Comet, balloon trousers, motlapiso courtesy of Pop Inn Store, permed hair and AIDS.
I explained to him how in the 80s one could go to the store with a P10 note and get a dozen eggs, a caffeine-laden litre of coke, a loaf of bread and a can of baked beans. I explained how it’s not possible these days with too many security cameras in stores. I had just let slip that we were less than honest kids. I realised I was still in slumber mode and needed a cup of coffee to taser me awake. I decided to plod along and I unwittingly embarrassed my parents and teachers in equal measure in the process.
It was really difficult to explain how artists like James Brown who sang like a frog with laryngitis churned out hit after hit and we thoroughly enjoyed their music. He wondered if we were tone deaf then.
Some musicians just have a freakish amount of talent. Most of us learn at a young age that we are not those people. The realisation probably comes as soon as you are old enough to read social cues and you tried showing off your amazing talents to anyone except your pet. Lucious is a very good dog, but maybe not a very good judge of musical ability. Clearly for James Brown the penny never dropped and his career was largely riding on the validation of his dog. And
It was even more difficult to explain how we managed to set up appointments when we didn’t have cellphones. It was usually a walk across town only to find that your target is held captive by her parents preparing the family meal.
She wouldn’t even know you were outside pacing the street hoping she’d come out to the trash bin. Most of the girls then were trained (in Dating School) to frequently go to the trash bin just in case the boyfriend is outside waiting.
If you were lucky, she would come out and you’d have a hurried conversation that lasted less than 30 seconds at best. He did the calculations and wondered how we could walk two hours, wait for close to half an hour to have a conversation that took less than 30 seconds.
My mitigation- some had telephones so you could call and have a Mills and Boon-inspired conversation. It was the grey type that looked like some primeval animal with multiple eyes that had crept up the little table in the living room corner and found a place of abode there. We were eternally grateful to Alexander Graham Bell for this invention because it meant less wear on our soles. The downside was when one of the parents answered and chastised you. You knew it was the end of the road and you had to go with the less than ideal walk-across-town option.
Next time you wax lyrical about the good old days just be careful that you really portray them as better than the modern day. Especially when you explain it to a headphone-strapped, tablet-totting, wifi-connected, zoom-conferencing, playstation-owning youth!
I hadn’t done so well in placing the good old days in neon lights. I looked for the quickest exit. I decided to go shopping, buy a few holy waters and rob a bank down the street. Anything to put distance between me and the inquest!
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