Boomer Blog: There’s a first time for everything

There have probably been no more “firsts” than usual lately, but somehow I have noticed a string of them. My almost five-year-old grandniece spent her first night ever away from her parents at her auntie’s apartment – and everyone survived.

A GHS classmate now living in Georgia just celebrated his last day on the job and his first day of retirement. He posted on Facebook he was watching the NFL draft. Fans of the annual exercise speculate for weeks about who will “go” in which “round.” From what I read, an ill-advised photograph on social media cost the projected first round draft choice the top spot as well as 8 million dollars.

A faithful Buckeye fan and friend of mine mentioned the draft’s recruiting power for Urban Meyer: five of his players were tapped in the first round with the eventual distribution of twelve OSU gridders among nine teams.

Years ago my sports aficionado nephew and I watched part of the draft together. Totally engrossed, he commented expertly on every selection. I, on the other hand, still compare the experience to watching paint dry.

There is math involved in the draft: each of 32 teams has one pick in each of seven rounds for a total of 256 draft slots. All those numbers, plus draft-pick trading among teams, make the whole thing sound like a monstrous “story problem” for an algebra exam. The description condensing it all into helpful terms for me: the teams knew what they needed and went shopping.

The brother of the “draft” nephew is the NASCAR engineer nephew, who is never surprised I consider an entire Sunday race another paint-drying event. Uncharacteristically, I did watch the final 35 laps of the crash-filled spectacle at Talladega, or as my nephew’s daughter, fresh from that first sleepover, described it: “The cars were tumbling all over the place.”

Jamie McMurray, my nephew’s driver, benefited from one of several restarts and finished in a respectable if tantalizing fourth place. With so little space between cars, first place seemed possible if he just drove a little faster – which is what everyone was trying to do!

Another recent first is actually a “finally”: the face of a woman, specifically Harriet Tubman, will soon replace Andrew Jackson’s picture on the $20 bill. Actually, in the 1800’s a $1 silver certificate bore the portrait of Martha Washington, and a likeness of Pocahontas appeared on a $20 note. Since the end of the 19th century, however, currency portraits have all been male.

It is unclear to me why our country, so often perched on any cutting edge, is relatively old-fashioned about its currency. Former-slave-underground-railroad-conductor-abolitionist Tubman is certainly a worthy choice as were the other finalists that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller. It should be noted, however, that 48 other currencies in the world already feature females.

Having shopped for thirty years on a continent full of currencies including German marks, French francs, and Italian lira, I became fascinated by the differences between our dollar and paper money used elsewhere.

All denominations of American currency have the same dimensions; in most other countries, the larger the denomination, the larger the physical size of the bill. And our money features just one color, although I think the green is grayer than it once was. Each denomination of paper currency in many nations has its own distinctive color.

The design of the dollar also begs this question: how can visually-impaired individuals distinguish among denominations? Other monetary systems use size and tactile indicators. Fortunately, at least the new Tubman bill will undergo court-mandated alterations to alleviate difficulties for those with sight challenges.

I am announcing my own first: I now have the equipment and the ability to exchange text messages with friends and family. I utilize my landline almost exclusively, using my basic cell phone, for which I buy minutes once a year, only in emergency situations.

The company just upgraded my phone – for free – to one with texting and web capabilities. I will, however, continue to google information and read the news on my desktop computer, the one with the 19-inch screen as opposed to the new phone screen, not much larger than a postage stamp.

After technical assistance and some time with my sister, I can now send and receive text messages. However, with no keyboard and only a number pad, typing for this two-handed, fingers-over-the-home-keys, touch typist from way back is definitely frustrating. And the keys are so tiny I have to press them with my thumbnail. I do not see the currently-popular two-thumbed texting method anywhere in my future.

In contrast to Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone words: “Mr. Watson-come here-I want to see you,” my initial message was a paltry “Hello” with no period. Thankfully, I have since found the punctuation section.

I am not sure how often I will use my newfound skill. I already write letters, talk on the phone, send e-mails and private Facebook messages. But if the need and desire arise, I have yet another means of communication at my disposal. And I think the exercise of figuring out something new is always good for the brain.

It seems I just learned how to e-mail; now, fifteen years later, there are fewer and fewer messages in my inbox. Didn’t the timespan between newfangled and obsolete used to be much longer?

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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