A comedic sign along Route 66 in New Mexico ©Jim Hinckley’s America

Years ago, when a young man or young woman couldn’t afford college, they were often told that the world needed ditch diggers. That, however, is one of many things that has changed in recent years. The ditch digger is being replaced by machines, and even robotic ones that are controlled from an air conditioned office.

Increasingly the technologically challenged are being pushed to the sideline when it comes to employment. Even worse, the folks who reside in Geezerville are being challenged daily to adjust to a world that is as unfamiliar as a Japanese movie dubbed in Greek with Russian subtitles.

In recent months AARP has published a serious of articles about the problems associated with the growing gap between the tech savvy and the tech ignorant. “There are few things that can make the uninitiated feel more tech inept than watching a teenager work a smartphone, and for seniors, that can be a problem.”

For those of you that are still trying to figure out the VCR, that still use a rotary dial phone, or that still read a morning newspaper, I am living proof that you can persevere. You can adapt, perhaps even profit, and maybe teach the young whippersnappers a thing or two.

1880 to 2023

I was born in the year of the Edsel. I learned to drive in a ’53 Chevy truck and ’64 Ford Fairlane. With clarity I remember cross country family trips on Route 66, without air conditioning. Transportation to my first summer job was by bicycle. Trade school instead of college was my gateway to the adult world.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, please read on.

To this point in time my life was not much different from most everyone else that grew up in these years. But there were glimmers of what was to come in my early adulthood. After all, what fourteen year old in the early 1970s spent their time in junk shops looking for big band records from WWII? While most everyone young man that I knew was hungering for a Camaro, Mustang, a GTO, or Dodge Charger, I was driving a 1964 Rambler American station wagon, on purpose.

That car was followed by a ’42 Chevy truck, and a string of trucks made at least a dozen years before I was born. Early employment mirrored my vehicle choices. Construction jobs led me to mining, above and below ground. Then came the John Wayne period and a lifestyle that took back to the 1880s. It was a world of kerosene lamps and wood burning stoves, and long hours in the saddle under a blazing desert sun or blizzards that left the face numb.

Hi, I Am Jim and I Am Technologically Challenged

Fast forward to the last decade of the 20th century. I was married and lived in suburbia, but was still driving a ’50 Chevy truck. I had a white collar job. And I launched my writing career, on a 1948 Underwood typewriter.

But the world was changing and it was changing fast. But to me it was peripheral. I honestly thought that it would be possible to slowly move into Geezerhood without replacing the rotary phone, buying a computer, orusing the internet.

Like many folks of my generation I adapted when forced to and stubbornly held fast to a world that was fast vanishing. One day while on the road I desperately needed a cell phone, but they were gone. The debit card was stuck in my wallet unused, until I needed cash from an ATM – in Amsterdam. Articles were blissfully written on my typewriter until receiving a contract that stipulated a document be submitted as a Word file.

And then one day a light came on and it became clear that I was being left behind. I was rendering myself irrelevant. Instead of being an Ezra Meeker (look that story up for some inspiration) I was becoming modern Amish.

Lessons Learned

I won’t say that I have figured it out. After all, with technology there is a sense that as soon as you know the answers they (whoever they are) change the questions. But I can create a website, even though the mysteries of SEO still baffle me. I can create a podcast, but haven’t mastered how to build an audience, or make it profitable. I even have a “smart phone” that seems hell bent on intimidating me. And I am wholly convinced that at some point in the next ten or twenty years, my tech skills will be on par with the average 12 year old.

As we age there is a tendency to forget the fearless way that we embraced life in our youth. But the lessons learned then still apply to challenges faced today. Remember the tremendous sense of satisfaction that came from the first successful carburetor adjustment, the first toilet repair, or the first time you figured out how to text?

So, what is stopping you from building a website, setting up an online story or developing a podcast? Just imagine what the wisdom you can impart to a younger generation, if you just knew how to communicate.


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