Seeing change in a new (and more positive) light.
That’s not a mole, he says in some disgust. That’s an age spot. I’m not sure what right the walk-in-clinic doctor has to be disgusted by my age spot, but I try to be charitable. My description of the growth on my back—Raised Mole! Sudden Change! Crusty Surface! Burning Pain!—has led him on, I guess, promising great drama. But the theatre involved turns out to be more farce than drama, as the Great Melanoma Scare of 2011 is downgraded to Irritated Age Spot. Apply some Polysporin®, he advises curtly, still in a bit of a snit, and leaves with clear hopes of Something More Interesting from the next walk-in.
In this uplifting drive-by encounter with the medical profession, I do not learn how to distinguish ‘mole’ from ‘age spot’ in a middle-of-the-back location I cannot see and can just barely reach. But I do learn that the current formulation of Polysporin®—an over-the-counter medication I associate only with antibiotic properties—also has an analgesic effect. In plain language, it makes it stop hurting: Who knew? Lacking small-people housemates, I’m a little out of touch with modern small-wound treatment options.
I’m a little out of touch with many modernities. The computer-related ones—well, all electronics, really—are old news:
- On the road, when the not-quite-up-to-Google-standard search function of the GPS has me ready to throw it into the ditch, the Big Guy pulls over and takes over.
- At home, I need a cheat sheet to navigate the three remote controls involved in putting on a DVD—something that I dimly remember as a more straightforward operation.
- In my home office, I do not try to stay abreast of computer technology: I swallow my pride, buy the software warranty, and get on a first-name basis with Help Desk staffers around the world.
- In client offices, I watch in awe as young folks—all those under, say, 40—do things with graphics applications that amaze me.
- In my social life, I find I’m not that social, really, if it means having to tackle Twitter. As for internet functionality, maybe no one is keeping up—I know I’m not. Did you know that Amazon sells dishwasher soap?
But I thought I knew Polysporin®.
I’m feeling, well, disgusted, I guess. But whether it’s with the convergence driven by the market economy generally (Why the heck do all products gradually become like all other products?), or with Polysporin® specifically (How dare they add functionality without telling me?), or with myself particularly (Why can’t I keep up?), I’m not yet sure.
Of course, none of these questions make much sense.
Do I really want the market economy not to function at full tilt, driven by the legitimate pursuit of self-interest? As a self-employed provider of a business service unknown just 20 years ago, I think not.
Do I really want products to stay the same forever? As a pain-free consumer of lactose-free milk, unavailable just 10 years ago, I think not.
Do I really expect to keep up with the rate of change created by humans’ wild and crazy ingenuity? As the granddaughter of a woman who lived from horse-and-wagon to moon-landing era, I think not.
As I approach the age my grandmother was when I was born, I often wonder what she would think of all these new products. She would, of course, know milk and eggs as foodstuffs, although she would never have seen lactose-free or omega-3-enriched variants. She enjoyed cheese in sandwiches, macaroni and even fondues, but likely knew nothing of smoked salmon cream cheese (light or regular) on bagels. She drank coffee, maybe cut with chickory in the old days, but lattes and espresso would have baffled her. She savoured ice cream and sherbet, but probably never heard of gelato, much less tasted it.
Yet—ready to try anything—she would have been tickled by many of these new choices, I think. Rather than being disgusted by her inability to keep up with the torrent, she would likely just have revelled in the small part of the flow that did come her way. So in this month that marks the 121st anniversary of her birth, I’m going to try to take a lesson from her (and even, perhaps, from that cranky walk-in-clinic doctor), and wonder, hopefully, What’s next?