What’s Next?

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?

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10 Responses to What’s Next?

  1. Derek Smith says:

    Great posting Isabel!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Derek – I know you have no trouble keeping up with the computer/electronic wave, at least! I seem to remember you showing work colleagues video of bagpipers in Scotland on the internet, lo these many years ago now. I clearly remember thinking, What good is this? Who knew? (Other than you, I mean!) Today–as opposed to even 5 years ago–it’s relatively easy to find directions online to good beaches for shelling. Now that’s progress!

  2. What’s next!?! (in a good way) When we stop wondering, we are Old.

    Seen this?


  3. Judith says:

    This touches on my longstanding mental irritation with many in the medical profession who either express annoyance with the patient’s trivial complaint or chastise the patient for not coming in earlier regarding a deteriorated condition. How is the patient supposed to distinguish between the two – consult your doctor, of course! Too bad there is no ointment for mental irritations.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Well, of course, it’s just possible that in this case I exaggerate for comic relief. (Although he didn’t seem best pleased with me…) I clearly remember a pediatrician telling me that he’d rather see my kid 10 times and have 9 of them be for nothing, than miss the one time I should have brought him in. So some docs do get it right.

  4. Judith — Very good point, but I think the drug industry is offering “ointments” for mental irritations only too well. So is the LCBO. Most people’s drug of choice. Neither work perfectly, but the brain can only tell itself to “chill” for so long.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yes, there’s a whole lot of self-medicating going on, all right: caffeine, nicotine, sugar, alcohol and illegal drugs. Not to mention those odd souls who feel better when they run. I used to find that tai chi was a great de-stressor. After 60 minutes of concentrating on putting my body through a series of various prescribed positions, I could no longer even remember what had wound me up at work that day.

  5. Barry says:

    “Yet—ready to try anything—she would have been tickled by many of these new choices, I think. ”

    That is certainly the way that I see Belle!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barry – Being a grandmother is so odd – one is, after all, a complete person as well as a role. It makes me think differently about Gram, and wish that I had known her better as an adult.

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