Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let me tell you about today's specials...

Oops - sorry. I'm not sure there are any. I've been noticing it for awhile now - especially at school - and it makes me sad.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "special" in the following way:

Special (adjective)
1. distinguised by some unusual quality; especially; being in some way superior
2. held in particular esteem
3. a) readily distinguishable from others in the same category
b) of, relating to, or constituting a species
4. being other than the usual
5. designed for a particular purpose or occasion

So what's the problem? Here, in North America, in 2010, people have so many things and experiences available to them that nothing seems "special" to them anymore.

A few examples:
1. When I was a child, pop and chips were special, because we only ever had them when a babysitter came over, or at a birthday party. Now, most of my students bring them in their lunch on a daily basis. Eating in restaurants was another treat for my childhood self, because we rarely did it. But I have nieces and nephews and students and even adult friends who do it all the time - restaurants have become the norm for them
2. Movies! Without VCRs or DVDs, we used to wait all year for the Christmas season, when classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would come on T.V. And then we'd watch them. Carefully. Because they were special, and we didn't know when we'd get to see them again. Now, (I've noticed) even when someone says they LOVE a movie, they talk all the way through it. They get up. They wander around. And I think it's because they've seen it before, and will again, what?
3. Even favourite songs used to be something we waited for the on radio...then bought the 45 or LP, which we carefully transferred onto a cassette tape with other favourite songs. Now, at the push of a few buttons, you can have any song you want, at any time. Even without buying it.

The thing is, I LOVE pop and chips, and restaurants and movies and MP3's. I'm not criticizing them AT ALL. But I wonder if part of my love of them is that they are still, in some ways, novel to me. And I worry about the kids who are growing up without novelty, because what do they have to look forward to?

Then again, maybe novelty is subjective, and homecooked meals and playing outside will be "special" for this generation.