40 Years Ago Today (Apollo 15, Road Trips, and Instant Everything)
I’m going to start off topic today to reflect on my youth and the time we drove from New York to Florida when I was 11. As one of my older brothers likes to remind me, we drove when I-95 wasn’t complete, using US-1 as we drove down the Eastern seaboard for a family vacation. My father snapped a photo of a sign that said “Future Home of Disney World.” (Eventually I’ll find a legal point for this post, don’t worry.)
It was on that trip, 40 years ago today, that we saw Apollo 15 blast off toward the Moon. My dad captured that moment also, in the photo you see here that was subsequently used by Wired Magazine in 2008 to celebrate 50 years of NASA. I’m standing with my mom and two of my brothers are on the roof of the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser that we drove in. On the way down south my three brothers and I swapped turns in the rear-facing tail-gunner seat.
We left at home our high tech toy, that being the Zenith Space Commander remote for the TV, which I still have someplace in my house. And for those too young to know the derivation of the word “clicker” for remote control, that’s why we have Wikipedia, but the entry doesn’t tell you that you could also change the channel on the TV by rattling a few quarters together.
Watching a massive Saturn V rocket blast off to the moon can leave quite an impression on an 11-year-old. We listened to the countdown on the radio, and heard the tinny roar come out of the speakers as we watched a vast ball of smoke billow out from under the rocket to envelope it. For a few moments, I thought it had exploded on the pad. But then the nose cone peaked its way out from the smoke, and the astronauts roared up to the sky on the proverbial pillar of fire, with the thunderous sound reaching us many seconds after our eyes had already seen the rocket start to streak up and away. They carried a Moon Buggy with them to become the first to drive on the Moon.
I think about that now as kids of the same age as I was back then are getting cell phones and iPads, texting, sexting, twittering and facebooking. Friends are now some type of amorphous concept as we live in the age of information overload.
But I think we had the better deal. The rush of today’s youth into technology strips away much of the fun of growing up, getting dirty, unstructured play and forcing us to invent games out of boredom. It wasn’t necessary that my friends, pseudo-friends, faux-friends, cyber-friends, frenemies, followers and others, knew what I was doing all the time. And it still isn’t.
While I continue to be as fascinated today with the digital world as when I first went online circa 1992 (Prodigy anyone?), I don’t really understand the way some feel compelled to give their hourly updates. Some stuff is so boring I wouldn’t read it if written by my own family. I know that this is something expressed many times by others, but on the 40th anniversary of one of the most impressionable sights of my youth, it gives me reason to reflect.
The biggest concern about all that technology, I think, is that it enables a reliance upon others. For information, data, and social relationships. Lost in the process, perhaps, may be some degree of being able to stand up on your own two feet, to learn the ability to eat what you kill.
I wonder sometimes if that reliance upon others that is being bred by the ease of interconnectedness might also stymie the ability of future trial lawyers. For in the well of the courtroom you can’t just stop what you are doing and text some question to others. You come prepared and you do cross-examination, which is often akin to walking a high wire without a net. There is no short cut to learning the skill set, and that is what technology teaches us to expect: short cuts. You have to learn the facts, learn the law, and learn the tactics and skills to weave those together. Our digital expectations of instant weather, traffic reports, ball scores, and communications with friends runs directly counter to the time needed to learn a profession. Our kids (and the next generation of professionals) may be getting the short end of the stick by being bred on instant everything.
Having now started with a giant rocket and found my way to a point about law, I’ll stop. And I’ll spare you the story of the baseball from my youth (updated!) that I kept; the one that I stitched back up when the laces were destroyed throwing grounders to my brother in the street. There’s a story in that too, though it might take some work to find the legal connection.
(And thanks, Dad, for taking us.)
Apollo 15 launch (You Tube)
Countdown: Apollo 15 (Brian Floca)