A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, where there was no internet, where a smart phone was something Agent 86 kept in his shoe, and where people updated their friends and relatives on their lives by sharing a conversation around the dinner table or via a lovely phone call on Thanksgiving, a trope was begun by old men and women.
It was the story that always began with “When I was your age,” and then wandered into some bizarre territory where old people used myths of biblical proportions to tell young people how weak they were and how easy they had it.
The most common example perpetuated by the media was the good ol’ walking to school in the snow, usually waist deep, and nearly always uphill both ways. By the time Monty Python lampooned it into immortality, everyone on the planet had heard it in real life.
You haven’t seen the Monty Python sketch? For shame!
Comedy has a lot of uses, but Monty Python used it most effectively as a mirror to humanity’s many absurdities. The absurdity in “The Four Yorkshiremen” came, on the surface, from the fantastic tall tales the old men tell. Everyone knows that the stories old men and old women tell about the old times and how different they were are only speaking half-truths. Exaggeration hammers the point home, after all – but the Python team took it to a rather witty extreme, wouldn’t you say now?
Underneath the surface, we finally got to laugh at ourselves. Society made these men this way and social etiquette allowed them their exuberance. It’s rude to tell a poor old man that he didn’t have it as rough as he says he did during the Depression, because regardless of how tall his tale he did have it rough. With Python we were allowed to laugh, and in laughing admit communally that it was a silly thing we were doing but it didn’t matter because it was harmless – even helpful.
Comedy is often prophetic, as well. Forty-five years after Monty Python first performed “The Four Yorkshiremen” it is becoming increasingly important that we listen to the stories told by our elder statespeople. Especially the stories about walking uphill in the snow.
Twenty-seven or younger? Then you’ve never experienced a month in which the global temperature has been colder than average, according to the latest data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Twenty-seven years ago I was discovering New Edition and the Violent Femmes in between episodes of The Cosby Show and Who’s the Boss. (Spoiler: Mona’s the boss) I was also sled riding every winter, usually to the effect of a bruised hip or ego. And it got damn cold.
Really, though, it still gets damn cold. There hasn’t been a single month showing a global record cold for 332 consecutive months (333 tomorrow, probably), but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t get damn cold in Massillon come February.
As the trend continues, the outliers we’re seeing locally will begin to disappear into the history books as well. While parts of Europe may get colder if climate change progresses in the same manner as one popular hypothesis suggests, most of the US will just keep getting warmer and warmer and warmer.
I’m not yet twice twenty-seven, but I’m not so far off that I can’t see the number realistically. Before long, those colder than cold winters I spent in the woods, watching my friends punch through the thick sheets of ice that covered the creeks, complaining about the freezing water trickling down the side of my ankle because snow got in my damn shoe again, before long they really will be stories that only really occurred “when I was your age,” at least so far as most of the planet will be concerned.
By the time I’m an old man, the world will be completely different. Things like the internet are changing humanity at a speed never before seen, in ways only barely theorized and discussed. By the time we understand exactly what it is we’re going through, we’ll be looking at it through a historical lens.
In changing humanity, we’ve already irrevocably changed our environment. That change is accelerating, but I have confidence it can be curbed to at least some extent. It will take a while, and the fight against obstinate obstructionists still gets in the way, but eventually the evidence will be too overwhelming for even the most stubborn of naysayers.
Ok, perhaps not the most stubborn. Most of them will come around. They will have no choice.
And when they do, I will exploit every opportunity to say “I told you so.” Old people can do that. I will proudly wear my pants pulled up to my armpits so my argyles can breath and mock the Chicken Littles that will then be the dominant voice. I will cackle on the corners and throw invisible snow balls at invisible snow men.
And I will do my best to tell everyone what it was like back when I was their age. The thing is, it will be true. It really will have been colder. I won’t be the crotchety old man in the corner, inured to the elements and complaining that the kids don’t have a clue what cold is because I think it was worse back when I wasn’t as used to it, I’ll be the crotchety old man in the corner, inured to the elements and complaining that the kids don’t have a clue what cold is because I know it was worse back when I wasn’t used to it.
Please excuse any exaggerations.
(Editor’s Note: For the record, you can walk in the snow uphill both ways if you have to walk down a big ass hill before walking up a big ass hill on your way.)
Here’s that link to Wired again.