top of page

Do I look 90?

Last week in a store, my bill came to $19.32. I said to the clerk, “Wow, that wasn’t a good year.”

He said, “Yeah, I have no idea. I wasn’t born until 1966.”

Okay, first of all, I need to ask, do I LOOK like I remember 1932?

There’s nothing the matter with being 90. I know a few 90-year-olds and I’m fond of each one, but I really think if you lined me up with the average 90-year-old, I would appear noticeably younger.

Next, I don’t believe 1932 was all that obscure. You don’t need to have lived through it to know something about it. There was the Great Depression, the Nazis were taking over in Germany, the Dust Bowl…many, many things that I feel were touched on in most history classes.

I’m not expecting every store worker to be a history major. I wasn’t insulted when I got a blank stare from a clerk when I was checking out at a convenience store. The bill came to $10.66 and I said, “Ten-sixty-six. That’s the year King Harald was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.”

I know what you’re thinking. As we all know, King Harald getting killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge was Norway’s last chance to rule over all of the British Isles. Win that battle and Shakespeare would have been writing plays in Norwegian. Instead of people complaining how terrible English food is, everyone would be enjoying dried codfish and boiled sheep heads. And, the world would be a better place.

Still, there are people in the world who aren’t Norwegian, so I’ll cut that clerk a little slack.

Did I mention the 1932 episode happened in a bookstore? Call me naive, but I always thought that people who worked in book stores read, you know, books.

Certainly, some people are thinking, “What’s the point?” Why do I torment helpless clerks, why read up on historical events that don’t matter?

Because they do matter. History matters. Take that one year, 1932. A lot of people thought Hitler was a loud-mouthed nobody who didn’t really believe anything he was saying. For years, he was kind of a joke in Germany, the sort of person that you don’t take seriously. Plus, he was half a world away, so what possible harm could he do to us? The whole world was wrong about that. As the poet, Maya Angelou, once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Ignoring awful people doing awful things doesn’t solve anything.

How about the Great Depression? Well, a lesson there is that when rich people and the wanna-be rich write all the rules, bad stuff happens to all of us. I like money as much as most people, but when greed becomes the ultimate motivation, when selfishness becomes the rule of the land, a great fall always follows. Always.

The Dust Bowl? I was a farmer for thirty years. People in my family have been farmers for 400 years, at least. If you don’t take care of the land, the land can’t take care of you. Why do we need to keep learning that lesson over and over? Rains fall, or don’t. Droughts come, prices rise and fall. Through it all, the one lesson that shouldn’t need to be taught is that if you don’t take care of the earth, you’ll pay in the end.

All of these thoughts ran through my head as I stared at the book store clerk who knew nothing about 1932 AND thought I looked 90 years old. I didn’t say any of them out loud – I doubt he gets paid enough to listen to the aimless rants of random customers.

But the people in charge of this country are supposed to have learned from history and they show no evidence that they have. I’ll keep ranting at them, as long as I can.

Even if I live to be 90.

Copyright Brent Olson 2019

bottom of page