80 + 80

I was at my bank today, waiting in the ubiquitious ATM lineup while two teenage girls completed their banking transaction. These were two upper middle-class girls in the 15-17 age range, well dressed and wearing the latest in fashion and accessories. One was pressing the buttons while the other injected various comments and instructions during the complex process of withdrawing funds from a bank account (with a balance of $540.00, this relevation revealed by the button-pusher to everyone in the lineup).

During the transaction the button-pusher asked the wingman (wing-BFF?) “What’s 80 plus 80”? The friend stared back blankly as the gears meshed and their brains tried to comprehend this staggering calculation. Neither could come up with an answer. I’m serious. Neither could add 80 and 80 together and come up with the total. Really. I’m not joking.

True to 21st century form, the wingman pulled out her trusty iPhone and, using a previously downloaded app for this very type of emergency, added the two numbers together and proudly announced “One hundred and sixty!”, to which her friend replied “Are you sure?”. No, I’m not making this up, it REALLY happened today at a Coquitlam VanCity branch.

The friend quickly re-calculated and confirmed that 80 + 80 did indeed total 160. She withdrew her funds and they left. I was staggered. Is this the present state of teenage brain power, so dependent on digital appliances to do their thinking that they can’t make simple calculations like 80 + 80? Evidently, yes. These will be the next titans of power, decision makers within industry and government. I can imagine the future Canadian Minister of Finance interrupting the 2029 budget speech to ask an aide “Pssst….what’s 80 + 80?”.

To paraphrase Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a bumpy century.”

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