So there we were, Number One Son and I, talking to his teacher’s husband at an after-hours school function. This is supposed to be a dance where he has YET ANOTHER chance to interact with his peers, by which I would like to mean “people his age” but should probably amend to “people he bothers to talk with.” He stays for exactly one point five dances and announces that we’re outta here. As a Big Ugly Man Doll surrounded by third graders, I need little encouragement to leave.
As we go to walk out the door, I spy his teacher and remind him that politeness dictates that we make our apologies as we cut out early. She introduces Number One Son to her husband, who asks him about the drawing he’s made.
Number One Son: Oh, this is a picture of the TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It’s from Dr. Who.
Teacher’s Husband: Hey, you watch Dr. Who? I used to watch that! Do they still have those tin can robot bad guys with the toilet plungers?
NOS: Excuse me, they’re called Daleks, and they go “Exterminate! Exterminate!”
TH: Right! I remember those! And do they still have…
They went on for five minutes, gushing about the new and old versions of the show.
And as I watched Number One Son find a common ground on which he could relate – head to head, toe to toe – to this guy who’s around my own age, I realized what a fantastic generational bridge science fiction presents. Teacher’s husband hadn’t seen any of the new version of the series – in his mind, Peter Davison is still the Doctor, somewhere beyond the Medusa Cascade – but the shared experience of a well-remembered show provided them both a conversational starting point they would not otherwise have shared.
I’ve noticed this myself with colleagues significantly my senior (which sounds better than ‘old dudes’), that when once in a while I find a shared experience with which we can both relate, it’s generally a science fiction link. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made – of all literary forms, Sci-Fi has always been so uniquely focused on the future that people who read it in years past tend to judge the today’s present against the predictions of their youth. (I, for one, am still waiting for the flying cars and moving roads.)
So long live the Doctor! Number One Son spends a lot of time with the TARDIS, and in a galaxy far, far away. It also gives him access to humor that his age group may not get, but his teachers are howling at – working on something in math, he said, “I’m a Math Dalek! Extrapolate! Extrapolate!”
Even a CyberMan would find that funny!