My son drove to college this week with two Clorox bottles filled with sand from the Jersey Shore. My father put them in the car in case it snows this winter. You put sand under the tires for traction.
Regular readers know my father is a planner. A mechanical engineer by training, he learns from experience and plans for the future.
My son didn’t really get it. People don’t carry sand anymore. The Subaru has four-wheel drive. The roads are plowed and then salted.
My dad has the perspective of someone who has driven the Lincoln Gap in a blinding snowstorm. On at least two occasions sand bailed him out of a tight spot, once during a patch of sub-zero weather in Vermont.
When dad was growing up in South Orange, New Jersey in the 1930s, the roads were covered with packed snow and remained white for weeks. The kids sledded by holding on to car bumpers.
That’s impossible to imagine today. There is simply not enough snow anymore.
The Clorox bottles dad sent this year were an improvement over last year’s Tropicana Orange Juice containers. A convenient jug handle didn’t outweigh spillage from the Tropicana’s pop-top.
Last year was the first time my father “provided” my son with sand. My son didn’t ask for it and my dad didn’t offer. He just put the bottles in the car. My son had to ask me what they were.
This year my son arrived at school to discover dad had replaced the Tropicana bottles with the 2.0 Clorox version. Again, my son hadn’t asked for a change and my dad didn’t offer. He just swapped them out.
That’s how the Greatest Generation communicates.
Dad later offered to send a small batch for my son’s friends who noticed them in the back seat and asked about the origin and purpose of the sand.
We all see the world differently.
Sometimes the same place or person looks different because of where we’ve been and what we’ve seen.
My son cannot imagine a world with more snow than you can plow.
My dad cannot forget that “up north, sand comes in handy.”
(Part of a series based on conversations with my parents. Follow me on LinkedIn for life lessons from my parents, along with stories about Bloomberg LP where I spent three decades and fintech product innovation.)