Enduring an hour-long commute to work every morning would be an absolute nightmare. The monotony of the highway, the too-slow passage of time … heck, even talk radio would get old after an hour. By my second week on the job, I’d be at the library, checking out audiobooks on the history of fertilizer, just to keep my road-addled mind occupied on the daily slog. That would be my life: Work and poop.

Well, I’ve got a friend in pretty much that exact situation. An hour to work, an hour back, day after day, week after week. It’s a testament to her will power that she hasn’t snapped and drop-kicked a family of beavers to vent her frustration. It’s also fortunate for the beavers.

I’d like to think I help her out in this regard. Every once in a while I’ll root through my substantial collection of music and make her a mix CD, usually a winding romp through myriad genres of rock ”“ some classics, a few comedy tunes, and a dose of heavy metal to add a little punch to her coma-inducing journeys. If there’s anything that can keep you awake on the turnpike at 5 in the evening, it’s a squealing guitar solo that could melt the eyes of a south African meerkat.

(In case you’re thinking it, no, I don’t have it in for the entire animal kingdom. Just wallabies. Those kangaroo-wannabe bastards.)

There are two reasons I make her these CDs. The first and most obvious reason is that I’m a completely awesome friend in every way, minus my tendency to eat all of her York Peppermint Patties. The second is simple. I like making mix CDs. It’s a fun hobby.

Only this hobby is quickly vanishing.

Every generation goes through this to some extent ”“ the hobbies and pastimes that define an age eventually give way to new technologies, new ways of doing things. Making a mix CD ”“ indeed, listening to a CD at all ”“ is an activity that’s quickly going the route of stamp collecting and model shipbuilding. It’s passé, and it’s dating me. Living history museums employ actors to fill the roles of bygone artisans, such as butter churners with their musty barrels and oar-like stirring plungers; in another 30 years, these characters will be replaced by a guy sitting at a laptop, trying to find just the right song to transition between Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” and Van Halen’s “Run With the Devil.” People will take photos of this antiquated endeavor, because by that point laptops will be replaced by brain chips and we’ll all be cyborgs eating old engine parts for sustenance.

Those in my parents’ generation already have much to lament. My own were a bit nervous buying me my first Nintendo Entertainment System when I was a kid, thinking that perhaps I’d spend all my time indoors, eschewing the outside world in favor of shooting fireballs at spike-shelled turtles and monsters that looked like Ed McMahon. Their fears were partially grounded. I didn’t avoid outdoor play entirely, but I did spend an inordinate amount of time with an electronic laser gun in my hand, shooting computer ducks and bad-boy desperadoes with the twitchy nostrils of coke fiends. That I turned out the way I did is perhaps unsurprising. If there’d been mutant killer turtles at the playground, I might have gone out more, weighed less than a Buick filled with sand bags, and grown up to be a Major League pitcher. This is clearly what would have happened.

As things turned out, I became more fully integrated into an age group that was fast adopting video games as a lifestyle ”“ a lifestyle many of us continue to this day. (Though not me; I’m too busy writing screeds about flatulence.) What’s a little off-putting is that the generation below mine ”“ the so-called “Millennials” ”“ have taken preoccupation with screens to another dimension. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to guide Mario through a go-kart course littered with banana peels, you had to actually sit down in front of a wired television, turn on a machine, and play at a fixed location. But everything’s portable now. The lines have blurred. Gaming is no longer an activity for which you set aside a specific time; you do it on the subway, you do it in class, you do it at Denny’s to take your mind off the fact that you’re at Denny’s. The old gives way to the new, and those in the old-school lament the change, believing ”“ perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly ”“ that their way was better. It’s the same ol’ song and dance, repeating endlessly through time.

Phones have replaced CDs as the music platform of choice. Tracklists are now playlists. And the hobbies that once defined my youth now place me firmly in a specific historical period ”“ the period of neon slap-bracelets and headbands, of waiting for a song to come on the radio so it can be recorded on a warbly cassette tape. Yeesh. Someone hand me a butter churn.

Could these generational divisions have always been so drastic? Doubtful. Youths always break from the traditions of their forebears, but the accelerated pace of technological innovation has an amplifying effect, compartmentalizing each generation into their own distinct eras: The era of the 8-track, the era of the VCR, the era of nudie pictures on phones. (This last era isn’t so bad.) These things no longer evolve. They just change, suddenly and without warning, and one day you’re making a mix CD and wondering why everyone’s lookin’ at you funny.

Like many who are faced with this sort of thing, I’m sticking to what feels right. That means sitting down and selecting, song by song, a tracklist ”“ not a playlist ”“ to ease the psychic burden of my commuter friend’s daily pilgrimage. This either means I’m steadfast in my commitment to an era-specific hobby, or I need to join some kind of club. Probably both.

And for the record, the song that should fit between “Sultans of Swing” and “Runnin’ With the Devil?” “Still of the Night” by Whitesnake.

Like I said. I’m an awesome friend.

— Jeff Lagasse is a Hacky Sackin’, CD-makin’, turtle-stompin’ columnist and Assistant Editor at the Journal Tribune. He can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected]