Well, as I mentioned in my previous post, our lovely and talented daughter Casey turned 30 last week, which can only mean one thing: my wife and I are friggin’ old.
I remember how old I felt when I turned 30, so my kid turning 30 makes me feel ancient. Think of it: just 100 years ago, there would have been a good chance that we’d be great-grandparents at our age. Of course, 100 years ago, there would have been an even better chance that we’d be dead at our age, so there’s that.
Back then, the only real difference between a 62-year old and a 30-year-old would have been that the younger person might have been slightly less likely to make her own clothes. That, and the being alive thing. Early in the 20th century, your children more or less lived the way you did, waking at sunrise, milking the cows, working 16 hours in a shirtwaist factory with no windows or means of escaping a fire, coming home to a tenement where 47 people lived in squalor, and sitting down to a meager dinner of oysters, apples and horse turds that you bought for a penny from a waif on the street. (“Turds, sir?”) Over dinner, multiple generations discussed the political issues of the day such as “What’s a shirtwaist?” Then you fell asleep exhausted while wondering if you had only dreamed about milking cows.
It was a hard life. And you proudly passed it on to your children.
But now our children don’t want anything we have, unless we have a lot of money. Their lives are completely different than ours. Sometimes I even have the nagging suspicion that our daughter’s generation exists on another plane of reality than we do, perhaps an alternate universe that exists solely on their phones, which explains why they never look up from them.
I don’t think there’s ever been a larger technological gap between two successive generations than there is between my generation and so-called millennials.
I grew up in the 60’s when everyone talked about the “generation gap.” We had different values than our parents and very different tastes in music, but, like earlier generations, we pretty much knew how to do all the same sorts of things, except maybe mom and dad would have had a problem rolling a joint.
But Casey’s generation has a completely different skill set than we do, and they speak a totally different language that includes the phrase “skill set.” There are lots of things they just don’t know how to do. For instance, have you ever seen someone under 30 try to hand-address an envelope? For some reason, they believe that everything–the address, the return address, the stamp, any emoticons they care to add for effect–has to be on the top half of the envelope. When my son-in-law Alex sends mail, it looks like a 4-year-old’s letter to Santa, only with worse penmanship. And they never have stamps! I don’t think any of them has ever bought a stamp in their lives!
Millennials don’t write anything. If you handed one of them a retractable pen, they might not even know how it works. That’s why they’re always carrying things with keyboards.
If a millennial owes you money, you could be in trouble. Even if they haven’t spent all their money on craft beer, they won’t write you a check, and it’s not only because they don’t know how a pen works. Mostly, young people just zap money from here to there. To them, money is just a concept; it has value, but it’s not tangible, like powers in a video game. You use it, you earn more of it, and the numbers change to tell you how much you have. Go to a mall, or walk down a city street, and I doubt you’ll find a single person under 30 carrying more than $20 in cash. And that’s probably only because their mothers always insisted that they carry “mad money.”
And whatever you do, don’t let a millennial pay you in Bitcoin. I’m certain that nobody really knows what that is.
Here’s another thing: I can’t even imagine any of Casey’s friends strolling into a car dealership to purchase an automobile. Casey hasn’t done it. She drives a car, but’s it’s an old one of ours, and it’s still in my name, which is just as well, because she’d have no clue how to buy car insurance (“What’s ‘collision,’ dad?”). In fact, many millennials don’t even have driver’s licenses. The percentage of young licensed drivers in America is at its lowest point since 1963.
According to Money Magazine, millennials much less frequently buy homes, have babies, invest in stocks or have cable TV. And although Money Magazine didn’t mention this for some reason, I’m pretty sure millennials don’t purchase many magazine subscriptions.
So anyway, it’s a whole different world out there now, and it’s kind of interesting to see things that have been around seemingly forever disappearing before our eyes. Pay phones. Putting coins in a parking meter. Coins, for that matter. Taxis will be gone soon. Maybe network TV. Cell phones are also just about outta here. Not the objects themselves, but the term. There are no more “cell phones” or “smart phones.” There are only phones. The only time “phone” needs a modifier is if it’s a landline phone. You know, like I use.
Keys will be gone soon, I think. People will be using their smart phones (sorry–phones) to open and close doors, start cars, unlock their gym lockers.* This does not bode well for folks like me who don’t take their phones whenever they leave the house. Although, personally, I’m not too worried about gym lockers.
Let’s see, what else? When was the last time you saw a folding map? Used a fax machine? Listened to music that was on some sort of actual object like a CD?
Soon, there won’t be any professional reviews of restaurants, books or movies. Millennials rely only on Word-of-Yelp. And you can already see movie ads showing Rotten Tomato ratings instead of reviews. There probably won’t be professional anything in a few years. Everything will be crowd-sourced from amateurs. It will be a total Wiki-world.
But here’s the really interesting thing: as far apart technologically as our generation is from the one following, it seems like we’re closer together. Millennials and their boomer parents appear to be much more comfortable hanging out together than we boomers were with…whatever our parents’ generation was called (“Generation Ike?”). Communication seems freer and relationships seem friendlier. Some of that may be because millennials are more dependent on their parents than we were on ours, but I also think that, despite our differences, our kids are more like us than we were like our parents.
But they really should learn how to address a friggin’ envelope.
See you soon.
*I know what you’re thinking: if you use your phone to lock your gym locker, how will you unlock it after your workout? Your question has a faulty premise–that the millennial would place their phone in the locker with their other valuables. A millennial would never do that. A millennial cannot be separated from his or her phone for that long. They might miss a status change on Facebook! For a millennial, the phone is less like a valuable and more like a limb.