Let the generations after us take the lead

The world is going to hell, and it’s the younger generations’ fault. That apostrophe was correctly placed: there have been several generations since mine – the Baby Boomers, aka the Obnoxiousest Generation – and I include all of them here … Gen X, Millennials, and now Gen Z – the post-Millennials.

I’m not serious, of course. It’s not really their fault. The world has always been going to hell, and every generation has always blamed the ones after it.

FaceTime as anticipated in the 1920sStill, I have to wonder about the younger generations’ intelligence…or maybe just that they weren’t paying attention in school. A recent example:

When John Glenn died, we were talking about him in the office. A Millennial – a college-educated Millennial – asked, “John Glenn? Who’s that?”

Who is John Glenn? Really? Trying to keep steam from shooting from my ears, I said, “I’ll give you a hint … he was an astronaut.”

“Oh, yeah, now I remember … he was the first one to walk on the moon.”

Right you are, young man. And Neil Armstrong was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic.

On the other hand, a lot of Gen X’ers and Millennials are more socially, politically, and environmentally aware and involved than us Baby Boomers were at their age. We were the beneficiaries of the post-World War II age of super-consumerism, and we took advantage of all of it. PF Flyers, the tennis shoes that helped you run faster and jump higher. Schwinn Sting-Ray banana-seat bicycles, with the super-cool gearshift strategically placed right at the point where, if you slipped off the seat, there was some question about whether you’d be able to father children in a couple of decades. If you catch my drift. And helmets? We didn’t need no stinkin’ helmets. Helmets were for sissies. (Also kids from the future, since they hadn’t been invented yet.)

And plastic. God, did we go through some plastic, especially toys: everything was made of plastic. G. I. Joes and Barbies and all their stuff. Little plastic army men. Little plastic tea sets. Cardboard board games, yes, but the playing pieces – plastic. And remember the “Thingmaker?” This was a “toy” that heated up to a temperature slightly higher than the surface of the sun, and you put a metal mold in it, poured some liquid plastic/rubber goop into the mold, let it bake, and in just a few minutes … you had made your own brand-new (plastic) toy. And possibly a trip to the emergency room with third-degree burns.

Speaking of that, whose brilliant idea was it to create and market to children … the wood-burning kit? Pretty much guaranteed to catch something on fire … drapes, carpets, human flesh.

At least the toymakers were wise enough to put a minimum age warning on such devices: “For ages 8 and up.” Seems about right: an eight-year-old was certainly responsible enough not to burn a house down. But a seven-year-old? Are you insane?

Beyond the millions of tons of plastic we went through, post-WWII consumers drove gigantic cars with big, big, big gas-gobbling engines. And not just any gasoline. No, ours was fortified with…lead, to eliminate the scourge of humanity known as “engine knock.” So millions of tons of lead were gushed into the atmosphere. Small price to pay for a smooth-running engine.

So we consumed and consumed and polluted and polluted and threw away and threw away. And we were having a great time doing it…until those darn pesky post-Baby Boom youngsters started asking bothersome questions. Like, “Any chance we could start, oh, I don’t know, recycling?” And, “We think it would be a good idea to eliminate the crap y’all have been dumping into our rivers, oceans, and air. Not asking too much, are we?” And, “Any chance y’all could save some of the planet for us?”

So this old fogey thinks we might just have a chance, if we get out of the way and let the generations after us take the lead.

Just maybe not all of them. Because there’s this:

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the grocery store, getting a few things. The total came to $9.76. I gave the young lady clerk a ten dollar bill and a penny. “Why did you give me a penny?” she asked.

“So you can just give me a quarter back; makes it easier on both of us.”

“How do you know that I owe you a quarter?”

As nicely as I could, I said, “If you would, miss, please put it into the computer and let it tell you how much change to give me.” She did.

“How did you know that it was going to be 25 cents change?”

“Thank you, miss; hope you have a nice day.” I almost said, “Because I’m a savant,” but I’m afraid she might’ve responded, “A savant? Is that a Chevrolet or a Buick?”

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Image Credit: FaceTime as anticipated in the 1920s found on Imgur.com (fair use/non-commercial).

Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel lives in Georgia. Besides writing, he enjoys reading, sailing, and baseball. He has been working on his first novel for about thirty years.  So far, he has written three paragraphs, but they are really good paragraphs.