I don’t want to dwell on middle age too much, but I probably will because it’s starting to get really noticeable. Maybe it’s particularly bad for Baby Boomers, given the fact that we think the world revolves around us. On the topic of Baby Boomers, though, as luck would have it I was born at the very end of the very last year in the range designated as boomers. This means that exactly when I begin to need them, all public and natural resources will be completely depleted. But hey, enjoy.
Associates fresh out of law school are looking younger and younger as I get older. I am often tempted to ask them if their mom knows where they are because I don’t want her to worry. Sometimes when I look at their date of birth I am stunned. I can’t help but think about what I was up to the year they were born, and at this point I was doing exactly what I’m doing now, droning away at a law firm. There is some comfort in knowing they will have the same fate. If I get someone particularly high-spirited and chipper, I let them know that their spirit and ambition will soon be squashed like a bug so they can earn a living. It’s not all Hello Kitty! and horse farms you know.
We frequently have college students running around the office in the glamorous position of File Clerk. Not too long ago, one of them asked about a piece of equipment they had seen in a closet. What appeared to them to be an antique something, was an IBM Selectric. Some of us remember when that was cutting edge technology; years ago at least some people still needed to use it from time to time to fill out forms, but now that we can convert PDFs to editable forms, there is truly and officially no reason to have one at all. I like keeping it around and the next time someone asks I’ll just say it’s a polygraph machine we use to make sure File Clerks haven’t embellished their qualifications.
And oh, the smart phones. In my day, the only person in the world who had a smart phone was Maxwell Smart. They’re named after him, right? I remember getting a Palm Pilot around 1998 and it was the coolest thing ever, because I could “beam” messages to another Palm user if they were seated directly across from me, no more than 10’ apart, and nothing interrupted the line of sight for the little red lights to shine at each other. I remember being downright giddy about the power I suddenly had in my hands. Now I hear young people laughing about how primitive their first smart phone was, when they were a kid. As to beaming, that is now a relic akin to the Selectric. I am still clinging onto my Blackberry for dear life, but as I understand it you can just touch two iPhones together and exchange all kinds of information. And if you don’t use protection, you will get a virus or a little baby iPhone will be born in just 3 short months.
I think the most challenging gap is with pop culture references. My Partridge Family jokes go over like a lead balloon. And when I tell people our cats are named Janet, Jack, Chrissie and Mrs. Roper a lot of them have no idea what that means. I went to a Rod Stewart/Stevie Nicks concert recently and neither name ringed a bell with my secretary at all. Like, nothing. It made me sad to think of all the young people who’ve grown up without the support of Stevie Nicks crooning from their…iPod I guess. I mean, where would I be without Stevie? The absolute life dream of a former colleague of mine is to check in to the Betty Ford clinic if/when Stevie Nicks is there. Worth going through rehab just to be in her presence. I’m bringing butterfly sleeves and a fan.
When I break out of my little bubble and remember that sadly, the world doesn’t revolve around me, I realize that the generation gap goes both ways. Saved by the Bell and Dawson’s Creek are shows I think were on for a while. But geez these kids talk about it like it was the Partridge Family or something. I remember that from their perspective, I’m a total geezer. They don’t distinguish between the Civil War, the Big Band Era, and the Beatles. Can we just be clear that I wasn’t a flapper? I didn’t welcome the boys back from WWII? I enjoyed both electricity AND indoor plumbing growing up? It’s understandable though because no matter how old you are, your parents are ancient. So when a young adult says “Led Zeppelin? I think my parents used to listen to that”, I get it.
How fortunate for me that I still have the perspective of being much younger than a whole other generation of people…like my parents. I believe in my heart my mom knows why dinosaurs are extinct—because she witnessed it. Maybe even caused it. I picture any time before I was born in black and white; I have to remember there were colors even though they didn’t show up in pictures yet. Recently someone in my office asked me to print out a PDF and scan it. I started to explain but then figured I might as well look like a hero; I had it as a PDF in record time! Yes, wisenheimers, it was already in OCR format. And if it wasn’t, we have software that automatically converts everything anyway. I think the reason I’m able to grasp this kind of technology is because it results in me never having to leave my desk to look at a file. LazyWare.
I guess it’s time to just embrace the whole thing. If anyone asks, I walked 5 miles to school each day, barefoot, uphill both ways. Virginia was still a colony. Waved hello to Robert E. Lee and his grandmother every morning. But I definitely don’t have any idea what happened to the dinosaurs, not even the one I had as a pet when I was a child.