The last time I heard someone talk about the notorious “Generation Gap” was 1968 or maybe 1972, while I was arguing with my father about LBJ, or maybe it was Richard Nixon. (The mind is the first thing to go. Actually, it’s the second thing to go, after the hair.)
Back then, the phrase “generation gap” was in everyone’s vocabulary. If you had indigestion, it was because of the Generation Gap. High blood pressure or constipation? There’s no telling what body part the Generation Gap might strike.
It divided Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation, AKA our parents, because we disagreed on everything from Vietnam to the Beatles, from bellbottoms to long hair. Our parents weren’t “with it;” they weren’t hip; but worst of all, they weren’t even “groovy.” (But in our defense, we had no tongue piercings or full-body tattoos.)
Anyway, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” and the Generation Gap has returned.
While I want to be a compassionate Baby Boomer, I’m struggling to relate to young people, which can be difficult because I don’t love the same things they do. I don’t text-message, I will never “tweet” in this lifetime, and I don’t have a TV set … although I confess to watching “Duck Dynasty” on my laptop.
However, to stay in touch with the values of the younger generation, I’ve become a closet fan of Miley Cyrus, not to mention Lindsay Lohan. As part of my crusade to close the Generation Gap, I bought an iPad, an iPhone and a few other i-Gizmos, along with an instructional video on how to twerk, even though my health insurance won’t cover a chiropractor if I injure myself.
I also have a hoodie and a pair of Rayban sunglasses; I drink yerba mate, shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and hang out at all the places where young people go, including Starbucks. Quite honestly, that’s more trendiness than one aging guy should be forced to endure.
Despite my noble efforts to reach out to the other side, there’s still a wide gap between us. Last week, for instance, while I was sitting in my cubicle, trying to give the boss man an honest day’s work, a 22-year-old coworker stopped by to see if I was still breathing because he’s waiting to commandeer my desk and start clawing up the corporate ladder. The younger generation thinks I should be spending my time more profitably, by redeeming senior discounts at Dunkin Donuts.
When my colleague Patrick looked in to check my pulse, I grabbed my chest with both hands and staggered back and forth in the tradition of Fred Sanford and yelled, “It’s the big one! This time it’s the big one!” Several young people watched me and scratched their heads in confusion as if to ask, “What’s wrong with this nitwit?”
They didn’t understand, so I went on YouTube (which is something they understand) and showed them Red Foxx doing his bit on “Sanford and Son,” and they couldn’t stop laughing.
Yes, there is a Generation Gap. During our discussions, I occasionally use phrases like “There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on,” “Vulcan mind meld” and “paleface speak with forked tongue.” And every time, I’m met with quizzical stares, which leads me to believe I may as well be speaking Croatian. How can kids who subsist on pop culture be so out of touch?
With all the TV and Internet they consume, you’d think they would know about Dr. Spock and Jerry Lee Lewis — The Killer. What we have here is a failure to communicate (Cool Hand Luke).
And it’s apparent we inhabit a different dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind (Twilight Zone).
Nevertheless, I have to be nice to the youngsters because whenever my computer breaks down, they’re always there to help. They snicker while they’re doing it, but I don’t mind because I really like these kids … even though they want my job.
Joe Pisani may be reached at email@example.com.