A young man who works at the same place I do — he’s probably 23 or 24 years old — called me a boomer the other day and was roundly applauded by a couple of his cohorts who witnessed our encounter.
The exchange happened after the guy was lamenting — while killing time in my work area — about how he’d been written up for being late three days in a row. One day it was because he forgot to charge his phone before he went to bed and it wasn’t really his fault.
He was now on notice and at risk of losing his job if he didn’t straighten up. His two pals seemed to be mortified that the people in charge of the place actually expected their workers to be on time every day and agreed that their treatment of him was unfair.
And though I was really, really, hoping he wouldn’t, the guy asked me what I thought about it.
“How about showing up every day when you’re expected, and then doing the job you’re being paid to do?” I suggested. “That way, you wouldn’t be inconveniencing the other members of your team, and you won’t get any more write-ups. Pretty simple, really.”
Yes, I was fully aware what I sounded like — an old guy — as the words came out of my mouth, but he had asked for my opinion.
“OK, boomer,” he said with a sneer in his voice, dismissing me.
One thing I’ve never been shy about is asking questions. I’m genuinely interested in why people believe some of the things they believe, and I am not embarrassed a bit to use the words “I don’t know” if I don’t know something.
So, I asked him if he expected me to be offended by being called a boomer.
The kid sneered some more, told me I should be, and then proceeded to inform me of everything my generation — we boomers — had done to make his life miserable, beginning with, I gathered, having the audacity to be born 60-something years ago, as if I’d had some input in scheduling my moment of birth.
He mentioned climate change, too, and his student loans, and how he’d probably never be able to afford a home because of what we — the boomers — had done to the economy. There was a whole list of stuff, most of which I didn’t recall having anything to do with. Maybe I was having a senior moment.
Anyway, I didn’t argue with him. I had work to do and, besides, sometimes it’s best to just not engage. But I did ask him why, if he had so much student loan debt, he wasn’t educated enough to charge his phone before he went to bed.
To clarify things, I am in a minority at my workplace. Most of my co-workers are decades younger than me. I’m not, but could be, a card-carrying member of the AARP, experience weird, age-related leakage beyond my control and eat supper sometimes at 4:30 in the afternoon.
I did witness the first moon landing, live, on a 21-inch black-and-white television and I believe that computers and smartphones are instruments of the devil. And I didn’t know what an “influencer” was until a few days ago, when I asked a 20-year-old girl, who was genuinely dumbfounded, maybe even a little appalled, by my ignorance.
I am, undoubtedly, an old guy; a boomer if you will.
I decided to go back to work because I didn’t like retirement. I don’t know why, really. But I’m doing something now I never expected to be doing, making less than a third of the money I was making before, and I am more than slightly amazed by how much I enjoy it.
My boss is only a couple of years older than my youngest son, and I don’t mind that a bit. He knows a hell of a lot more than I do about the job and has been much more patient with me than I probably would have been in his position.
In fact, I finally had to admit to myself that the reason I enjoy the job so much is that there are so many young people around.
I get called “old man” a lot, and “grandpa” every once in awhile, but I don’t mind that, either, because it’s always been jokingly in response to my admitted ignorance about what the hell young people are up to these days.
But there’s also been a mutual exchange of information. I get asked for my advice on gardening and home repair and what I would do in certain financial situations and other things learned only through living a long time.
In return, I finally found out what podcasts were and how to download apps and, most importantly, that the majority of these young people care about their jobs, work their asses off, take care of their families and generally live their lives treating everybody else the way they want to be treated.
They’ve taught me, too, that most young people these days don’t much care about packaging people or putting labels on them; that a person’s worth comes from being who they are and how they are, and not from how other people perceive them.
There are exceptions, of course. As with any group, a certain small percentage of young folk are going to blame their own shortcomings on everyone but themselves.
For the most part, though, based on my experience thus far of working with the young ones I’ve been working with, I think our future’s looking pretty good.
And that’s coming from an old boomer.