I recently found myself sitting in the waiting room of my car dealer of choice, waiting for a mid-life tune-up for my sister’s car. (My schedule is more flexible than hers, so I get all sorts of lovely errands.) I shared the room with a plethora of elderly women, and a developmentally disabled gal who was a daughter of one of the ladies. Let’s call the mother Fran, for convenience.

I had been sitting there for a good while, and the only thing that kept me sane was my DS Lite and a copy of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. The game (thankfully) has an optional Pokemon-ish element, where your character can collect the souls of the monsters he encounters; whereas before I had been plowing straight through the game, the knowledge of the epic wait before me forced me into a gotta catch ’em all strategy. I had headphones, so nobody but I had to suffer the repetition of killing a monster repeatedly until I collected its soul.

So, two hours into my wait. People who arrived after I arrived had already left, and had been replaced by Fran and crew. I’m quietly getting my kill on.

“What’s he got, Mom?” Fran’s daughter asks, gesturing towards me. Fran says she doesn’t have the foggiest. I stop playing and show Fran’s daughter that it’s a Nintendo DS, and then return to my time-killing collector’s quest.

Somehow my little display of technological bling (?) causes something to snap in Fran’s head. The infection quickly spreads to the other ladies in the room. I’m then subject to a gaggle of elderly women dissing me and my generation while I’m sitting five feet away. Yes, I had my headphones on—but that hadn’t stopped me from hearing Fran’s daughter’s question. Apparently I, as a member of my generation, automatically tune the world out when I have headphones on.

You see, my generation is comprised of nothing but spoiled brats who grew up with silver spoons in their mouths. We never had to work for anything, and consequently have no character or moral fiber. These ladies were glad to not have money growing up, because they (as a result) do have this character and moral fiber. My generation has no attention span because of television—these women watched TV, but were limited to fifteen minutes a day! and Praise the Lord for that. My generation would rather play inside than ever step outside, whereas they were blessed to not have computers… on and on and on.

The general gist: they (their older generation) are much better people than I (this younger generation) am. Because I play a DS to pass the time while waiting for a car to get some maintenance.

I kept my mouth shut, but I was pretty taken aback. Those women had some gall.

A lot of what they said easily applies to me: I have been very fortunate in life, and I am a technophile that doesn’t spend a lot of time outside. But wait just a goddamn second before you impugn my integrity, my character, my morality. Having some money when growing up doesn’t doom you to a life of character deficiency (though it might make it easier to head that way); not having money doesn’t guarantee you a surfeit of character. Say what you will about me, but I’m not morally bankrupt. (Not yet, at least.)

I have doubts about my generation, don’t get me wrong. Some of those doubts (e.g. a general seeming lack of direction in life) are ostensibly personal doubts I’ve ascribed to my generation writ large; others are the result of The Media’s influence on my perception. When I think about the individuals my age that I know, though, the overwhelming majority are solid people. My sample is certainly biased (I hang out in college and college-educated circles, mostly), but I seem to know more decent twenty-somethings than these ladies seem to believe exist.

But, yes. I’ve never felt offended on behalf of a generation before running across these women. It’s a rather odd feeling.


6 Responses to Overheard

  1. Tiffany says:

    Find pleasure in knowing that in 40 years, you can be one of those elderly people bashing the younger generation! You might actually find it amusing. Especially when you are too blind to play your DS any longer!

  2. Brent says:

    Actually, I took pleasure in knowing that the kids they raised raised my generation. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad person or not.

  3. I wonder, if given the choice, how many of those old ladies would choose to remain old ladies rather than have their youth back and join the generation they malign.

  4. Brent says:

    I hope that you reach a point in life where you come to grips with and accept who you are–I suspect that’s the “wisdom” of old age, beyond a simple accumulation of experience.
    That said, trading the aches and disease and general body failure of old age for a “less moral” younger life might be a compelling deal. I’m not that old, but I can already tell that I don’t move as well as I used to–and I would generally choose to avoid pain.

  5. Brian says:

    Did you harvest their sour grapes in-game with the Bitter Tears sword? (2H)
    I figure any random stranger would have known two things about you at that point: what you looked like, and what you were doing. If they felt this was ample fiber to weave the full story of your life, they’re idiots. Or, maybe your techno-gadgetry just gave them an excuse to break out an existing complaint, in which case they might just be filling time, or displacing an automotive gripe. Who knows.
    But in my opinion, people who generalize over an entire generation should come armed with sociology degrees or humble disclaimers, and better if it’s both. Listening to those ladies just might have been a greater insult to your intelligence than to your birth cohort.

  6. Brent says:

    Well, it was either listen to them or listen to the repetitive Castlevania music repeat incessantly while I repetitively killed enemies to harvest their souls. The power of sanity compelled me.
    Plus, their conversation started out innocuously enough–it just spiraled downhill, and I found myself a captive rubbernecker to the wreck.


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