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HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Recently I drove route 50 in Nevada after reading it was nicknamed, "America's Loneliest Road." Leaving Reno I made my way east on 80 to Fernley, where I picked up the long, desert ribbon. An hour later I pulled into an area where you could walk a pebbled trailway and observe ancient petroglyphs. It was an interesting walk in oppressive desert heat, the surrounding landscape something out of a sci-fi horror film of disgarded, earthly remains. Desolate, open and vast, the Nevada basin is a stunning, gaunt, mesmerizing landscape. As I proceded along the path I observed various signs and markings on the rocks, until I came to one defaced with paint. Someone had written across thousand-year-old petroglyphs the ubiquitous F-Bomb, followed by 'You.'
Some years past I visited Woodstock, Ontario's graveyard to view the thousand-year-old Romanian stone placed on the grave of Joe Boyle. Boyle I had written about previously; after his participation in my historical story the man had become a First World War hero, been awarded medals from several countries, and alleged to have been romantically involved with Queen Marie of Romania. The pair used to stroll the Queen's grounds, particularly admiring some thousand-year-old crosses that adorned her gardens. When Boyle died in London in 1925, Queen Marie had one of the crosses shipped to England to be used as his gravestone. When the Joe Boyle Repatriation Committee had his remains moved from London to Ontario in 1980, they also brought the impressive stone. On the morning I visited Joe Boyle and his stone in Woodstock, I discovered that vandals had tipped the stone over and broken it in half.
Here in Vermont I own the Green Mountain Grille. I recently hired a kid who would not pull his pants up. We'll call him Ass Boy, if only because that's what we nicknamed him. Ass Boy was twenty, twenty-one, and somewhat sensitive. A bit chubby, he tended to wear short tee-shirts and beltless pants. After a few complaints from customers that they were observing "the plumber thang," I mentioned to Ass Boy that perhaps he should pull his pants up. When the problem persisted, I suggested, as diplomatically as possible, that he wear longer tee-shirts. Then I suggested that perhaps a belt would solve the problem. Finally, I strongly suggested to Ass Boy that he pull up his pants, wear a longer tee-shirt, and put on a belt. Frustrated, he informed me that no one had informed him that there was a dress code in my restaurant, that he was his own man and liked to express himself in the way he dressed, and furthermore would never had taken the job had he known there were so many unwarranted, square restrictions. Ass Boy walked out on me.
Now, I know that Generational Lament is as American as any appropriate simile. My generation endured the "Beatle's Haircut" lament; indeed, the "hippie generation" was constant, teeth-grinding fodder for The Greatest Generation's scorn. Personally, I believe that it simply takes time for young people to learn how to work, to learn how to act. Nevertheless, today's Generational Lament, perhaps accentuated by the avalanche of technology that many of the older generation simply finds bewildering, is alive and well. The constant, considered, prevailing opinion being that young people today appear to feel entitled. Entitled to well-paying jobs despite inexperience, entitled to allowances without working for them, entitled to their own TV sets and cars, entitled to yearly world-flung vacations, entitled to wear their pants around their ankles while cooking in restaurants - Entitled. Of course Yours Truly's Generation has something to do with this, but let's not confuse the issue with facts.
Last week I visited Paul Kitchen in Ottawa, Ontario. Paul is a hockey historian, and in 1997, out of his own pocket, had paid $4000 for a beautiful stone pedestal and plaque comemmorating the site of Ottawa's first Stanley Cup win. I was present the day it was unveiled. Paul spoke at the dedication, but seemed somewhat reserved, I thought, and when I asked him about it, he told me, "Well, I buried my mother this morning. She was 100 years old." Last week we chatted, and almost as an afterthought he told me, "The monument was smashed by vandals two weeks ago. They stole the bronze plaque." I returned from Canada with Generational Lament graffitti crudely, but indelibly, spray-painted across my consciousness.
I followed the kid into the mens room of Charitys, a refueling stop on the access road in the ski resort of Killington, Vermont. The kid was maybe ten, twelve years old, local and rural, wearing overalls and a cowboy hat cocked on his head. He had a rigid demeanor, a workman-like body at even his tender age. We shortly stood side-by-side, both attempting to figure out the high tech paper towel dispensers before us. Peering about and seeing no handle, no paper to pull, we reacted in unison, realizing the machines must be motion activated. We began a pantomime waving, good-byeing, hand-shaking attempt at triggering the mechanisms, quickly irritated until finally, after simply too long, the kid found his motion sensor and paper rolled out the bottom.
The kid snatched the paper from the machine, quickly wiped his hands and flung the crumpled paper towel into the trash barrel. I finally figured out my dispenser. As paper rolled into my hands the kid turned, and with all the heft and authority of one five times his age and ten times his experience, jerked the door open and uttered with perfect Vermont disgust, "Damn this newfangled crap!"
All of which delighted me: there is hope for the future.