The Generation Of Me

Recently, a neighbor was going out of town for a few days and mentioned it to me in passing, along with offering the use of his car while he was gone.

He knows what’s going on. He knows we manage on one car, and why. He was aware when my friend got sick, and that I was driving a lot. Sometimes I’ve rented cars, which seemed to worry him. He looks out his window and sees a different car in my driveway, it bothers him, dunno.

The truth is less alarming. When we were in the midst of serious hospital stuff, I rented a car for a week once, borrowed cars for a couple of weeks, then rented for a few more days. This was an emergency, really, and I was repaid for the cost.

And at the end of her spring quarter, which was tricky in terms of class times and so resulted in my wife driving every day, I rented a car twice for Wednesdays, for choir practice. It saved her sitting on a bus for four hours, or else making multiple trips down south in the car. It was about time, and time was limited.

I tried to explain all of this to my neighbor, just to ease his mind. I’ve now got enough customer points to get a couple of free rental days, and for those Wednesdays? $25 per day. When the alternative is buying a second car for these intermittent days during the year when it would come in handy, the money starts to make sense. It’s nice that he worries, though.

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My daughter sometimes jokes that I’m in denial about the fact that I’m actually a Millennial. She thinks about her age cohort a lot, aware enough of the challenges and the world her generation grew into.

I think she’s mostly talking about side gigging, which I’ve essentially been doing most of my adult life, picking up scraps left at the edge of our economy just by working a lot of hours and networking. As a home worker, I was in front of a screen constantly and engaged with technology advances as much as anyone, I guess. I have no trouble taking an Uber, or ordering food via an app.

Part of this, I think, is perspective, and it’s likely that my odd little life has given me a slightly different one. At any rate, most of the problem a lot of my contemporaries seem to have is distinguishing progress from fads. I have several friends who, over the years, have routinely made statements about their distaste and lack of use for smart phones.

I mean, you can certainly live without it, but that’s not what they’re saying. I’ve got friends my age who’ve never looked at Facebook, for example. But they live and work in the real world, c’mon. They have phones.

In certain age groups, particularly the retired, sure. I can see it. Don’t want it? Don’t use it, don’t get one. Of course.

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Also of course? They’re not talking about it that way. No matter how many times they virtually shrug and say, nope, just not for me, you do you, what they mean is, I’m being sensible and you’re not. They pretend not to know what texting is, as if they’ve inadvertently mixed it up with twerking. They come off as old men yelling at clouds.

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Point being, I make all sorts of mistakes, not excluding and actually particularly financially. Ridesharing and iPhones don’t strike me as irresponsible but as logical and economical. Call me a Millennial, then. I don’t care.

And the truth is, aside from my weird ways of making a living, I don’t do anything my peers don’t, for the most part. Everybody has a phone, most of them text, most of them at least dangle their feet in social media. They use Blue Apron and GrubHub. They have Lyft and Uber apps.

And they use Airbnb, which I’ve noted recently. I’m not sure if my phone-resistant friends do this, although I suspect they do, or would given half the chance. I’m heading to Arizona this summer for a weekend reunion with college friends, and most of us seem to have rented houses in our former college town. I reserved a lovely old home downtown that would house six of us for $35 each a night (we’ll probably have 4-5), a fraction of a hotel and so much nicer.

We never would have done this without Facebook, too. I have no idea what this will look like in 10 years, this online world we inhabit, but social media isn’t going anywhere. I suspect it will narrow, if anything, people backing off broadcasting and selecting their silos. This isn’t a good idea but it feels better than now, particularly if it becomes standardized somehow. Most people still seem to have no idea how much personal information they’re sharing, as they comment almost randomly on posts obviously designed to harvest their data. I can’t fix it, stop asking.

But look at the way younger people have already done this. They know how toxic it is. They are very careful. We need to learn this.

In other words, this is the world. We’re all Millennials now.

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Just a fun note—my friends Liz and Linda are coming to Seattle today for a week. We’re planning on hooking up tomorrow for dinner, as Liz has a conference in town and it’s about the only time she has.

The fun part is that these are virtual friends, essentially anyway. I started chatting with Liz online forever ago, maybe 15 years or more? I don’t remember, but I think a few of us assembled around my other friend, less virtual, Gordon, who had a popular blog. I can think of a few names that fit here, but Liz is a little different.

For one thing, I just enjoy the normalcy of her life and the way she writes about it, even as complicated as life can be. She’s an expat who lives in Sweden with her husband and occasionally her children (she’s in the throes of emptying her nest), which probably is a lot of it, but her personality is level and friendly, and there seems to be less sturm und drang. A few times a year, Facebook will let me know that most of my likes are going to Liz’s posts. There’s probably a reason.

In 2008, when my daughter had moved to Boston and I was heading out there to visit, Liz was also going to be in town for a business thing of some sort. Her trips to the U.S. aren’t rare but not all that common, and a lot of the time her mom, Linda, who lives on this continent, will join her, as she did then, so I ended up meeting both of them during a fun evening at Beth’s house.

Liz and Linda with me in Boston, 2008. We were all children. I was a little chubby, too.

Liz and Linda with me in Boston, 2008. We were all children. I was a little chubby, too.

It’s a very 21st-century thing to do, it seems to me, making friends online. It doesn’t feel as weird as it did a decade ago, although Liz never felt weird, and I really enjoyed meeting and hanging out with Linda. Millennials, all of us, why not?