Colour me gray and call me curmudgeon, but I feel like I’m surrounded by an epidemic of adolescent “baditude.”
At the supermarket, I was ignored by the girl behind the register – apart from an obvious and obnoxious eye rolling. It seems I crossed the line by asking her to not squash the bread (she did anyway). At the department store, the young fellow stocking shelves rewarded my request for directions with a finger generically pointed “over there” – I suppose I should be thankful it wasn’t that finger. Standing in line for lunch, I was treated to the cursed (and cursing) spectacle of adolescent alpha males squaring off over the burger grill. Waiting for service in the jeans boutique, the store clerk refused to acknowledge me before he was finished his phone call. Then proceeded to place said video/photo-taking device in a clear line of sight to the debit/credit card machine. And gave me a huffy “whatever” when I asked him to move it. I’ve even witnessed a vulgar young woman verbally assaulting an equally rude dude over their apparently less than amicable break-up – at the mall, no less, while their friends respectively cheered them on or held them back. Teenagers. Don’t get me started.
At a recent networking event I listened as two dozen senior executives and entrepreneurs swapped hiring horror stories. The university graduate who texted her boyfriend during her job interview. The guy whose mommy came to the interview with him. Twentysomethings not bothering to show up for work because it’s a nice day and “I have a life, you know!” Parents who call to complain about “Johnny’s” work schedule. Young “adults” acting like the world owes them a living and the parents who didn’t teach them otherwise – don’t get me started.
It’s almost enough to make me used the dreaded “back in my day.” And I always promised myself I’d never say that. But seriously, what is the world coming to? Where’s the work ethic? The pride in a job well done? The sense of accomplishment, even if it is as mundane a task as folding clothes in a retail store?
It used to be that I was disappointed when undertrained student store clerks clearly didn’t know anything about the products they were selling; lately I’m thrilled to encounter common sense and good manners. Indeed, those attributes have become so rare that I sometimes wonder if they’ve become as irrelevant and obsolete as the dodo bird. Sigh. There are times I really feel like an alien from a different planet.
Then this issue of Atlantic Business Magazine came along with its focus on young people, and I was delightedly reeling myself back to earth.
Reviewing Alec Bruce’s piece on the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge (see ‘Brave, young scientists’), I was awed by the brilliance of Jared Trask and Kaitlyn Stockey. These two high school students are researching ways to make the world a better, greener place by extracting oil from algae using high frequency sound waves.
The ‘Innovation in the minor key’ story about musician/producer/promoter Kyle Cunjak is similarly inspiring. Here’s a young man who, along with finding a way to fulfill his own career dreams, is fostering a creative class of cultural entrepreneurs.
I was thrilled by the proven promise of this year’s graduating Dalhousie co-op commerce class and particularly the ambitious life plans of Spencer Gossen, You-jeen Cho and Erin Sullivan (you’ll meet them in Stephen Kimber’s ‘Working it out’).
And I was pleased beyond belief when my smug adult superiority was shattered by the incredible accomplishments of national award-winning Junior (over)Achievers extraordinaire, Judy Ou and Bethany Dickey. Both are exemplary students with multiple interests. They hold part-time jobs. They volunteer and fundraise. They work with school and student organizations. And they’ve already experienced the excitement and responsibility that comes with business ownership. By any measurement, metric or demographic, they are truly incredible individuals. And their accomplishments lend a profound sense of hope to the power and potential of their entire generation.
What a relief to see the world in full Technicolor again. Curmudgeon isn’t a flattering shade for anyone.