Toys R Us Kid

Of all the weird things that happen to me, the one that baffles me the most is the generation gap that I continually run into here at the office. At 36 years old, you'd think things like this would have faded away long ago and I would have joined the ranks of the elder statesmen looking down on all the whippersnappers out there with their hair and their loud music --
But I guess when you get right down to it I'm not really that
much like a lot of the other 30-something's out there at all.
A lot of it obviously has to do with environment I suppose, but it still catches me off guard sometimes when people ask me things like I'm from mars.
"How was your weekend?"
"Awesome, saw a great concert down at the beach."
"Yeah, who did you see?"
"This great reggae-metal band called Skindred. Totally hardcore show, man."
"Oh, I've um, never heard of them. Did you get into one of those ..mosh pits?"
It's like you can actually hear the record needle scratching across the vinyl sound effect happening. Especially when the guy I'm talking to is actually younger than I am.

Look, I understand that not everybody is into certain kinds of music. I get that there are people who don't dig tattoos and body piercing. That's all well and fine.
But don't act like you've never friggin heard of it.
It's the sort of thing that happens a lot around this place. It's weird because most of the guys I work with are either like 8-10 years older than me, or one of the 20-somethings in the R&D department that only recently got out of college. Sure they'll talk surfing at Sebastian Inlet, but make one mention of crowd surfing at the Hardback Cafe and they look at you like your head's on fire.

Just today I was making the rounds getting signatures on this report I needed to turn in, leading me to the desk of an electrical engineer that I've worked with for a while named Larry. Good guy, been at the company a while -- always quick with a joke or an email to let you know where the free food is. He's maybe 10 years older than me.

So I get to his desk and find him buried in a pile of paperwork. Wanting to get his attention, I gave a quick knock on the opening to his cubicle and sort of jokingly said,
"Larry, Larry -- Why you Buggin?"
I thought it was sorta funny -- but he just turned to me and stared back with his face all scrunched up, like I'd accused him of being a communist or something. Then after a moment he was like,
"Bugging? What do you mean? Do I have something on my back?"
If my math is correct (and it rarely is), dude had to be in his mid-20's when Run DMC's Tougher Than Leather dropped (I was all of 15 years old, utterly obsessed with Metallica and I still knew about it) but even if he wanted to play the "I don't like rap" card, he'd still have a good chance of knowing the original Monkees version seeing as re-runs of that old show were plastered all over my TV around that time.
btw -- even after all these years, every time I reference the Monkees in casual conversation
[which strangely enough, I actually do quite a bit for some reason] I immediately think of this:
I suppose in the end it's not really that big of a deal, but it makes me feel a little out of place. Like I ended up in a spot that works for me professionally, but where personally I don't really fit. I had the same problem with a lot of my coworkers when I was teaching -- except that in that place it was balanced by all the 13-15 year old students who loved it.

I mean, I know pop culture is a subjective thing, but I'm not a leper over here. Star Wars and Punk Rock happened. You were alive at the time, so quit acting like you were stuck in that bubble with John Travolta. If anything, I'm the real poser over here for being into this stuff in the first place considering that I was just a little kid when most of it was at the peak of it's popularity.

But then when I think about it a different way -- all of these things; the music snobbery, the fact that I'm an movie nerd, a lover of classic cartoons and books by post-modern Japanese authors, these are all things that in their own way help make me unique.

The passions I have are part of my personality. Sure some of them are esoteric, but when you get right down to it I'm still a child of the MTV generation -- which means that tons of the crap I adore (Star Wars, tattoos, pointy guitars) are pretty much cliché at this point.

I mean, I love that I'm an individual, and I strive to maintain that singularity -- but like everyone else I crave a certain level of connection with other people, which is why I tend to reference these commonground ideas when I try to reach out to them. Sometimes it works wonders (the first time I saw Bartender Matty's POS car I told him, "You came here in that thing? You're braver than I thought" and we've been friends ever since) but more often than not the other people involved act like they have no idea what I'm talking about, so much so that it leaves me hanging out in the cold, like an offered high-five left unanswered -- and it makes me wonder why.
Or to put it another way, I would hate to think I'm living in a world where I'm the only one who recognizes the utter awesomeness that is a bear surfing on the back of a shark that is surfing on the back of a unicorn.
It's almost like I need to give people who meet me an orientation class. Like I need a tour guide or a liaison who can meet potential acquaintances and bring them up to speed.
"Ok, welcome to orientation. Thank you all for coming in today. Lets just go ahead and get started here -- show of hands, how many of you have seen Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon? Anyone? Anyone? OK, I was afraid of this. Ok, here are copies of the DVD for you to all watch. Dan will be expecting you to know the names of certain characters and recognize the comedic and ironic qualities of several specific character monologues. You should also familiarize yourself with a Val Kilmer film called Real Genius, as well as all of Val Kilmer's lines as Doc Holliday from Tombstone. However, please try to disavow any knowledge of Kilmer's work as Batman, or his contributions to the beyond awful remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Yes, in the front -- you have a question? Yes that's true, Val Kilmer was also in Top Gun, and while you may encounter quotes from that movie in casual conversation as well, it's best to avoid direct exposure to the topic as it might prompt a spontaneous discussion of either the latent themes of homosexuality present throughout the film, or the collected films of Tony Scott, and how he's become one of Hollywood's biggest disappointments.

Are you prepared to discuss Tony Scott's body of work in depth? No?
..Then I suggest you keep your weak ass Iceman quotes to yourself."
Look -- I'm not saying everyone has to be as big a loser as I am when it comes to this kind of stuff, but lets at least put down some ground rules here:
  1. If you're roughly between the ages of 20-40, you are forbidden to claim that "You've never seen Star Wars." You can tell me you didn't like it, and think the whole things kinda childish (because it is), but lets not insult each others intelligence by trying to act like you have no idea who Darth Vader is.
  2. Movie quotes are in many cases a more effective means of communication than actual conversation.
  3. Kid Rock sucks (..doesn't really have anything to do with this conversation, but it's important that we all agree on this).
  4. If you're in a fantasy football league, then shut the fuck up about my twitter account.
  5. No, I didn't watch The Office last week.
  6. There is not an age limit on the enjoyment of Music.
  7. Creed and Nickelback are not music.
  8. All of your favorite horror movies were better when they came out the first time.
  9. If I wear a shirt of a band that has tour dates on the back of it, it means I actually saw them in concert.
I think if we all agree on these simple things, it will go a long way towards breaking down the walls that divide us. I don't know who gave all the adults I know the idea that still liking the stuff they liked when they were younger is a bad thing, but I'm here to tell you that's bullshit. Sure there are some things that we look back on and wonder what we were thinking about when we were into them (painters caps, leg warmers, rap metal), but just because you have a mortgage doesn't mean you can't turn your stereo's volume up past 3 anymore, or forget all the things you used to love.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm headed upstairs to show my coworker this YouTube video.
Because that "Larry, Larry" line was gold, and I fully intend to use it again.

[Listening to:  King Crimson - "Fallen Angel" ]


Satorical said…
Ah, but Val Kilmer goes and does something awesome like Spartan, and what are you supposed to do with that?

These same people you describe consume what's popular, but they don't necessarily take the next step: reading liner notes, movie credits, etc. That's the difference. They're consumers, not fans in the fanatic sense.

Fans have more fun.
unMuse said…
I'm terrible at movie quotes. Horrible. Even if I've seen the movie 30 times. Hell, I have problems even remembering if I've seen certain movies or not. They are all kinds of mushed together. Movies are passing moments for me and am definitely not in the "fan-fanatic" category. But, I think I overcome that lameness with something of even greater "let's pretend that didn't just happen" impact. I know (and have on more than 20 occasions at parties, bars and clubs) the electric slide.
JerseySjov said…
i agree with all of your 9 points.

as for the last one: when i went to shows [i havent been to a real concert since high school] i made it a point to buy the shirt with the tour dates on it; but i went through a phase when i didnt want them anymore and got rid of ALL my concert tees. stupid stupid stupid.
Werdna said…
Dammit went to post and cut off the Run DMC due to page redirect.

Anyhoo. Language is a form of information transfer that relies on both sides to have some common understanding in order to compress information down to transfer it faster.

Movie quotes can be short hand for very complex concepts that have a subtle meaning. They can also be for laughs. I think I'll write a paper on the compression value of movie quotes.

Also I must add you must be familiar with at least one of the seminal comedy movies:

Airplane, Monty Python, Young Frankenstein, I'm gonna git you sucka, etc. etc. Because how are you gonna know when you have to pour it in my hand for a dime?
The Kaiser said…
Some people are just unutterably lame, and there's not much you can do for them.
That aside, I think there's a surprising amount of space on the big Venn diagram of cultural interests that doesn't necessarily overlap. For instance, I have a coworker who's a total burnout classic rock guy. If I knew something about Ted Nugent and the intimate workings of 1983 Trans-Ams we would have a lot of common ground. As it is, the only thing I can really throw at him with any confidence that he'll get it is Zeppelin and Floyd. He basically has no idea what to do with me.

As for the 20-somthings in R&D, I have no idea what's wrong with them. My first instinct is to maybe kick down their door and yell "NERDS!".
Hex said…
Satorical -- Fans do have more fun, but it always sort of surprises me when people don't take those extra steps. Seriously, how could you not read the liner notes?

unMuse -- I'm sort of the opposite, I've done the Electric Slide a handful of times, but every time I'm forced to try it I find that I can't really recall all of the steps.

Jersey -- Nothing pisses me off more than seeing fake tour shirts with dates at department stores or hot topic type places.

Werdna -- You was whistling "Willie, help get this bitch off of me"?

Kaiser -- I've got one of those, he's into Tour de France style bike racing, and has spent like (no lie) 20 grand on a bicycle. Pretty much the primary reason I wear headphones for the majority of my day.
The Kaiser said…
Hex: What is it about riding a bicycle that turns you into a sanctimonious turd? It seems like every time I encounter a bicycle rider these days they're acting like an asshole, both on and off the road.
El Glez said…
Well, I can honestly say you are wrong on one point.... not EVERYONE in that age range has seen Star Wars. I know this because I am 38 and have NEVER seen any of the Star Wars installments. There are just some movies that don't grasp my attention and I won't watch... Unless I'm forced to by someone who says, "WHAT??? You've NEEEEVER seen Gladiator???!!! You HAVE to watch it! It's one of my favorite movies!!!" Then they go off to rent it or get it from home... LOL