We all have those days.
You know, the ones that start out great and end in the kind of flaming, horrendous glory that should go into the history books as examples of when to find a quiet, padded room to preempt the mental breakdown that is surely coming. But perhaps I should back up a bit.
Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous fall day. Perfectly warm with a beautiful breeze and sunny. The kind of day that makes you want to be outside. But, I wasn’t outside, I was at work. My consolation? I had storytime. I LOVE storytime. I figured, at least if I have to be at work, I have something to look forward to. Singing and moving with the kids is great.
When I got to work, we found out of few things to set the tone of our day:
1) Due to our system migration which began Friday night, all but one of our computers didn’t have the necessary software to continue with the day. We remained open, with the one functioning computer reserved for circulation duties. Inconvenient, sure, but at least we’re open.
2) There was almost no parking. This is because there was a huge festival happening in town–Southington’s Apple Harvest. Right down the street from the library, actually. Being that it was a gorgeous day, people were parking in our lot in order to walk to the festival. We don’t charge for parking, like everywhere else, because we were technically still open. Which meant that our parking lot was full, but our library was empty because there were no spaces for people who wanted to actually go to the library. Not that there were any, since it was such a gorgeous day.
3) People thought the library was closing at 12 because of the festival, so they were incredibly surprised to find that our lights were on, desks were staffed, and doors were open.
All of these factors meant we were in for a long, quiet, boring day.
Long, yes. Quiet? For the most part. Boring. Unfortunately not.
Surely you’re saying, “but Miss Molly, you should be glad it wasn’t boring.”
To which I reply, “Boring would have been better.”
I took my break right before my scheduled storytime. As I wandered through the DVDs, looking for something to take home, I see and hear a well-dressed woman wondering aloud if we had a series and wondering where it would be kept. I piped up and told her to check were we keep our series DVDs. She then informed me all about the program and how it is absolutely wonderful. Smiling politely, I listen while still perusing the DVDs. I thought this was acceptable because she wasn’t completely focused on me at the time.
Then, all hell breaks loose. She moved from discussing the show, HBO’s The Newsroom, to the actual news and how, nowadays, it isn’t news but rather people shouting their opinions at one another, with no context. It is a glut of incorrect information, she said. It’s disgusting. It makes me sick. And you know what, she continued, it’s because of your generation.
My head snapped up. My attention was fully on her now. “Excuse me?”
What follows is most of what I remember of the (very) onesided conversation. I was not given time to respond to her accusations, and there wasn’t enough time in the rest of the work day for me to do so anyway.
“You’re generation is terribly uneducated and uninformed. You don’t know anything. You don’t have opinions. You don’t know what’s going on. You’re all over-educated and yet know nothing. You don’t know where to get information and you don’t know how to think about it if you do stumble upon it. You’re not contributing to the country at all.
What was your contribution to American society? Facebook and smaller cellphones. I am ashamed of this country. I am ashamed to call myself an American. Look at Europe. All great civilizations have great buildings. I’ve never been out of the US myself, but what great buildings do we have? We don’t. Europe does everything so much better. Our ‘great’ buildings are libraries. And they were all built during the Depression. My parents’ generation. They only had an 8th and 10th grade education between them, and they are the smartest people I know. They made more money being skilled laborers than you kids do with your masters and doctorates. And you can’t even afford those degrees and then you get in debt and have to live with your parents until you’re 30. And then you get married and spawn more kids that you can’t afford, living in a house that’s too big, with a flashy car.
Disgraceful. And parents let you. They coddle you. They enable you. This is why our government is shut down. This is why nothing is getting done. You don’t organize. You don’t think, if 100,000 of you marched on Washington and demanded a budget, something would get done? They would sort things out because the people organized. But you won’t mobilize. You are lazy. You don’t know anything, and worse, you don’t realize you don’t know anything! You’re all blinded by your cell phones and your computer screens and your Facebook. You don’t have a future. You don’t have jobs. You won’t be able to get jobs, and you don’t even care! All you have is debt.
In my day, we fought for everything. During Vietnam, it was awful. We fought for everything. People were being killed. And we organized to stop it. I fought for women to go to medical school. They couldn’t do that, you know. We were beaten. And we didn’t care. We were doing something. We may have been doped up, and not always have know what was happening, but at least we tried! You people need to get out and talk in coffee shops. Not in 200 character text messages. Face to face. Disgraceful. We wouldn’t be in this mess if you cared.”
Now, as you might imagine, I was a bit flabbergasted. I do realize she wasn’t expressly blaming ME, but my entire generation, for all of the USA’s problems. It still isn’t awesome to be harangued in that way. It is also rude to assume, first of all, that I don’t have opinions on any of the points she brought up. Also her thinking that I am uninformed was a slap in the face.
Second, America, as a country, is very young! We are still sorting out the bugs. We’re big, we’re loud, and while we aren’t perfect, we’re still trying. Our country is like a young twenty-something. We’ve got general ideas of where to go, but getting there is another story.
Of course I have opinions on the shutdown, and politics, and politicians. But, I am not going to share them, because I am a lady. Do I agree with everything that’s happening in our country? Of course not. Do I think there need to be some major changes? Definitely! Do I think quite a few members of the government need to be sent to bed without supper, or perhaps have TV privileges taken away? Absolutely. My idea of a perfect government is, most likely, not going to be your idea of a perfect government. So, we will agree to disagree. We smile and move on.
I also think that people my age are much more involved and informed than they have been. Sure they aren’t tuned into everything that’s happening, but they are somewhat more aware. Even if they are only getting their news from Stephen Colbert. At least they are getting news. Sure, it’s not the BBC, but knowing the issues is a start. Could we be more informed? Absolutely. Should we be? Yes. But again, we’re young and we’re learning.
As for screen time, yes, we do spend an awful lot of time in front of computers and on cellphones. Times are changing, as are information sources. Just because I have my phone out, it doesn’t mean I’m texting or tweeting, I could be looking up the news. Don’t jump to conclusions.
Now you might be asking, why didn’t you just walk away? Because I couldn’t. I was trapped in one of the DVD aisles, with her blocking the exit, for 30 minutes. While I politely tried to excuse myself several times, because I legitimately had to get back to work, I couldn’t do so without being rude. I didn’t want to defend myself, or my generation, or otherwise engage in conversation, because it would have gone on even longer. And there’s no way I could have lasted any longer than I did. I did excuse myself, explaining that I really did have to get back to work. For her part, she at least apologized for “being so passionate”. Being passionate wasn’t the problem, I wanted to say. Being passionate is admirable! But how you are directing that passion dictates how your message is received.
My family, and some of my friends all said something to the effect of, do something outrageous and walk away. That isn’t a viable option for someone who’s job is interacting with the public. I also consider myself a kind and considerate person. Just because someone has different views than mine, doesn’t mean I brush them off. Sure, her tactics were a little off, and her reasoning didn’t always make sense, but she still deserves respect.
All in all, the interaction brought up some things to think about. Not only about myself, and my customer service skills, but also about the US and life.
And then I lost my keys.