Saturday, December 28, 2013

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Don’t Make Me Get Out of This Minivan!- Guest Author Karen Brown Anderson

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Was anyone surprised that the Oxford dictionary’s word of the year for 2013 was “selfie?”  If you are under the age of 30 you’ve no doubt taken and posted one to social media recently.  And you love doing it!  You have no hesitation about standing in front of the mirror, posing in your cute new outfit, clicking away. 

There’s nothing wrong with taking selfies, or wanting a really good one for that matter.  It’s kinda like a do-it-yourself glamour shot that doesn’t involve the legwork of going to the mall.  (Remember glamour shots?  Raise your hand if you lived it up in the 80s by getting one!  Remember how you couldn’t wait to give it to your boyfriend!  Remember getting the big hair and somewhat suggestive makeup.  Remember picking out the feather wrap that hung down over one shoulder in a seductive pose.  Just not too seductive.  You don't want people to think you’re slutty.  Such good times!)      
My Non-Slutty '80s Glamour Shot

Anyway, back to selfies.  These unabashed displays of self-expression are clear-cut evidence we live in a narcissistic society, and this narcissism is fueling behavior that even a generation ago was unacceptable.  I’m talking about an overall general disrespect, rudeness, lack of manners and impatience.  This type of behavior is my biggest pet peeve, right after the wimpification of children, people who don’t know when to shut up, bad drivers, and people who brag.

I blame it on the Generation Y-ers and Millennials.  According to the experts, Gen Y-ers are those born between 1981 - 1999; Millennials are those born after 2000.  They’re characterized as having an unceasing positivity, living by the philosophy that anything can happen in life so enjoy the moment while you can.  They are also defined as self-absorbed, brash and egotistical.  They’re called Trophy Kids, reflecting the trend in competitive sports, as well as many other aspects of life, where mere participation is enough for a reward.   

I grew up in the 70s and 80s as a part of Generation X.  Gen X-ers encompass anyone born between 1961–1981.  Experts define this demographic as a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all.
That pretty much nails it.  When I was growing up, the world was a wonderful place to be a kid.  Video games were still a novelty so we played outside all day everyday.  No one was fat because of all the running around.  We weren’t worried about kidnappers or child molesters lurking around every corner.  And the litigiousness and paranoia that plague society today had yet to spiral out of control, which meant we rode around town without seatbelts and in the backs of pickup trucks.  We did all kinds of crazy stunts on playground equipment and when we got hurt, no one thought about lawsuits or bitched about how unsafe everything was.  And get this:  we could actually take a gun or knife to school for show-and-tell without getting kicked out of school.  Crazy!
Back then parents taught their kids manners and respect.  We weren’t allowed to get away with the bullsh*t you see from kids today.  If we caused trouble at school we were punished.  We didn’t mouth off and our parents didn’t blame other people for our behavior.  We called our teachers Mrs. or Mr.; never by their first name.  It was the same with our friends’ moms and dads.  They were Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so; unless we were at church, and then they were Brother or Sister so-and-so.  We said please, thank you and excuse me.  We regularly heard the word “no.” 

My Perception of Grade School in the '80s (Not Necessarily Reality)

We learned to do without a lot of things because everyone had at least five kids on a single income.  Double-income families were rare.  If someone’s mom worked outside the house it was usually helping at the school in some capacity like secretary, classroom aide or lunch lady.  Some of the more worldly moms worked at the grocery store or other retail shops.  My family was an exception with only two kids, but we were still poorer than most because we lived on a single parent’s school teacher salary. 

I remember when I was about 12 or 13 I begged my mom for a trampoline.  My best friend and I lived to jump on backyard trampolines!  We were gymnasts and couldn’t wait to try out all our tricks and flips.  There was nothing in this world I wanted more than one of my own.  But since neither my friend nor I had a trampoline, we would walk around the neighborhood ringing the doorbells of those lucky enough to have one, asking to jump.  If they said yes, we would run like hell to be the first one to fling ourselves onto the liberating, springy black surface.  We would jump for hours, reluctantly dragging ourselves home when it was time for dinner.  I begged Mom for months and months for that trampoline.  There were many days I begged so hard I cried myself to sleep.  Christmas came and went.  My birthday came and went.  I never got it.

How My friend and I Felt on a Trampoline

Oh and remember really good customer service?  Yeah, that was popular back then too.  I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else.  There weren’t many national-chain stores.  This meant if you had a problem, the store owner would fix it right then and there.  It just seemed like wherever you went, people had a genuine interest in you and making sure you were happy.  

I got my very first job at the age of 15.  I worked for a locally-owned fast-food restaurant where the first and last rule was, “the customer is always right.”  We rarely goofed off, mainly because the restaurant was always busy, but also because the owner or some other family member worked right along side us.

Old-fashioned Customer Service:  A Distant Memory

I really miss that time.  I miss the culture and mindset that existed before the era of entitlement.  I find myself constantly saying “I never would’ve dreamed of doing that when I was a kid!  I would’ve been in so much trouble.”  Even the bad kids of my generation still had the fear of God in them. 

Last week my husband Eric and I went to a college basketball game.  Afterward we got in our minivan and waited our turn to get out of the parking lot.  Traffic was backed up.  We waited to get to the front of the line.  After what seemed like forever we got to the front and waited for someone to let us in.  The unwritten rule in these situations is to let one car in from the side after every other car in the main traffic flow.  Do people really not know this?

After three cars go by we try to nudge our way in.  The next car is coming and we keep nudging.  The driver won’t even look our way, even though I’m sure he sees us out of the corner of his eye.  How can he not?  Eric throws up his hands, trying to make eye contact.  His little son in the passenger seat sees us and quickly gets his dad’s attention.  Immediately Dad sits forward, grips the steering wheel and rolls down his window.  The look on his face says he’s ready to rumble!  He yells, “What’s your problem?”  Eric stares him down.  He flips us the bird and cuts us off.

“What a dickhead!” I say to Eric.

By now we’re practically half way out into the road.  Car number five comes along.  He’s not slowing down either but we keep nudging out and eventually succeed in getting ahead of him.  This results in a very agitated honk of the horn.  Unbelievable. 

My Super-Deluxe Mormon Mamma Minivan

A few minutes later we catch up to our friend.  I see he still has his window down and I cannot, despite my best effort, refrain from looking over at him.  His window’s still down and he looks over at me.  He’s getting ready to say something, but before he can I roll down my window and yell, “Don’t make me get out of this minivan!  Oh and thanks for being courteous, you dickhead!”

What can I say?  The old-school Gen X gal in me with my antiquated manners is slow to die.  I know I really should just shut my mouth and preach by example, but sometimes I snap -- just like a pencil in the hands of an unruly, spoiled Millennial brat. 

Moral of the story is this:  If a somewhat crazed lady in a green minivan with a BYU sticker calls you a dickhead, or worse, just go with it.  Don’t react, just sit back and re-evaluate your behavior, knowing that she truly has your best interests at heart.  She’s just trying to teach you some manners.  You’re welcome!

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Karen Anderson is a stay-at-home mom of three boys who lives in Provo, Utah. Being the only female in the house, she sometimes feels like a maid/chef in a mini frat house. She enjoys writing about life with her menfolk as well as putting a comic spin on everyday situations. She has a BS from Brigham Young University in Travel & Tourism but would rather write. You can read more about her adventures at