I find myself in the Home Depot parking lot on a beautiful Sunday afternoon because my neighbor’s son has decided he doesn’t want to mow my yard anymore. Meanwhile the dandelions have grown over a foot tall and I don’t own a lawnmower. Looking up into the vivid blue sky as I make my way toward the entrance, I see several fresh white chemtrail streaks cutting through the perfect day. And as much as I want to grumble how they’re at it again doing god knows what, I have a copywriting deadline tonight and this yard work BS has come up out of nowhere.
I think this little anecdote sums up the life of a lot of “awake” types who seek that balance between the normal daily routine of a functional person while keeping an eye out for “what’s really going on.” Today it was more important to keep up my end of the bargain with my neighbors and tend to the yard, not gripe about chemtrails or lament about how lazy the young generation is.
And I really thought I was making progress with the kid, who I’ll call Alec. A year ago he was a 15-year-old gamer with braces who had been sheltered from manual labor the whole time, like that scene from “Trading Places” when Jamie Lee Curtis takes Dan Aykroyd’s hands, feels how soft they are, and reflects, “Never done a hard day’s work in your life.” He’d leave big patches of grass unmowed and not understand the problem when I pointed it out, and later when sweeping up he would stand completely upright and draw the broom in with the daintiest little motion, as delicately as when John Kerry tried to each a Philly cheesesteak back in 2004.
But after a while with my supervision Alec began to learn that a low-hanging tree branch is not an insurmountable obstacle rendering the area beyond okay to ignore, and with the cash adding up he was getting ready to purchase a new video game. He never got the job perfect but I thought by the end of this summer he might be able to use the weed whacker without losing an eye.
So today when he came by for what I thought was to do the work but actually to announce his retirement, I was stunned. Back in my day, the 1990s, there was not a single teenager who would turn down an opportunity to do yard work for some spending cash. I used to mow my neighbors’ yards, rake leaves for my dad’s clients, and shovel driveways up and down the block if it meant I had money for CDs. What is going on?! What has changed?
I’ve jokingly called the young crop Generation U for Useless, but I’ll be damned if it’s not a bad omen when a perfectly healthy 16-year-old turns down cash for an hour’s work on a sunny day. Easy money—no commute, no withholding, headphones allowed. For his sake we really better be heading toward a “Transcendence” type future where everybody uploads their consciousness to a computer. It would only be fitting if the kids ended up living Farmville though, avatars harvesting bales of digital hay with their imaginary pitchforks under a perfectly clear blue sky.
Trouble above, trouble below. And I don’t know which worries me more.