Two elderly women on their way to a baseball game sat across from each other on the light rail on a particularly humid day. One began a conversation with the other.
The 45-minute ride from the start of the Phoenix Metro Light Rail in Mesa over to Chase Field was filled with their conversation, ranging from topics of personal health and politics to late husbands and the “old days.”
I marveled at the novelty of two strangers striking up a conversation so easily, while I chose to communicate through my phone, texting friends and talking to others who were not on the smelly train with me.
The two women noted that each of the people sitting around them on the train, including myself, were looking at an electronic device. I had my headphones in, so I’m sure they assumed blasting music immunized me to their words. It did not. (Note: Headphones are an excellent tool for eavesdropping.)
“People don’t talk to each other anymore,” one of the women said. “They miss out on so much.”
I can agree with this. Perhaps if I hadn’t spent my last three years filling up my train commute with music and book reading, I could have made a new friend, learned a fun fact from a stranger or found the love of my life.
“This generation is lazy,” the other woman said. “All they do is look at their phones.”
This is a generation of young adults who are carrying the world on their backs, just as past generations have.
Like most generations before us, we have troubles to face and a new world to mold. Our generation faces increasing expectations to fix the economy, cure dying environments and form an equitable society, but when has this not been the case?
The paradox is that each generation sees the next as lazy and unmotivated. Each generation has a tendency to see the world ending at the hand of the youth. The past generation seeing the next as a failure is not a new-age problem. It’s a continuing pattern that should be broken.
One generation could potentially destroy everything great that those before it built, but that would be insurmountably difficult. The world is fragile, but it’s not about to break the way so many seem to fear.
The world does not turn for humanity. It turns because of the physics of the universe, and it will continue to turn regardless of how fat Americans get or how obsessed with their new technology they are.
Being preoccupied with our iPhones does not make this generation, or any other generation for that matter, “lazy.” It just signals that they are blocking out the loud, smelly train with something they enjoy.
Perhaps it signals that they are trying to send out an email to their grant coordinator as deadlines approach. Maybe they are talking to their sister, who is relaying information about their sick mother. Or, yes, maybe they’re looking at an adorable picture of a cat sleeping in a fruit bowl.
Someday, I’ll be the elder surrounded by raucous young people, but I hope I’ll have the ability to look at those kids flying in their rocket shoes with a little faith.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @kwrenick