Our February road trip to St. Augustine, Florida, had many “blog-worthy” moments.
Eventually, I’ll write about returning to a place 25 years later, 25 years older. I’ll describe walking along the same beach with my grandson where I once walked with my own two children, delighting in the discovery of a fat sea tern or little sandpiper as the waves ebbed, then flooded around our bare feet.
I’ll savor once more, but in words, the delectable Cajun shrimp at a little dive we found on Amelia Island.
And, as we took the long way home, I’ll capture our experience on St Simons, our favorite of the three golden isles along the Georgia coastline: the lighthouse, the small-town chatter at Barbara Jean’s Restaurant, and wandering among the centuries old live oaks at Christ Episcopal Church Frederica–the same oaks under which Methodist founder John Wesley preached nearly three hundred years ago.
However, the most striking impression that traveled home with me is a culmination of observations distinguishing humans thirty-something and under from those over sixty (I hesitate to make a reference to baby boomers and the collective ‘zennials, millennials, and post-millennials crowd).
With the exception of a surly bartender at a poolside cabana, I confidently confirm that everyone we encountered in his or her late teens, twenties and early thirties was respectful, courteous, and helpful. I wanted to mother (or grandmother) the attendant who helped us with our bags at the Embassy Suites in St. Augustine and our waitress on St. Simon’s who knew the menu by heart. Neither could be more than sixteen and both radiated a joy for their jobs. In fact, each day we encountered servers, cashiers, housekeeping attendants, store employees, all apparently under twenty and busy busing tables, sacking groceries, washing windows, mopping floors with cheerful commitment. In turn, we observed many of their supervisors were thirty-ish, immaculately groomed, competently carrying out the tasks of their roles, articulate and professional in their encounters with us.
At the other end of the spectrum, we noticed most of the travelers who patronized the same places we visited were over sixty like us. More than a few were rude, demanding, and entitled, complaining about the long line for free cocktails or the empty platters of hors d’oeuvres as many of those in front heaped their plates to overflowing. Many lounged with a drink in the common places, laughing raucously, flashing their wealth on their gold and diamond adorned fingers. More than once, we stood in line and listened as an “over sixty-ager” loudly berated an “under thirty-ager” about a room charge or a housekeeping issue. Another afternoon, we watched four “over 70-agers” in dapper Sansabelt slacks blatantly flirt with a pretty under thirty desk attendant who smiled politely with eyes that said, “please, go away!”
And beware of early morning when this particular age group descends on a breakfast buffet like a throng of locusts in SAS shoes, cutting in line, draining every coffee pot, vociferating orders for more bagels or Special K.
In his op-ed article for the Montreal Gazette, Ronald Macfarlane makes similar observations about our generation and states, “Millennials have a bad reputation, but observation tells me that we seniors are quicker to exercise presumed entitlement.”
According to Macfarlane, “This entitlement sometimes spills into personal interactions. Too often the default response to a misunderstanding with wait staff or front-line service personnel is verbal aggression. Perhaps the misunderstandings are more frequent now, as we do not express ourselves or our needs as clearly as we once did. Our frustration, in this case with ourselves, does not grant any right to treat others disrespectfully” (“Opinion: Rude Millennials?”).
I am not sure what lesson I can extract from these observations or if I have crossed the ambiguous line that measures politically correct content, but because of our observations on our recent road trip to St. Augustine, I feel obliged to carry out Mr. Macfarlane’s request:
“Seniors, let us assume the responsibility of calling out those of our generation who believe that age has bestowed special privileges upon them.”
Macfarlane, Ronald. “Opinion: Rude Millennials? Feh, How about Rude Seniors? Montreal Gazette, 11 July 2018 retrieved on 18 January 2020 from https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/opinion-my-fellow-seniors-embarrass-me-with-their-entitlement