Friday, April 30, 2010

The Forgotten Sacrificed

Picked up my expensive gourmet coffee this morning. Headed over to get some cheap gas. Pulled up to pump – and it happened: a man creeped-up on me and asked me for some money. “Hey, sir, I am not a drunk. I actually work, but…I have been a foreign car mechanic for years. Fell on some hard times. I am 61. Too old to be out here needing money for some gas. I will have to do something else now. Don’t know what. All I know how to do is fix cars. Do you have a couple of dollars to give me?”

A 58 year old man forcefully admonished me one day during a ReInvent Oneself seminar, “Would you please stop talking about that reinventing yourself crap. I am a brick layer. Have been since I was 14. I don’t know how to do anything but lay brick. What am I to do now that the construction business is down? I need answers. Not some fancy talking-to from you. You have a job!”

I hear this sad commentary almost every day from men and women that are well over 50 years old. The message is simple – but newly complex: ‘I have one skill, and I don’t know how to do anything other than what I have been doing for 30 years.’

America is Changing.

Shall I forthrightly say, ‘We all have to change with Her?’ Perhaps we do. In the meantime, what are the jobless ‘antiques’ to do? Go back to school? Then what? Stare at a device that terrifies them: The Computer? Brush-up on their interview skills so that they will not be out talked by a young buck? In the years past, several of these people simply walked up to the front door of a business - and asked, ‘Are you hiring?’ That was sufficient back then. Not a frowned upon question as if the one asking was a desperate idiot. That was only 20 years ago. How quickly we forget when it was simple…How quickly we forget when political correctness was the shamefully new and unwanted concept…

When I was unemployed, I secured an hour of grand standing humiliation (an interview) with a large NGO here in Atlanta. The day before the interview a friend asked me, “Are you going to shave and dye your beard before you go to the interview tomorrow?” It was full that week, full of my uncle Jerry’s gray. That question stumped me…then I thought about it: I needed to project a ‘youthful’ look for this position. I am thankful my friend was ‘ahead’ of me on that one. Needless to say, I did not get the job. A 2008 wet-behind the ears college graduate did.

The truth is, younger looking men and women are getting the jobs. With stating the obvious, it helps if you are a white female too. I mentioned this in a training session a few weeks ago. An aging ‘looking’ man (head covered with more salt than pepper) said, “I can’t do this. Here I am private school educated, experienced with institutional memory – and I have to HIDE my qualities and unsuccessfully compete with white women?” He stormed out in frustration.

America has Changed.

Not for the best for those who paved the way. It is the old man and woman who taught me everything I know – and now they are casualties because of The Changes. Changes that I cannot accept. Especially, when an old man has to ask me, the Youngin’, for two bucks to get gas…to GET TO WORK.
Sad Reality for us all – but sadder for our ‘older generation’. The Babies of the Boomer generation are LITERALLY DOOMED.

Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by NOT having the two dollars in cash to give to the Mechanic. He walked away mumbling, “Yeah, everyone is using that plastic these days. I am definitely aging.”