Friday, September 6, 2019

Millennials be like...

Does the special snowflake stereotype person actually exist?  Sadly, yes.

We were staying in a KOA in Wyoming and after supper, Mark said, "let's get an ice cream!" which is very atypical of him.  So we walked around the park and went to the office, where they sell stuff in their little store.   An older couple was pacing around in circles outside the office door, looking very unhappy.  We went in, not knowing what to expect.

Outside the office was parked a brand-new "teardrop" camper, towed by a Toyota 4x4.   Inside, was a young "millennial" couple checking in.  What followed was hilarious. Yes, both of them had inappropriate tattoos and piercings, too.  They were engaged in a long, long, LONG conversation with the clerk as to how much each site cost, and how the KOA "value rewards program" worked.  The clerk would explain the whole thing and we would start to believe the process was done and they could start checking in, when the young woman would say, "wait, can you explain that again?"

We got our ice creams and, because they started to melt, ate them.   I wandered around the store, looking at everything they had in stock, from RV parts, to t-shirts, to food, and camping gear.  I personally picked up and examined every item they had.   This went on for a half-hour.   And apparently, it was going on before we got there, hence the unhappy older couple pacing out front.  At one point, the "Dad" came in to see if progress was being made.  He and I made eye contact, and I shrugged.  He smiled and nearly laughed and walked back outside.

Meanwhile, at the front desk, the young millennial girl is demanding an explanation as to why all KOAs are not priced the same!   Finally, the clerk checks them into a site, but only after they have asked about the amenities at each different kind of site and how much the sites cost.   They settled for a tent site, which should be interesting with a teardrop trailer - no place to park it!   We thought it was all over, but the girl started going through the store and picking up random things and saying, "How much does this cost?" - not bothering to even look at the price sticker on the item.   I had been there so long, of course, I could have told them the cost of each item, from memory.

Finally, they left, but only after trying to maintain an extended (and unrelated) conversation with the desk clerk.  Mark shoved the now-empty wrappers at the clerk and said, "I'd like to pay for these!" which forced the special snowflakes to move on.  The long-suffering older couple finally came in to buy whatever it was they were buying.  I am surprised they hadn't just given up.

What was going on here?  Were they high?  Was the clerk to blame for being so chatty?  I am not sure.   I think, however, it is an example of a behavior I see a lot of today, where people feel they are "special" and need to be waited on, and once it is "their turn" at the head of the line, they can milk it for all its worth and make other people wait in a passive-aggressive game.  That is one reason you are seeing ordering kiosks at fast-food joints.   What slows down the service isn't the poor ergnonics of the "kitchen" but the special snowflakes who get to the head of the line and say, "I'll have, an, uh, wait a minute...." because they are just now looking at the menu, and it's their turn to make everyone wait.   Folks like that must hate the kiosks and the people who order from them and get their food first.

As I noted in The Culture of Belligerence, these sort of games are played by people who feel powerless in their ordinary lives.  They lash out at others, because they have no real economic power, and thus need to assert power in other ways.   The person with the tortured latte order at Starbucks wants to be a special snowflake because the rest of their life is a train wreck.   When they get their half-caf, half-decaf, spiced pumpkin latte with half-skim, half-2%, extra cinnamon, they feel they "won" somehow, even though the money they put in the tip jar would be better spent funding their 401(k), which would provide them with real economic power.

And so it goes with the millennial couple.  They had just bought the teardrop camper and this was their first night camping in it.   They would have been better off in a National Forest, State Park, Army Corps of Engineers site, or other more bucolic area.  For some reason, they chose a KOA "Journey" park, which is an overnight park filled with expensive motorhomes pulling cars (and often trucks).   It cracks us up sometimes, when we see a motorhome pulling a full-sized pickup truck behind it.  Their "tow behind" is our tow vehicle.   But then again, they are probably upside-down on it all, which is why those sort of folks have their own passive-aggressive games.

So Suzie Snowflake feels out of her element.  They are the youngest people in the park by at least a decade or two.  They don't know what to expect and are wary of being "ripped off" somehow, and the nightly cost seems rather high (again, State Parks...).  So her way of "controlling" the situation was to take control of the situation and make everyone else wait until everything was explained to her, at least three or four times - sometimes more.

This is not a millennial thing, it is a human thing.  We all do it, yes, even me, at times.  We feel unsure of a new situation and want to maintain some form of control.  We feel insecure and lash out.  And the end result often is, we end up further behind the 8-ball than we were before.   Spending 20 grand on a Harley when you feel inadequate in life isn't going to make things better, even if you can gun your straight pipes at the "rich guy" at the stoplight and "show him!"    Blowing five bucks on a coffee drink so you can impress the barista isn't going to help your bottom line (and the barista has his own set of passive-aggressive games to play as well - he's even less empowered than you!).

This couple had a nice rig, perfect for an active young couple who want to explore.   A visit to a State Park or other public land would probably have been more fun for them, rather than to camp in the shadow of someone's $500,000 "motorcoach".   We stopped there simply to do laundry - after three days of "dry camping" in State parks with no power or water (other than what was in the tank and what the solar panels provide).

How do you avoid being a special snowflake?  Empower yourself.   Do research and learn about things before jumping into a situation where the balance of knowledge is not in your favor.  A few hours on the Internet could have educated this couple about camping sites - and the KOA pricing and rewards scheme.  Likely, they would have found that bucolic campsite by a bubbling stream in a State Park and been much happier and spent half as much.

That is the great thing about the Internet.  The powers-that-be haven't corrupted it entirely just yet (Google is doing a good job, though, of steering your every inquiry to corporate America).   You can still search online on the greatest database ever produced.   You can learn a lot - about anything.   There is no longer any need to go to a car dealer without knowing in advance how much you expect to pay for a car, under what terms, and what the dealer paid - if, in fact, you didn't negotiate the price before you even went there.

And so on and so forth.  The "cure" for passive-aggression is power, and the way to accumulate power is to accumulate knowledge.