Boomers Had More Patience Back Then

You’ll have to bear with Mister Boomer this week. He’s feeling a little grumpy and here is the reason why: People have such little patience these days! In our hurry-up, git-‘er-done, gotta-run, don’t-be-late, don’t-hesitate, give-me-more, don’t-want-a-chore, wasting-time-oughta-be-a-crime world, is it too much to ask for people to take a second to realize that not everything needs to be instantaneous? Are these the ramblings of an aging boomer or a societal observation that rings true? Well, here is the case for the latter:

Remember when we stood in lines — all sorts of lines — without complaining? (If you did complain, your mom was sure to have something to say about that). We had to stand in line to cash our checks at the bank every week (no such thing as ATMs); we stood in line to buy concert or sporting event tickets (sometimes all night!); we stood in line when we went to the post office (before those stamp vending machines came in); and we stood in line to take our turn in gym class; play a game of pool in a bar; gain admittance into the city swimming pool; and a host of other situations. Standing in line was part of the way we grew up, and cutting the line was a very real violation that brought the immediate wrath of all those assembled, beginning with our parents. Standing in line taught patience.

Remember when we popped popcorn in a pot and anticipated the hot and tasty treat that was on the way? Then Jiffy Pop came along and although the process wasn’t much faster, it was fun to watch. Having a little patience was made into fun. Later still, the microwave came along and we couldn’t believe how fast we could get our popcorn. Now popping popcorn in a microwave is too much for a lot of people in generations after boomers. Mister B has heard some of a younger generation complain it “takes too long” and is “too much work!” Really? A microwave! No patience!

Remember when patience was its own reward? We put together jigsaw puzzles for hours on end. It wasn’t the finishing that was as important as the journey getting there. And we played family games, waiting our turn and enjoying the moment, though some competitive boomers strived to win.

Remember collecting box tops and sending in for some type of toy? So many things could be acquired courtesy of the back of cereal boxes, but they required kids to do something — collect box tops, tape a quarter to the entry form, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope — whatever it was, once accomplished, you had to wait. In two to six weeks, your sea monkeys, temporary tattoos, string-pull flying thingies, etc., would arrive in the mail. Patience was rewarded.

Remember seeing mothers feed grapes to their children or open a bag of chips or cookies in the supermarket before paying for them? It did not happen! If you begged your mother to give you a grape or open the bag of cookies, what would she have told you? That’s right, she would’ve said you had to wait. Patience. And the wait wasn’t until the groceries were placed in the car in the parking lot, either; it was when the groceries were put away at home. Patience meant never eating anything inside a supermarket if it wasn’t a free sample.

The old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” If the adage is true, what does that say about things that come — nay, HAVE to come — instantaneously? Mister Boomer’s reaction to all this mayhem reminds him of the call-response chanting prevalent in our protest days (and indeed similar chants are still employed in today’s protests). To paraphrase: What does Mister Boomer want? PATIENCE! When does he want it? NOW!

Is the patience you practiced in your youth still hanging on in your current life, boomers, or have you embraced the “instant gratification” attitude of today’s techno-addicted scene, man?

Boomers Were Taught Manners, Then They Discarded Them

Mister Boomer recently received a thank you note via U.S. mail from his grand nephew. He and his spouse had sent a birthday gift, and now, with help from the boy’s mother, Mister B’s niece, the note arrived. The boy’s mother, herself a daughter of Baby Boomers, believes strongly in the old school manners that were a regular part of our boomer upbringing. It has been Mister Boomer’s observation that this is unusual among today’s parents.

Perhaps there is no greater phrase to illustrate the difference between the manners ingrained into our boomer upbringing and the kids who followed than simply, “Thank you.” Boomers were taught at an early age that when someone said “Thank you” to you, the correct response was, “You’re welcome.” If any response is forthcoming these days, more than likely it will be, “No problem.”

Mister Boomer vividly recalls how parents, aunts, teachers and practically everyone would be quick to prod youngsters into saying, “Thank you,” and, “You’re Welcome.” The adults would often bend down to the child’s height and say something like, “What do you say?” when the child received a gift, an ice cream cone or any other favor. All adults were considered authority figures, and it was fair game for any of them to express to children, in private or public, that he or she should “mind your Ps and Qs.” Failure by children to do so reflected poorly on their parents.

So, when, exactly, did “You’re welcome” become “No problem?” Mister B has a theory that relates directly to the Boomer Generation: Though boomers were taught differently, by the time they became young adults, much of the manners of their parents were set aside. Once boomers entered the protest phase of the 1960s, everything connected to The Establishment was eschewed. Bob Dylan prophesied the coming changes in 1964 by singing,“Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command/Your old world is rapidly aging.”

TV shows of the 1950s through the ’70s mimicked the expected manners in the society at large of their time. Take a look at the manners displayed by the characters in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-66) and Leave It to Beaver (1957-63) and contrast that with All In the Family (1971-79) and Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-79).

Another foreshadowing of changing manners can be seen in the smiley face and subsequent ubiquitous, “Have a nice day.” The yellow smiley face was drawn in 1963 by graphic artist Harvey Ball for an insurance company. Since the iconic pop face design was not copyrighted by Mr. Ball, it was appropriated and distributed on shirts, greetings cards and, especially, worn as a button by retail store employees in the late 1960s and into the ’70s.

Mister Boomer believes this retail association was where the nauseating association with “Have a nice day” became widely popularized. Though the iconic image and phrase — the epitome of optimism —  may have seemed innocuous, the use of this image and phrase all but replaced the “Thank you” that was expressed as a regular ending to a retail transaction before the introduction of the smiley face.

As the country’s Generation Gap grew, so did the casualization of speech along with the mode of dress. By the time a recognizable drug culture appeared in the late 1960s, “Thank you” was truncated by the more casual, “Thanks,” and “You’re welcome” had all but been replaced with, “You bet” or “For sure, man.” The slippery slide to “No Problem” had begun.

Mister Boomer is constantly reminded by his surroundings that language changes. So it would seem that manners and etiquette follow suit as well. Mister Boomer hears the voices of many boomer friends who are appalled by the lack of etiquette associated with cellphone usage today, yet it may very well be that our collective rush to embrace all that was anti-establishment 50 years ago set in motion the system of manners exhibited today.

In other words, hey kids, you’re welcome.

What role did manners play in your boomer days?