Saturday, April 10, 2021

Twenty One



On the way to work today I saw there was a hitch-hiker standing on the ramp to 95 south.  He looked like an anachronism. There he stood with a big sign made from a corrugated cardboard box.  PROVIDENCE it read.

When I was in hitchhiking mode, hitchhikers with signs like this one were omnipresent.  I worked as a toll collector for a stretch in 1970 and we would see the hikers lined up on the ramp to the Thruway.  Unusual for there not to be a hiker in the middle of the day.  Not unusual for three or as many five groups of hikers with signs.

I was a summer replacement and my colleagues were twenty to forty years my senior.  I was a long hair, they—from all appearances and later I found out from all that they said--very much conservative.  Not real fans of the “revolution” and their comments I am sure were muted because of my presence and the presence of a few other summer replacements.  A fellow named Mr. Morris, an occasional supervisor, once went on a rant about protesters which extended to hitch-hikers.  

“I break my goddamn back so my kid can grow his hair long and carry a sign.  I am working 60 hours a week and these ragpickers stand on the side of the highway all day smoking drugs.”

Occasionally, I or one of the other young-uns, tried to explain the philosophy of the student left to these fellows.  They often listened politely, but the breach was still there at the end of the day.  I’d explain that the war was wrong and one guy there said, not confrontationally, that “we” didn’t feel that way in World War II.  The generation gap was very apparent at exit 24 on the New York State Thruway. 

So, I pass the hiker going to Providence comforted in part that I am not taking 95 south, but 90 east this morning. I don’t have to make a decision about whether to pick him up or not.  When I returned from California in '74 I picked up everybody, but haven’t done so in a while.  And not sure I would have picked up this kid going to Providence.  

Is there still a generation gap and this time I’m just on the senior side of the divide?  I think there may be, if not philosophically, then by virtue of other phenomena.  I find that references to media stars now mean-- much more often than not--absolutely nothing to me. I hear a reference to a sound and recording personality who will sing the national anthem.  The fans go wild when the person is introduced.  I wouldn’t recognize the singer if we were the only two in an elevator.  I attended a meeting the other day when I clearly could have been the father of each and every one of the polished professionals.  And a father who had started off late in life.  The five women and two men were speed talking using jargon that made me feel like my grandfather must have felt like when he listened to Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman spew their revolutionary wisdom.  Nothing political from my university colleagues, but the language.  It was like listening to a person who occasionally tossed Arabic into the spiel making it impossible for someone without the language to follow.   Not sure there is much difference now relating to the divide between the generations.

I am concerned that when I approach the authorities regarding the murder that I might be considered irrelevant and the evidence dismissed as the ravings of an old timer who speaks a dialect from the 60s.