The Kids are All Right, Pick on Someone Your Own Age

And other answers to unsolicited questions.

“I have tried and tried to get to Inbox Zero and I just can’t get there. Any advice?” — Overwhelmed Olivia

Everyone gets a lot of emails. They are slightly less annoying than getting a phone call. But more desirable than those instant message things everyone at work is always sending each other. Is there anything really business urgent that requires everyone to be instant messaging each other all day? “What are you getting for lunch?” “Have you eaten lunch yet?” Just walk over to that dude’s cube and remind him that TPS reports need a cover sheet.

In the hierarchy of messaging, I’d rather get an email than say a Twitter DM. Or a facebook message! Apparently I need to download Facebook messenger to even read one of those. I’d rather get a subpoena than a Facebook message, If I had my druthers, I’d like to be messaged the following ways: Text message, Email Message, subpoena, Twitter DM, phone call, Brick through window, facebook message, burning cross on lawn.

I haven’t been signed into any instant messaging thing in years. They were great in the early days of the internet for cybersex. I gave good virtual head. But they’re bad for everything else. Except ignoring. But, for some reason, I cannot handle having a little red 1 hanging there without going completely insane. Which explains my inbox zero policy.

And most of my messages of any kind are simply the word “OK.” Meaning “stop bothering me.” It’s not that I’m a misanthrope. Or ever particularly busy with anything good. I did imagine that being connected to everyone almost instantly would be a really valuable tool that would help us build new pyramids and floating cars. So far it’s been disappointing. For a long time I was waiting for someone to send me an email that just said: “Jim, I like you and will put up with most of your bullshit. Let’s drive across the country together.” Now I think I am waiting for an email that says “I like you so much I’m not going to message you in any way ever again. Let’s watch shitty TBS shows together.”

I have my Gmail set so that everything just gets archived. So my inbox is always empty. To check my email, I have to go to All Mail. And it’s mostly just copies of text messages I have gotten. If you hook up Google voice to your phone you can get and send SMS messages from your inbox just by replying to the email Google voice sends you. So, for example, I can let Ben (who’s rehabbing his knee in a place in the Village) know that the Nightly Show was canceled or that Fyvush Finkel has died. I like texting Ben because he rarely acknowledges texts, it’s like throwing a quarter into a volcano. It adds a little mystery to our relationship. Does he get texts, I ask myself. He’d actually blocked my texts for a while. He said by accident. Sure, Ben, sure.

The best thing about having an empty inbox is the feeling that there is a force field around me. As a poet, I used to get lots of emails asking me for poetry stuff. I don’t get those anymore. Once you’ve published, verbatim, some of the crappy emails you’ve gotten, they stop coming at such a pace. I change my email address all the time. I have actually gotten good at sending emails that look like error messages. ‘“Sexiestpoetalive@gmail.com” does not exist on Google servers, etc.’ That will slow your inbox roll considerably.

Photo: Stock Millennial Matthew Hurst
“Aren’t Millennials just the worst?” — Gen X Gary

I don’t really get generational rivalries. I mean, I don’t exactly see any American generation lighting the world on fire. At least in a good way. I am forty-three and a half, and so Generation X. And we were supposed to be slackers. Stoned couch philosophers that understood that the world was bullshit. And in response we grew goatees. But, even though Winona Ryder is still really pretty and still awesome, we have not accomplished all that much collectively.

Somehow we’re supposed to begrudge younger kids because their parents actually liked them and are curious what they were up to. We say that are spoiled and coddled. All these people winning gold medals this week are millennials. There are no medals for lying around your apartment feeling superior in your underpants. Or else I would have at least one bronze medal by now.

I work at a University Bookstore, so I see a new crop of kids every year. And they seem pretty nice. They aren’t the ones voting for Donald Trump. So give them a break. They’ve inherited a pretty messed-up world. If they want to live with their parents forever, let them. If I could live in my Mom’s basement forever, I probably would. It is a very nice basement. We could open a bookstore in my hometown. I could ride my bike to work every day, especially in the rain. Mom could knit in the corner while I could experiment with alternative shelving techniques. I’m a middle child, all I ever wanted was my parents’ attention. Having them follow me around, Snapchatting me all day. Who could have pictured such a wonderful world?

I never imagined Generation X would grow up to be as grumpy and bitter as our parents. That was never in one of those Douglas Coupland novels. Where have you gone, Douglas Coupland? Canada apparently. My mom says I can move with them to Canada if Donald Trump wins. I’ve always wanted to be Canadian, just like I’ve always wanted to be Jewish and gay. Canadians don’t win as many gold medals, but they don’t seem to care very much either. And isn’t that the greatest victory?


Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works in a bookstore.