I have finally thrown in the towel with this younger generation. Decided all’s lost. The latest piece of news is they don’t want to learn to drive! I adjusted to them not reading or writing cursive. Understood when they can’t tell time with a real clock or dial a phone. Even gave a little when they don’t like to read a book. But not want to drive. That is heresy!!
I can’t really believe that in Alaska this is a trend. The distances are too far and the culture too ingrained. But two of my granddaughters don’t like to drive. #3 just flat doesn’t like to drive and does so only to get to work and back. If she needs to go the 120 miles to ‘town’ she relies on someone else to do the driving. And #4 drives only if she can get there on a 4-wheeler. Luckily she takes the back trail to work and back. Their sister (#6), however, would try out for NASCAR if she wasn’t involved in so many other things. And she is a good driver. Fearless, but safe.
All of my granddaughters are from the so-called Millennial generation, spanning the years assigned to it by various sociologists and other researchers. #7 could be nudged into the Gen Z group and #1 could be the tail end of Gen X, but basically, Millennial. That seems to be the generation that started the no-driving trend for whatever reason and it is carrying into the next group who are already old enough for that milestone.
When I was of the age in Idaho we could get a daylight license at age 14. I was 14 and one minute when I got mine. Of course, like most kids then, I had been driving on the farm for years: moving the tractor, bringing the truck up from the barn, putting the car in the garage after a trip to town. The daylight license had only that one restriction, no night driving, so we could pick up a friend and go to town as long as we were home by dark (and the daily chores were done). That license was for the convenience of the farmers and to a lesser extent the logging community because it allowed the kids to be the gofers legally when needed, but it also gave us a sense of responsibility to have that cherished driver’s license and the knowledge we were trusted (and expected) to be safe and useful.
All the guys worked to buy a car. Usually some clunker they could fix up and drive but we girls relied on the family car usually. My dad was a Dodge man, so my ride was pretty conservative. This was the mid-1950s and car manufacturers were still in a post-war frenzy trying to decide what would become the new style. I remember a Kaiser one of the older guys had (his dad bought it for him) — bright blue, and flat, not the upside down bathtub so prevalent after the war. The owner ran with my older cousins. Earlier Kaisers had been the rounded body but Henry J. was the first manufacturer to try out a new look.
Remember Studebakers? The grill looked like a rocket. They didn’t last long, for whatever reason, but they were distinctive. And sun visors? Every manufacturer had at least one model with a sun visor during those years. Cars today all look alike. Maybe that is why kids don’t care to learn to drive: they can’t tell their car from all the others in the parking lot.
Of all the current idiosyncrasies this is the one that really flummoxes me. Independence was so crucial to becoming an adult, or at least thinking one was an adult when my generation was coming up and that driver’s license was the first step toward moving on. I know society has changed, for better or worse, but when did kids change from demanding independence to letting mom and dad do it?
I guess this is where I admit to being an old grouch, or at least too old to understand modern kids. I try to remember what old custom I didn’t embrace that my parents might have thought was sacred, but can’t think of one. I didn’t wear a slip to school one day and my mom told me I was acting like a hussy. I had on a black gabardine skirt well below my knees. How she knew I wasn’t wearing a slip I’ll never know. But that is the only breach of decorum/tradition I can think of. And, incidentally, slips are certainly out of fashion these days.
So maybe when cars are self-driving no one will need to know how to drive and these kids are just preparing for that eventuality. Some day some GenZer will write a column about his ancient great-grandma who could drive a car and even find her way with a map that didn’t talk to her. Ancient Days!!
• By VIRGINIA WALTERS, For the Peninsula Clarion