This is me, a generation or two back, when I was a uniformed patrol officer in a suburban Detroit police department. When I stopped someone I suspected of drunk driving, it was standard practice to give them a field sobriety test, which consisted of a series of simple mental and physical acuity exercises. Simple for someone sober, not so simple for the inebriated. One of these exercises was asking the suspect to recite the English alphabet.
Many times a suspect would start speaking, “A, uh . . .B”, and then stop and look at me and ask, “Can I sing it?” When I answered affirmatively, the suspect started singing their ABCs to the familiar tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” You know what I mean. It’s in your head as you read this.
Baby boomers (like me) learned their ABCs this way. Sung in sequence. We learned our Social Security number in order, too. Nine numbers. So today, when the person at the bank or on the phone asks for the last four digits of your SS number as an identifier, you recite the whole thing, silently or under your breath, before you loudly speak the last four. Sequences are meant to be recited . . . sequentially. We can count backwards from 10 (another part of a field sobriety test), because we learned that as a countdown sequence. But we can’t say the alphabet backwards without a huge struggle, because you are asking us to remove those familiar letters from their known sequence.
So what does this have to do with generations?
When someone talks or writes about “Gen Y”, I really have no clue which demographic group they are referring to until I put the letter back into proper sequence. I have to stop and think about the fact that Y comes after X, and therefore Generation Y is the one born later than Generation X, which by itself is a highly random designation. This is a lot of mental work for people who have to sing the ABCs all the way through.
I was born during the “Post World War II Baby Boom”, the generation commonly referred to as Baby Boomers, often shortened to Boomers. No letters. No sequences. Just one highly descriptive name. I don’t know who decided to start naming subsequent generations by letters, but I would like it to stop. Let’s use “Millennials”, instead of Gen Y, as some already do. I don’t care what you call Generation X, as long as it’s something else. They were first referred to as Baby Busters, but maybe that has negative connotations.
What do YOU think?