Pass the Controller, Kid: Sanjuro Gets Old

My friend Phil has brought me to Best Buy because he's TV shopping and needs moral support. I've never felt entirely comfortable providing this crutch for Phil, because the rate at which the guy buys electronics rivals the rate of growth of Imelda Marcos' shoe collection in the 80s. Where the money comes from, I don't know. Phil is either deriving nutrition from his PSP and Ipod, or he's doing inappropriate things for money a la the I've-seen-better-days Dirk Diggler towards the end of Boogie Nights; either way I figure this is none of my business.

Phil's got a plasma TV at home that I would kill for, but he's brought me to Best Buy ranting about some new television set that he must investigate. I've abandoned my Jiminy Cricket role and left Phil to his own devices while I kill time on the demo Xbox, thoughtfully loaded with Halo 2 and mounted in front of a mated set of recliners, each one rivaling my Civic in size. It's not long before a handful of kids show up, looking to take me on in Halo.

Right away, the kids establish themselves as pretty OK in my book. They call me "Mister", which is bemusing at first but eventually endearing. They can discuss the finer points of Halo pretty intelligently. But I can't stop looking at their polo shirt collars. They're all turned up. I don't get it.

After a while, the banter turns from Halo weapon combos to music, and then from music to skateboarding. They use slang words I've never heard. I am Polybius in Rome. I can understand what's going on, but I don't understand it. I think about when the last time I watched MTV was. I can't remember.

The screen goes black in-between rounds and it reflects me flanked by all of these kids, probably ten years my junior, with their collars turned up. The only thing I can intelligently discuss with these guys is games.

I never anticipated growing old. There was no denying that I was going to age, of course, but I had never thought I would get old the way my dad did: ostentatiously, infuriatingly old. Putting in ear plugs before taking me to a Def Leppard concert when I was twelve or stubbornly insisting on wearing a fanny pack in public for the sake of "convenience". I was always damn sure that I was going to be able to resist this sort of social degeneration. I dressed well, listened to hip hop, carefully and deliberately styled my hair so that it looked unstyled and developed a cultured disdain for department stores. I had made myself impervious to aging.

Somehow, in spite of my entrenchment in the cool camp, the lines had shifted beneath me. At some point, an all-hands memo was sent out informing the youth to flip up their collars and I totally missed it. The down-turned collar was my fanny pack, my coolness Waterloo.

My father and I can talk politics and money all day, but for entertainment, we can talk X-Com. Or Civilization. When I tell the kids here at Best Buy that they're wasting their time with the pistol and SMG when I've got a battle rifle, they're relating to me the way I relate to my pops. The way my dad can't relate to his dad, who in his old age can only discuss his latest health deficiency and who aspires to no higher form of entertainment than Off-Track Betting. So as Phil strolls over to where we are, I am left with a consolation prize for my defeat at the hands of time; games are the great generational equalizer. As long as I am a nerd, I have a conduit to my youth.

The kids notice Phil approach, and ask him if he's any good. Phil jerks a thumb in my direction. "I'm better than him. But if I beat you, you gotta flip your goddamn collars down."

Comments

Short but sweet.

You worked Polybius into an article, and did it with style. I think I'm in love.

As a note, the fact that I have seen fit to bestow praise upon you can only mean that you're even further removed from the youngins than you had previously believed. Sorry to break it to you.

Yeah, I know the feeling, trust me. I've been saying "these kids today..." for along time.

Example: I was reading a hilarious article on McSweeny's, an imaged rejection letter from an editor to an author trying to update the Hardy Boys series. One query from the cluesless editor was "page 80- what exactly is a k-hole? Please explain." I had no idea what a k-hole was; I was reduced to Googling it.

These kids today taking their cat tranquilizers, why in my day we only had weed! Dirt weed mind you not that chronic (I had to Google that term too) stuff. And we had to walk uphill to score it. Both ways...

well done, you old fart

nothing to worry about though: about five years ago, in 6th grade, there was a discussion going on in moral class. My fellow 17-18 year olds were complaining about "youth these days having no respect" They were actually and literally saying: when we were young, we looked up to the 6th graders, now they don't.
I was bewildered (and so was our 50 year old teacher) and amused at the same time. My class mates were old because they chose to.

But then again, this is about coolness is it not? Well, I was never cool. So for me growing old is not "losing my connection to hot&coolness" but "not caring about it anymore". Which is a good thing I suppose

PS: how old ARE you actually?

Up-turned collars are stupid looking, even a lot of kids will tell you that.

The kids notice Phil approach, and ask him if he's any good. Phil jerks a thumb in my direction. "I'm better than him. But if I beat you, you gotta flip your goddamn collars down."

Phil is officially my hero.

And I like getting older, I've always hated teenagers, even when I was one. Now getting out of my 20s, that's going to be depressing.

Another well-written article! I especially like your ending :).

And if disliking upturned collars makes you old, then I think I was decrepit at fourteen.

Pyro wrote:

Phil is officially my hero.

Me too.

Pyro also wrote:

Now getting out of my 20s, that's going to be depressing.

I hear you, and I've got a ways to go yet.

It's sort of funny; when I was a teenager, I didn't understand why it was the 'old folks' (anyone above, say, nineteen) didn't like us or trust us. The instant I hit twenty and saw some fourteen-year-old kids just being themselves, I understood. I've started having those 'wow, I'm old' moments myself; whenever mention of the Berlin Wall comes up (more often than you might think), it occurs to me that there are teenagers alive today who weren't born when it came down. ::shudders::

[Of course, any mention of me being 'old' is to be taken with a grain of salt, as my quarter-century anniversary of clawing my way forth from the womb still approacheth.]

Oh, yeah, Sanj? Nice article. I'm framing it as we speak.

Grandpa Simpson wrote:

I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now, what
I'm with isn't it, and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me.

I think my point is that Sanjuro = Grandpa Simpson. And that The Simpsons has dealt with every social topic imaginable, five years ago.

Great article, Sanjuro. The line from Phil is golden.

I'm not particularly old, but sitting here reading this article, while I put of filling my annual performance review, does make me feel it a bit. To which I simply shrug. Still hoping that as I get older I'll manage to keep from being judgmental of youth and pop cultural trends, but I'm anything but "in touch" anymore. Damn kids

edit: speelign

Great article Sanj. Here's hoping you can write a few more before you hands become crippled with arthritis

I power-levelled through my teeange years. Hell, I got my MSCE and first career job at 17.

LupusUmbrus wrote:

Still hoping that as I get older I'll manage to keep from being judgmental of youth and pop cultural trends, but I'm anything but "in touch" anymore.

I think we all do, to an extent. I sort of hope that by the time I have kids, I won't be so out-of-touch that they'll just roll their eyes and say "Dad, you just don't get it." I assume, however, that such a fate awaits me. ::shrugs:: If nothing else, I'll always be able to tell them about the 'good ol' days,' when consoles had 8-bit graphics and the bleeding edge of PC technology was a 486 33MHz processor.

CodexMatt wrote:

I power-levelled through my teeange years. Hell, I got my MSCE and first [i]career[i] job at 17.

Dayum.. did you pick up you Vorpal sword along the way too?

Sanjuro: Who cares if you are an old fogie.. you can kick their butts in Halo! As far as I am concerned being old is just fine.. I get better sex more often, I don't care what some other kid thinks about me, and I can still kick everyone's arse in CoD. Whats the problem?

You're what, 26? It gets way worse.

As for upturned collars, if they are back in style, which I certainly wasn't aware of, this would mark the second time in my life that has been the case.

Your article was cheesy brilliance, spread upon a tasty wheat cracker. Truly you have a gift.

Although, I don't really agree that you're "getting old." I have a problem with the idea of coolness being equated with 15-year-olds who flip their polo collars up and steal their vernacular from today's MTV. I thought as you got older, you crossed into a new class of cool... the leap between the "just out of high school, listen to radio-played hip hop, vaguely trying to rebel" cool and the "post-college, listening to Wilco, struggling to find yourself" mid-twenties cool. I dunno, maybe that's just what I tell myself when the collars-up kids steal my lunch money.

When did uncool stop being the new cool? I was riding that wave all the way in.

*sniffs* ....Our Sanjuro is growing up before our very eyes.....

Welcome to "The Age Of Experience" young man....errr make that "Mister Sanjuro....Sir"

Aw, man, screw your middle age "am I too old?" angst. Better tell us: you did pwn those punks at Halo 2, didntcha?

*turns his shirt collar up*

Now that's just stupid.

*puts it back down*

Great read.

Wow. How odd. I used to wear my polo shirts with the collar turned up. In 1985.

Good story, Sanj.

Fletcher1138 wrote:

Wow. How odd. I used to wear my polo shirts with the collar turned up. In 1985.

I did the same thing. Weird.

As long as I am a nerd, I have a conduit to my youth.

This one line brightened my whole morning.

I'm 31, but I still have siblings in high school. Relating to them usually involves video games.

Podunk wrote:
Fletcher1138 wrote:

Wow. How odd. I used to wear my polo shirts with the collar turned up. In 1985.

I did the same thing. Weird.

Yeah, I was going to say, I think I've got an old picture or two laying around from my high-school days with the ol' upturned collar. We'll just put that right up there with bellbottoms as a fad that shouldn't come back (though it apparently has ;)).

Alien13z wrote:

You're what, 26?

Winnar!

Glad you guys liked it.

Awesome story Sanjuro, it was a great read this morning. There's a lot of Metrosexuals/Homosexuals downtown here who flip up the polo shirt collars.

They are usually overly animated, in a spoiled kid hopped up on crack/coffee kind of way. Like a 5 year old who's just discovered cool aid packets. Known to also wear trucker hats and oversized glasses. Looks at every reflection possible walking down the road to ensure maximum cuteness is conveyed to the world. Slobering on a sucker or chewing gum like it was cud, to add to the "hey guy, I really don't care, huh guy!" kind of faux-attitude.

I really want to ro'shambo these fools on a daily basis.

I bought a shirt a month ago that had a collar. It was a nice shirt. The punk-nuts teen behind the counter told me I should flip up the collar and pimp out the 'Greaser look. Who the f*ck am I, Fonzie?

Sanj: Nice freakin article. That closing line is classic.

I can't say that I've seen anyone flipping up their damned polo shirt collars around here, but I imagine it's only a matter of time.

I'm sure I'll point and laugh derisively when I see it the first time. That's a fairly typical reaction from me to things like this.

Exposed

I blame him.

IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v255/Swat_R2/Fonzie.jpg)

For creating this.

IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v255/Swat_R2/flippedcollar.jpg)

Wow. Collar poppers! Probably club jackets with sleeves jacked up elbow-high are going to make a comeback, too!

Hmm... Smells like old people in here...