Monday I had to go to family court to file some documents, and while I was waiting for my very special attorney ticket, I observed the clerk finishing up with a young man.  She told him he needed to provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and without this item, she could not accept his documents.  This has happened to me before, and it’s the reason why I always try to carry extra stamps and envelopes in on me or in my car.  His options were to either 1) have exact change for a stamp and buy it from the clerk (exact change as in what, 47 cents maybe?); 2) wait about an hour to get to a clerks office to buy a stamp with non-exact change; or 3) go down 7 stories, go outside and buy a stamp from the cafe across the street.  After she explained his options, he looks at her with a bit of a blank expression.  “A stamp is this…right?” He’s holding an envelope that has a pre-printed stamp on it, and points to the top right corner of the envelope.  “Uh yeah…but you can just buy a normal stamp, it doesn’t have to be like that.”

Given that I had extra stamps in my wallet, I offered him one of my stamps so he wouldn’t have to go through any of the options above.  The clerk gave me a smile, he gave me a confused look.  Um, I just saved you time and effort buddy, you’re welcome. “Um…can you tell me where I put this?”  Yep, the confused look was because he was seriously confused about where to put the stamp I had just handed him.  The clerk also had to point out where to write in his own name and address.

Being the super understanding person that I am, I immediately posted something on my Facebook about this situation, being as I found it pretty entertaining.  Lo and behold, I hit a nerve!  And here are some other sad but funny scenarios shared by friends who have also seen our youth have trouble with what seems to us to be normal, daily activities.

  • “The last girl we hired part-time was the same way about everything that needed to be done in an office.”
  • “I tutored a girl in Spanish and had to help her write her first check.”
  • Another friend shared how a friend’s son graduated high school (so, 18-ish) and went to open a bank account with his first paycheck, and went home defeated because he didn’t know how to sign his name. This friend also mentioned engineers at her office who had never seen a typewriter before.
  • “The first time I went to Haiti in 2008 I went to buy a Lonely Planet guide in Barnes and Noble. Sadly the staff could not help me locate said book because the travel guides were separated by continents, and he had NO IDEA where the island of Hispaniola was located. Sigh.”
  • “[w]hen I was at grad school at NYU I had to instruct several college students how to deposit checks.”
  • “My grandma still has regular mail boxes on her street, and her new young neighbor came out to ask how he could sent out going mail… funny he didn’t know you put the flag up”
  • “My brother, 27, is unaware of how one acquires checks (mom bought him the first set, and now he’s out after 10 years of using the first box).”

I wonder if there are people in each generation that are clueless about this kind of stuff, or maybe societal changes?  Have their always been parents that don’t teach their kids this stuff, or are there just more of them now due to both parents working, or not living in the same household, etc.?  Questions that I’d like to do some research on before really putting my foot in my mouth, but alas, I must go.  Feel free to share your thoughts.