Last night I went down a YouTube rabbit hole watching Douglas Coupland, author of the 1991 novel Generation X. Coupland is the unofficial spokesman for my age cohort. He’s the person who named us and has continued to chronicle our misadventures through life – not least of which his own. His subsequent novels Shampoo Planet, Microserfs, Polaroids from the Dead, Life After God, and Worst. Person. Ever. are reflections on contemporary themes: the erosion of the middle class, the rise of the gig economy, globalization, consumerism, and celebrity culture.
Xers are now middle aged, too young to be Baby Boomers, too old to be Millennials – the mayonnaise in a giant demographic sandwich. His writing as well as his artwork tends toward the Warholian pop blurb. Unlike the assertive self assured dominance of Boomers or the relentless optimism and camaraderie of Millennials, Coupland’s tone reflects a profound generational ambivalence.
“The Internet Is That Red Laser Dot Moving On The Floor.”
“Being Middle Class Was Fun.”
“Use Jets While You Still Can.”
“Sharing Is Ownership For Losers.”
“Hoard Anything You Can’t Download.”
“I Agree To The Above Terms And Conditions.”
Cut to a shopping trip to the big box home improvement store this morning. I was in the parking deck when I saw an unusually short garden shed. It was barely as tall as a rake or shovel. I had to duck my head to peak inside. I was confused as to its design. Then I recalled a conversation with a friend about one of his kids buying a new home in Tucson, Arizona where the Home Owners Association had strict rules about outdoor structures not being any higher than the privacy walls and fences. Sorry. No more swing sets or jungle gyms kids. This may partially explain the rise of the backyard trampoline. There isn’t yet a rule that forbids bouncing above the walls.
Evidently enough places around the country now have such restrictions that shed manufacturers have accommodated these parameters in their products. To me this is an indication of the excruciating desire of people to control the behavior of their neighbors and the corresponding willingness to conform. How terrible must it be to get an unwanted glimpse of the top of someone else’s shed?
What was I shopping for? Food grade buckets. Evidently bulky low value items aren’t always eligible for free delivery on the interwebs so I braved the indignities of physical retail. What am I doing with thirty additional five gallon buckets?
My latest adventures in food storage include a dehydrator. I buy veggies and fruit in bulk and process them for future use. Once the water is removed twenty pounds of carrots will fit in a couple of jars. When it’s time to make soup a scoop of dried mirepoix goes in to the broth and voila! The glass jars on the kitchen shelves are for everyday use, but as production ramps up most of my dried goods are going in to sealed mylar pouches. Mylar helps preserve whatever’s inside, but they aren’t rodent proof. Hence the need for the buckets. (Yes, this is how I channel my Gen X angst.)
Aside from his artsy irreverence and detached social commentary Douglas Coupland gets at the heart of our collective predicament: the lack of health insurance and failed pension schemes, the group geek house living arrangement, and the general sense of impermanence and vulnerability. He doesn’t complain or resist as much as shrug in agnostic recognition.
“In The Absence Of A Genuine Skill You’re Doomed.”
“You Know The Future Is Really Happening When You Start Feeling Scared.”
“Machines Are Talking About You Behind Your Back.”
“The Unanticipated Side Effects Of Technology Dictate The Future.”