Last night on my favorite internet forum there was a question, apparently from a young guy of college age. It doesn't matter what the question was, but I didn't think it was unreasonable. One of the first responses was apparently from a bitter old man. The gist of it was, in a snotty, sarcastic, and condescending tone, that this young fellow was just wasting everybody's time and should go away.

As Jack Benny used to say, "Well!" I hardly know where to begin. I guess I'll start with the local antique car club I joined almost twenty years ago. It was a great bunch of people, and going to the meetings, events, and tours was wonderful fun. Eventually, though, everybody who was willing had been president, vice president, treasurer, and/or secretary several times. Finally, the older members, who were a majority, "retired" from the club simultaneously. The club limped along without them for two or three more years, but there just weren't enough of the younger members to keep it going, just as there hadn't been enough of them to save the old folks from having to be officers again.

I like going to tractor shows and watching the old farm equipment operate, and so do a lot of other people, especially elderly ones like me. But guess what! Putting on events like that takes a lot of work, and it's all volunteer effort. So far, there are enough people to keep these events going. But when I go to a tractor club meeting, I see a lot of gray hair. There will come a day when the current volunteers will wear out or croak. If the antique car club, or old tractor club, or amateur orchestra, or any hobby activity is going to continue, there will have to be new, younger people involved to keep it going. When any young person shows curiosity, interest, and even enthusiasm, it is slack-jawed, bonehead, brain-dead stupid to throw cold water on that enthusiasm.

It seemed to me that the elderly personage who made the snotty remarks presumed to know a lot more about his young target than he really did. Just as we don't constantly think about being surrounded by air, and I assume fish don't notice the presence of water, a lot of young folks today have lived all their young lives immersed in a crap-filled popular culture that becomes exponentially coarser, trashier, and stupider by the minute. They may not realize what surrounds them, but a lot of us older people see it, and we don't like it. Because of this, when we see some kid with his cap on backwards, half a pound of hardware stuck in his face, and tattooed like Queequeg, thumping down the road in a car throbbing with gangsta crap, some of us tend to think all the kids are equally shallow and pathetic.

But I remember highschool. I was a dorky-looking fat kid, in a time when overweight teens were a lot less common than today. I was culturally different, too. While most of the other kids were listening to Danny & the Juniors, Elvis, and Jerry Lee, I knew that the coolest music around was from Beethoven. And I was really irritated when older people assumed I was like all the other kids. Maybe the old man who made the snide comments was good-looking and popular when he was young, but because I wasn't I remember acutely how much it meant to get a word of encouragement when a teacher or other older person thought I did something worthwhile and told me so. (Thank you, Miss McCoy; thanks, Mr. Penny!)

Last week our local paper printed a highschool senior's first newspaper column. It was generally well written and made sense, and he even showed that he can use the apostrophe correctly (this is a deep mystery to well over ninety percent of the population, including some at the newspaper). I sent the kid an email and told him so. It was true, it didn't cost me a cent, and it probably made both of us feel good. Presumably, if our oldster is really old, he will be dead soon. I think when I'm gone, I'd much rather be remembered for giving a young person a kind word of encouragement than for verbally pissing on him.

Finally, if that old guy is my age or older, he should have learned by now to spell competently.