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The backpack-strap theory of aging
On why the youth of today are wrong, as always
Last week, while in the course of reporting a couple stories on Michael Jordan at the Talladega race and the spring football game at Alabama, I had the luxury of spending a couple hours on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Now, if you’ve never been to Bama, it’s a bucolic expanse, lush and green. Colonnaded Greek Revival buildings and red brick alternate across campus in a tasteful educational array. The peals of Denny Chimes echo across campus every 15 minutes (click to hear!):
It’s the glorious ideal of a vast Southern college campus, and you can see it for yourself in the upcoming Bama Rush documentary. (More on that in a few weeks!) While there, I took a couple quiet minutes to sit out on the quad. And in a moment when I should have been reveling in the afternoon sunlight, enjoying the bliss of a world of higher education and the swirling energy of youth and hope and opportunity all around me, all I could think was …
Look at all these dang NERDS!
The students of today, you see, wear their backpacks with two straps over their shoulders. This seems like an innocent and sensible enough method of getting your books from class to class. But Back In My Day, in the era of Sixteen Candles and We Are The World and The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller, wearing your backpack with both straps on was a fast track to an ass-whipping. Some Poindexter comes walking down the hall with both straps over his shoulders, he can count on getting grabbed by the backpack, hoisted in the air, and then dunked in the nearest trash can. And he would have deserved it.
But there they were, two-strap-wearing dorks, as far as the eye could see. At the University of Alabama! Has the entire world gone mad?
In that moment, I had transformed into the Principal Skinner meme. Am I out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong:
Here’s where things get tricky. Wearing your backpack with both straps is indisputably the right thing to do. It distributes the weight of the backpack across the back, it allows you to hold both a coffee and your phone, it keeps you balanced properly. Hikers on the Appalachian Trail and the slopes of Mount Everest wear their backpacks with both straps secured on both shoulders.
To which I, with my Gen X attitude, reply: Whatever. Never mind.
The two-strap method is a form of commitment — going all-in on the backpack — and if there’s one thing Gen X avoided, it’s commitment. We spent our college years keeping an ironic distance from everything — politics, history, identity, sincerity — so it just makes sense that we’d wear our backpacks with one strap. It’s a whole lot easier to drop ‘em and walk away that way. (Plus, in the event you get attacked by Soviet sleeper agents or stuck in quicksand — both likely occurrences for kids of our era — a single-strapped, rapid-deploy backpack is an immense help.)
Don’t believe me? Here, check out a couple Gen X icons — Elaine in Seinfeld and Friends’ David Schwimmer — rocking the one-strap move:
Case closed. Take that, you Gen Z dinks. And get an original group identifier, while you’re at it.
I love these kinds of generational dividing lines. I spotted another one this week, when the Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco executed a nifty little ball flip in the midst of a routine putout:
I wrote about this in our daily newsletter over at Yahoo, and the responses were almost exactly what I expected, and what, to be honest is perfectly normal: The younger generation loved it, the older generation went full Back In My Day. That’s how it always goes: the generation above you is crotchety and stuck in their ways, the one below you is lazy and soft. We all believe that the time when we were young was the best possible time in human history: the best movies, the best TV, the best music. The truth, of course, is that anyone who wasn’t living in my era is wrong.
So, back to those cheerful little two-strap-wearing students. Even as those youngsters are merrily trip-trapping through life with their well-aligned backs and their sensibly balanced backpacks, laughing at me, I can take comfort in one thing: they’ll be where I am one day, out of touch and surly. Or, to use another note-perfect Simpsons reference: It’ll happen to you.
Stupid kids. Just you wait.
Books, Beer & BBQ
We’re building the most kickass Southern books/beer/BBQ recommendation database in the known universe, one month at a time. Each of these is worth a detour off your travels. And hey, look at this: a handy Google map to follow as you go.
Books: Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.
Yes, Amazon is usually cheaper, often faster, and definitely more convenient — but there’s a sublime joy in walking into a small indie bookstore and finding something you never knew existed, or a book you’ve always wanted to read. I make it a policy to buy something every time I go into any used bookstore. (Related: my to-read pile now blocks out the sun.) Fountain is a perfect small bookstore on a busy downtown Richmond street that I’d visit every week if I lived there.
Beer: Intuition Ale Works, Jacksonville, Fla.
Located not far from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium — who the hell knows what it’s called now — this is one of the best of the new-breed breweries, repurposed old industrial sites that have become local-staple live music-and-beer hangouts. Plus, it’s within smelling distance of a Maxwell House coffee plant. Bonus: the Jaguars are a good team now, so you don’t have to drink away the pain!
BBQ: Rusty’s, Leeds, Ala.
When taking Exit 140 off Interstate 20 in Alabama, you could stop at Buc-ee’s. (Let’s be honest, you probably will.) And then you should keep on driving another mile or so and hit Rusty’s, some of the best brick-pit bbq you’ll find in the state of Alabama. My test for such places is how many slices of white bread I want to dip in their sauce. The answer: a minimum of 10.
Got a suggestion of your own? I welcome — hell, I demand — your recommendations in any or all three categories. Let me know where to go right here, or tell the whole class in the comments below.
Flashlight flashback: Kentucky Derby time!
Hey, it’s Derby Day (if you’re reading this on Saturday, that is), so prep for the fastest two minutes in sports with 2022’s tale of Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo take on the race:
That’ll do it for this week, my friends. Thanks, as always, for reading. You’re the best. Stay safe and I’ll see you back here next week.
Land Cat, Georgia
This is issue #102 of Flashlight & A Biscuit. Check out all the past issues right here. Feel free to email me with your thoughts, tips and advice. If you’re new around here, jump right to our most-read stories, or check out some of our recent hits:
The spooky tale of The Witch Girl of Crittenden County
Peach Ice Cream and Pimento Cheese sandwiches, but not together
Tiger Woods once ate at an Augusta Arby’s for a whole week
Nutria: Delicious? Nope. Cute? Nope. Good pets? Apparently!
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