When I was a young whippersnapper …


Working in “new media” means associating with lots of young people. Lots of very, very young people.

You realize just how young when you strike up a conversation about your evening plans, happen to mention you’re having a drink with someone you’ve known forever and somehow the phrase “we met during the Recession” exits your mouth. The young person giggles nervously and parrots “The Recession!” in a squeaky voice and you have the horrible realization they weren’t even born during the aforementioned financial crisis.

And you just want to curl up in a ball of shame and wrinkles. Because you were already their age waaaay back then and in the throes of your first retrenchment.  Twenty two loooong years ago …

Later, you find yourself retelling the story to another young person, who requires an explanation of exactly what the Recession was. And you feel a bit like a tribal elder as you say “oh, they were dark times … interest rates went up to 17% … there were no jobs … I went nine months without a single interview … “

I should have stopped there, but I couldn’t help myself. I went on to confess that I don’t have a degree. I watched her eyes go a little wide at the notion that someone who is ostensibly their boss should be so lacking in formal qualifications. So I started babbling about how journalists didn’t get degrees back then because editors thought it “put funny ideas in your head”.

Really, they did.

I decided not to reminisce about how journalists got special allowances to work on those new fangled things called computers back then … I didn’t want to totally freak her out … And the allowance – well, your whole pay packet – was paid in cash in paper envelopes. And instead of Google you had Funk & Wagnalls and a library filled with alphabetised manila folders with newspaper clippings stuck inside them.

But geez I felt my mortality keenly.

13 thoughts on “When I was a young whippersnapper …

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  1. Oh god the memories. How did we do it? My children were horrified recently when I told them I used typewriters when I started work – I had to google IBM selectric to show them what was considered high tech back then. When I started on about telex machines the blank looks deepened and they wandered off – cause mum was just getting boring!

    1. I remember going to typing school, hated it. But I can touch-type like a demon. Which is handy since our keyboard is so old all the letters have worn off. The kids are fascinated by that (if not my stories about the old days)

  2. Ah, the good ol’ days. I have to stop myself from telling the kids about the pop songs that are covered from time to time. Nothing annoyed me more when I was a youngster hearing about it was already done before. Of course it was.

    My favourite mind trick is what are we going to be like when we are old. What trait will we collectively take through to old age. Like the countless old men with high pants and combs! The old ladies of our day with a blue rinse and permanent lipstick!

    1. Eeeek, I don’t really want to think about us hobbling along with our blue rinses, sipping tea and griping about “young people these days”. Scary!!!!

  3. Haha, yes we don’t really want to appear like ‘tribal elders’ – very wise but not that cool! Like you Alana, I find that school is a similar environment (and not just the classroom) – resplendent with gorgeous Gen Ys, fresh out of uni and supremely confident. I often find myself being a little judgement about the lack of grounding in classic literature in younger teachers and have to hold back and stop myself from lecturing…there’s nothing worse (and watching their eyes glaze over 🙂

    1. Fortunately I’ve discovered the Gen Ys might generally be cocky but there are some genuine gems among them. So I’ve stopped being quite so dismissive of them!

  4. You have brought back so many memories! And I don’t care what anyone says, I loved those Manilla folders with fantastic old clippings and photographs. (Pictured, ‘John Smith, Robert Milford and a Chinese’). You can feel damn proud because the only reason you feel old is because you are hanging out/keeping up with young whippersnappers!

  5. My first job in 1983 was as a student nurse in a Psychiatric hospital – my first day on the ward I asked what I should be doing & was told “just sit & have a smoke with the patients”. In a HOSPITAL!!

    1. I’d forgotten all the old health rules we used to break. At least it wasn’t a hospital but the newsroom was thick with smoke when I started there. Awful.

  6. Bahahaha tribal elder. You’re a classic. I have had some of those conversations, like trying to explain to my nieces what the term ‘mixed tape’ means…

  7. I work from home now, but the last time I had an office job five years ago, it was full of Gen Ys who were fascinated (in a horrified sort of way) by my tales of office equipment when I started work in the late 80s. Even though we had a fax machine in the Gen Y office, one of them said to me, “Alex, how do you know when you’ve got a fax?” I told her,
    “You walk to the fax machine, and have a look”. My colleagues were so young, they couldn’t believe that even in 1996/7, our office only had one computer that was attached to the internet! We had to “book in a time” to look online! The horror!

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