This story was originally published by the e-zine Explosive Cargo in 1996. Until today, It was mouldering away in my archives. It could use some editing, but I decided to present it, as is, to retain the original flavor of the piece.
The Overly Caffeinated Generation_by David Bogen_There are a large number of things in the universe that simply make no sense. Beyond the obvious ones like "How could anyone possibly find Michael Jackson attractive?", and "How could anyone possibly not find Cindy Crawford unattractive?" that is. No, I'm thinking about the less obvious, more mundane unexplainables. These are the questions to which the great philosopher Aristotle answered, "Huh?", the great theorist Einstein replied, "Say what? Who?", and the simply great Homer Simpson responded, "Mmm...
Sixty-four slices of American cheese." It is these great matters that weigh upon my mind, giving me both a splitting headache and a remarkably flat head perfect for holding my drink at parties.
One thing that has occupied my mind lately has been what some might consider to be a trivial detail, "What on earth are we going to call the next Generation?" Ok, I admit, the next Generation is about five to ten years from needing a nickname but, like my scoutmaster once told me, "Don't use the younger Scouts as fishing lures." Oh wait, that was a completely different time and place. I think he said, "Be prepared. And don't use the younger Scouts as canoe paddles!" Yup, that's what he said, and I think that it is good advice all around. It never hurts to be prepared, and nightcrawlers do make better bait.
I have to admit, there is a personal facet to this problem. As near as I can figure, Generation X has gotten its greasy fingerprints all over me. This isn't all bad, of course. I can mope around the town for no good reason, wear enough flannel to intimidate native Scotsmen, and use words like angst with no fear of reprisal, even if I don't know what it means. But let's face it, no matter what defines my Generation, we got stuck with a downright cruddy name.
Ok, let me discuss my problems with this name. Rather I'm going to write and you're going to sit right there until you finish that damn broccoli! The most obvious problem with this name is that we didn't get to choose it. Who chose this name? I don't remember anyone asking me, that's for sure. I would have suggested names like "The Get the Hell Out of My Way Generation", "The Overly Caffeinated Generation", or "What?" There are no Generation pollsters, and this is a problem. We can forecast the results of an election months before the actual event, but we can't prowl the malls of America looking for people dressed entirely in flannel and shaking from too much coffee? It should be written into the Constitution, as an amendment, that Generations should get to name themselves. (This, of course, right under the amendment which states that there should be a National Peppermint Day, which coincidentally enough, would also fall on my birthday.)Let's face it, beyond the obvious fact that not one member of my Generation was consulted on this tiny little matter (after all, it's only the name I will be grouped under for all eternity), the name itself isn't that great. Generations before mine got good names like Baby Boom and Baby Bust. We got X. What is X and where did it come from? Was there some sort of Alphabet Olympics and X managed to pull out the title by scoring a perfect ten on the balance beam? Perhaps there was a giant Alphabet Chariot race and X managed to beat out Charlton Heston for the title. If only it were that glamorous and exciting.
Most people will probably admit that they have no idea what the surface of Venus looks like. These same people will probably tell you that the X in Generation X is derived from mathematical roots. Oh boy. Named after math? Is there possibly a less exciting scenario in all of the world? What academic subject will the next generation be named after? Biology perhaps? Generation Transpiration? Chemistry? The Titration Generation? At least they rhyme. Let's face it, to most people, math is slightly more exciting than listening to Bob Dole debate a dead person. For the record, I've got my money on the dead guy.
Oh sure, X stands for unknown, a variable, and ever changing. Who cares? We got stuck with X because it was too much effort to pin down a better name. The marketing stiffs needed something to show their commanders in chief and we got stuck with X because of it. Thanks a lot folks!! I'll be thinking of you during the next break between commercials. I think the next Generation should be called "Generation Too Difficult to Think Up a Better Name" or "We're Just Too Damn Lazy to Name This Generation". Either one of those would be better than X and it would be our revenge upon those least deserving.
Now, if X stood for exotic entertainment, then it would make sense. My generation has helped to spawn the World Wide Web of Smut, e-mail sex, and more Communications Decency Acts than you could shake thirty highly uninformed United States Senators at.
You see the problem here? Nobody was planning ahead and my Generation suffered. There was a big rush to meet deadlines in the marketing department and my Generation paid the price for the preceding Generation's poor preparation. That's why it's time to heed my Scoutmaster's warning and "Always look before you squat in the woods." The Generations who follow mine are counting on us to give them catchy titles; phrases they can bandy about and use to help target advertising towards themselves.
Most of the good animal nicknames have been taken by sports franchises over the years. There are very few animals left that have no corresponding sports franchise. In fact, the only one that comes to mind is the Grouper, and a sports team named the Boston Groupers would invite more derision than respect: "Oh, look, it's the Groupies!" "Hey! That's Groupers to you!" "Oh yeah, what's a Grouper?" "Groupers eat little fish who travel in groups." "Wow, that makes you sound slightly more dangerous than margarine!" So, we need to rule out animal nicknames, unless we use an inferior one like the "Spawning Salmon Generation" or "The Howler Monkey Generation."A natural choice would be the "Beavis and Butthead Generation." Let it be said, however, that I would not wish that name upon my second worst enemy. For those of you keeping score at home, however, write it down in the "Possibly" column.
Chances are however, that the next Generation will get stuck with some catchy title. Something like "Generation Wow!", "Generation Now!", or "Generation How?". Or perhaps combinations of these like "Generation Bow Wow!" or "Generation How Now Brown Cow?" Personally, I'm shooting for a standardization of the naming scheme.
Standardization would proceed as follows. Generation X has seeped into the American consciousness much like radon into a home, so it looks like we're stuck with it. However, as my grandmother once told me, "You break it, you buy it." and "Every cloud has a silver lining." Well, it isn't broken but this name does have a silver lining. X has a solid place in a natural progression of letters. For those of you scoring at home, we call it the alphabet. Therefore, let's standardize around this sequence.- The next Generation will be called Generation Y. Please don't ask why. - The following Generation will be called Generation Z. They can grow big bushy beards and drive cars full of women like the members of an 80's rock band. (Where have you gone, ZZ Top?) Ok, Z is the end of the alphabet, so we start over at A, but with two A's to signify this is our second time through the loop.- Therefore the Generation after Generation Z will be Generation AA, the Battery Generation. They will keep going and going and going, ad nauseam. - Then comes Generation BB, the air-powered gun Generation. - Generation CC - The Carbon Copy Generation. - Generation DD - The large breasted Generation. - This will continue thorugh the double-letter Generations until we reach ZZ. This Generation can also grow big bushy beards and drive cars full of women like an '80's rock band (Where have you gone, ZZ-Top?) - Generation AAA will be the first Generation on the third loop through the alphabet. They have a choice. They can either all become travel agents, or they can be the second, and last, Battery Generation. - Etc, etc. You get the idea? (If not, carefully back away from the monitor and seek professional help. Exposure to these radical ideas may be harmful to your health.) Such a standardized system would get rid of all the problems with the current system. No marketing folks need be involved. Everything would be predetermined and we could all rest easy at night.
This would be way to end one of life's greatest unexplainable phenomena. With a standardization of the Generation Naming Scheme Generation X would no longer be seen as a Generation suffering from an obscenely bad name. Rather we would be trendsetters. Or as my Scoutmaster would say, "We are boldly squatting in the woods where no one has squatted before."