By Dick Gillett
A few weeks ago, as I reported to my regular coffee hangout at Herkimer Coffee, on Greenwood and 74th, Josh, the barista greeted me as I put in my usual order for a macchiato.
“How are you, Dick?” he asked.
“Terrible,” I responded. I’d just finished reading the morning papers, their headlines proclaiming depressing news the world over.
“That was your mistake,” he responded cheerily.
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Since my wife and I arrived in Seattle in 2007, I’ve been going to Herkimer’s for my morning macchiato at least three times a week, and a good part of the reason I go is the baristas who work there. To a person they are cheerful, upbeat and just plain nice. Most are “millennials”, born between about 1980 and 2000, although a few are “Gen Xers”, born from the early 1960s to about 1980.
At about the same time Josh joked with me about the news, a prominent story titled “Generation Nice” in the New York Times made me think of this barista crew at Herkimer’s. In the few minutes conversation affords while your coffee is made I’ve learned a surprising amount about them over time. As a member of the so-called “Greatest Generation” (putting me in my 80s), I’m interested in building bridges between generations. We of Planet Earth are going to have to make it together or not at all.
So here’s a glimpse of their thoughts and aspirations, mundane and otherwise.
One early conversation I had with Josh, for example, touched on the 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard we both knew.
Then there is Chad, a UW grad with a master’s degree in sculpture, who wears T-Shirts that frequently prompt you to ask about them. Recently one bore just the word “Claptrap”, so I asked him what it meant.
“It’s the name of a “fictional, 1920s-era robotic band.”
Then we have Cassidy, a serious musician whose indie rock band Pickwick appeared on stage this summer at Benaroya Hall with another group, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and the Seattle Symphony! And Jay, who is studying at Seattle U. for a masters degree in music administration.
Also in the arts is Janelle, an anthropology major who became seriously interested in Arab music and dance. This in turn has informed her of the great importance of valuing Arab culture and history, and she’s been twice to Egypt. She also dances and teaches dance.
Marisa was a Spanish major at UW (we have practiced Spanish occasionally). Her plans are to complete the prerequisites for a degree in occupational therapy. And Elaine, the manager, has worked for Herkimer’s for six years and likes the coffee business as a profession. She also has her bachelor’s degree.
Finally, Erin is a writer on food issues. She’s soon leaving Herkimer’s to work as assistant web editor at Yes! Magazine. She recently reviewed a conference convened in South America for subsistence farmers at high altitudes, whose crops are becoming at risk due to global climate change.
At my age I may not be alone in thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket; that we of the generations preceding have left an awful, awful mess. I sense that these Herkimer millennials and Gen Xers know that. Yet they are smart and cheerful, and appear to have a sense of where they are going.
Maybe we are going to make it!
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Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. His previous article, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, was published August 26, 2014.
“The Millennials Are Generation Nice” by Sam Tanenhaus, published August 15, 2014 by The New York Times.