Ever since Joe Biden jumped into the POTUS race I’ve heard a lot of talk to the tune of “oh crap, just an older white guy.” So I got to thinking. I’m not as old as Amtrak Joe but I’m chugging along in my late 60’s which means I’m probably considered an older white guy too– among younger white guys and their ilk.
Politics aside, I’m here to defend us older white guys…and even older non-white guys, because, well, they may have a shade of white, on top of their heads or in their facial hair. So we’re all brothers in ageism, right?
I read that some younger workers are unhappy with us older guys because many of us are still working–gumming up the corporate ladder for the young pups who want a bigger office and bigger paychecks. I actually retired from full-time work three years ago, but I work a couple of freelance gigs because, in both cases, those businesses came to me seeking someone with, uh, seasoning, aka, actual skills and experience. Not one of them said, “even though you’re an older white guy, we’ll hire you anyway.” Or, “even though we probably have enough older white guys on staff who we wish would finally hang it up so we can have more lower-paid younger white guys on the payroll, we’ll make an exception for you.”
Nope, as I said. They reached out to me, which is extremely flattering and not bad for the self-confidence–especially when my birth certificate blares, “Hey Ed! You’re a freakin’ older white guy!”
I like to think they came to me because they appreciate what I’ve accomplished during my career in journalism and corporate communications, along with what skills I have that might be helpful to them. In both cases, that’s exactly what they told me, and that’s a pretty nice feeling. I wasn’t ready to be a full-time retiree anyway. I ran into another sort-of retired journalist yesterday I hadn’t seen in a long time and we compared notes about freelancing–not for the money, but because it keeps our gray matter, mattering, and because what we do is just so much fun. “It’s impossible to just hit that off switch,” he said. So true. You just don’t have to slam that switch all the way to 11, as we did during our full-time work days.
There’s a lot to be said about institutional knowledge and overall experience. Aside from the obvious, they can provide valuable context and judgment along with a few tricks that could be helpful to developing younger workers early in their career journeys.
One thing I love about working with younger people is it works both ways. I learn a lot from them too and that keeps me sharp and current. They also know all the good coffee places that aren’t Starbucks and I act like I’m hip by putting on my best Billie Eilish voice, going around the office telling the Millenials and Gen Z’s “I’m a Bad Guy!”
So don’t write off us older white guys. Sure, it’s great, and entirely necessary, to bring along younger talent, but we’re still in the game. Maybe not playing the field, but we have enough in us to at least be designated hitters who can still sock a homer once in awhile.
Now I’m not advocating for Joe. But I’m also not Biden my time. Just watch out. At age 67, I still play ice hockey with much younger hot shots every week. I’m by far the oldest guy in the game. I’m a bit slower than those “kids” in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, but I’m still a pain in the ass and even score once in awhile. Yeah, this older white guy is still in game, and don’t even try to send me to the bench…I can still yank your balls with my stick.
I was busy shooting a soft little feature on self-driving cars at a backwater display below the main floor at the Detroit Auto Show. Then the text from the boss came through. “Biden’s in Chevy!” Chevy, as in the Chevrolet stand about a billion footsteps and an escalator ride from my current location. Boom. I schlepped my gear and went as fast as my short little legs would go. Keep that image in mind. It comes into play in a moment.
As I’m running, well, dragging my sorry butt, into Chevy I see….nothing. Crap! Missed the shot. Except I didn’t. A moment later a moving wall of shooters, reporters and security people swarmed into the stand, and I could only assume it was, indeed, the Vice President of the United States, or a special appearance by the current Miss Manifold.
Hopelessly stuck behind taller people, meaning anyone taller than my Lilliputian 5’6″, I got on my tippy toes while raising the camera as high as possible, meaning about nose level for normal human beings.
I get lucky and a former CNN colleague now working for General Motors offered me her spot in the mob and that got me a couple of feet closer, but of course, no taller. But it was enough to get a shot of Biden with a GM exec. Not a great shot, but something. Being a pesky little bastard I worm my way into a better spot and start to shoot..until a security guard steps right in front of my lens. “Excuse me,” I say. “You just blocked my shot.” Well, the SOB takes issue and stands his ground, even moving an inch to make sure I have nothing. I see another guard, not much taller than me who hears my plea, so I appeal to him. “Look, I’m a runt. I’m just trying to do my job.” He laughs. I instantly wish herpes on him.
But then providence intervenes. I take up a spot near a blue Corvette where no one else seemed to be. At once I notice a grey haired blur to my right. Biden’s brushing right up against me as he heads to the ‘Vette. I start rolling. He’s right there! Money shot! I won’t be short-changed!