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MailTribune.com
  • Cursives, I'm foiled again by progress

  • My handwriting resembles tracks left by an inebriated chicken lurching across the yard, stopping randomly to retch.
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  • My handwriting resembles tracks left by an inebriated chicken lurching across the yard, stopping randomly to retch.
    To describe my scratch marks as indecipherable would be an act of kindness.
    Judging from my cursive abilities alone, a wag once observed that I would have made a fine medical doctor.
    Unfortunately, there is that little issue with my puzzlement over all things scientific, not to mention a definite squeamishness when I'm around sick people.
    To ease the suffering of perplexed recipients, I began typing all personal letters way back in college. But my elderly maternal grandmother was not impressed when she received one. Born in 1887, Lela Maude Ingersoll Cooke indicated in her folksy fashion that it was bad form to write a personal letter on a machine.
    I was thinking about her reaction to my typed missive while writing a story this past week about the "Unconscious Bias and Generational Differences in the Workplace" conference scheduled for Friday at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. The free, day-long session focuses on the workplace but many of the same issues it covers can be found in all levels of our lives.
    That includes everything from overcoming unconscious bias to exploring ways to reduce the impact of generational differences.
    Unfortunately, we are all biased, either consciously or unconsciously. It is how we strive to overcome our bias that makes all the difference.
    My grandmother did not take the advent of machine-forged letters too personal. And I strive not to think too disparingly of those with legible handwriting.
    While I recall chuckling over her reaction to my letter, I understood her thinking. Back in her day folks took pride in communicating with handwritten letters that were the result of thoughtful reflection, not something pounded out on a keyboard.
    What would she think of today's texting? Mercy!
    She happened to be my favorite grandparent. True, she was the only one I knew because her peers in our family expired before my arrival. But she was a big-hearted, colorful character as well as a poet.
    She was a member of what the Population Reference Bureau calls the "New Worlders" generation, which includes those born from 1871 to 1889. Based in D.C., the bureau is a private, nonprofit whose mission is to keep the world informed about population, health and environmental trends.
    I am a Baby Boomer, one of those born from 1946 to 1966. Although we are all getting a bit long of tooth, most boomers are largely computer savvy, albeit a few of us still get lost in cyberspace.
    Before us came the Silent Generation, those born from 1920 to Baby Boomer time. They were mostly cursive folks, although they began drifting toward typewriters. Yet I know several active octogenarians and older who communicate via email.
    That includes a World War II veteran in Medford who, at age 91, routinely corresponds by email with a war buddy in Southern Cal. His fellow WWII veteran is only 90, a mere youngster.
    Generation Xers, those born from 1965 to 1979, are increasingly more technologically smart, as are the Millennials — also known as Generation Y — who sprung up from 1980 to 2000.
    The technical generational difference between the Xers and Millennials was well illustrated in an anecdote by Melissa Wolff, one of the conference organizers and a member of the Oregon Department of Human Services' Diversity Committee for Jackson and Josephine counties.
    A Generation Xer, she has two children who are both Millennials.
    "I was informed the other day by one of my children that, 'Mom, it is so rude that you call me — you interrupt me,' " Wolff observed.
    "From my perspective, they should pick up the phone right away," she added. "From their perspective, they would prefer that I text them when they are in the middle of a college class or whatever."
    The latest arrivals, those born after 2000, are known as the New Silent Generation or Generation Z. They are already beginning to make all previous generations look like Neanderthals when it comes to our fast-changing technology.
    The name Generation Z makes it sound like the end of the line when it comes to humanoids. Yet I like to think we still have the promise of a fascinating future, providing we can learn to live together.
    But it's too bad the handwriting on the wall is indecipherable.
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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