Atlas Weeps


In my extended department at work, we periodically welcome new team members by asking them to present a single Ppt. “About Me” slide . Just a few facts like where you live, what your hobbies are, etc. It’s meant to provide some reference for when you casually bump into the person you can start a friendly welcoming conversation. My company has a grueling interview process to be sure we’re taking on people who are not only (over) qualified for the job, but can also jump onto a high-speed train when its already rolling and figure out how to keep the engine stoked while simultaneously changing the course of the tracks to get to a better place.* If a person can make it to hire after that, they will have no trouble coming up with a few conversation starters to put on the slide, nor using what they read on others to open a casual talk. In other words, we hire the best and brightest overachievers you ever saw.

At the most recent meeting where this welcome ceremony took place, one new person – a lovely young girl from Washington state – displayed her slide, spoke to a few of the points on it and then arrived at the one that was obviously her big finish: she was a direct descendant of Chief Joseph.

What I’m going to tell you next is a shame.

When the new person dropped the Chief Joseph bomb, she paused obviously anticipating a big reaction. Instead, what she got was a room full of 25 to 35 year olds (and me on a Webex connection) looking at each other and mumbling Chief Joseph? Who is Chief Joseph?

Dear Lord! I am dumbstruck almost daily about what the upcoming generations don’t know, even the best and the brightest among them. References to things you would think are deeply ingrained parts of American life, history or culture waft above them while they disinterestedly sip vile potions from their yeti cups and check their text messages.

I can’t swear to it but I think I heard someone hazard a guess about little orange baby aspirins but on the whole, they were not only ignorant of the facts but completely uninterested in finding out. 

You would think that even if they had no knowledge about the chief himself, then surely they must have seen the famous Pendleton blanket pattern. Failing that, chances are more than 50-50 that a heartless Etzy vandal cut up one of the iconic blankets to make organic beer koozies or reusable sandwich bags and they would have brushed up against a reference that way.

It’s a big world, kids and everything is related to everything else. Don’t lose the thread.

*I really have to retire. This is how I think now.

Note: The title is a joke just for me. My department is informally known as Team Atlas because we support the whole company. I hope I don’t have to explain to you who Atlas is.

my actual ‘about me’ slide

15 thoughts on “Atlas Weeps”

  1. When my firm redid our website, my little bio stated that, in my spare time, I enjoyed “travel and spending time with my grandchildren.” I suppose everyone would have considered “classical music, studying modern languages, and conservative thought” as insufferably high-minded. No one asked me. Get out the AARP card.

    1. Haha. Here’s my “about slide’. No one has ever asked me anything that’s on here except for spray painting. And they are always disappointed to learn that I didn’t mean street graffiti. Rarely, I might get a tenuous ‘what’s a corgi?’

  2. When I read that the young lady was a direct descendant Of Chief Joseph, I said out loud, “Oh! Cool!” I was lucky enough to live in Joseph Oregon for a while, his home. Grandkids’ neighborhood school in Portland is Chief Joseph Elementary, so “Chief Joe” is well known in our family!

  3. My peoples started the Whiskey rebellion and hooked up with Harlan Sanders. Hotrods, fried chicken. Comes from the Prophet and Tecumseh. I am a damned hillbilly and do not make the rules.

  4. Totally agree. Sad really. But I guess they are somehow content. They would consider this kind of thing useless trivia and not worth their time.
    They have a very limited vocabulary, text a person in the same room to avoid conversation and just generally have no use for having an awareness of people and things that came before.

    1. I agree with you except for the part where “they would consider…”. They do not consider. That would take reflection perhaps investigation. They simply dismiss before any level of consideration can happen.

  5. Every day I mourn for what my 16-year-old grandson doesn’t know. How do they fill a whole day at school and know so little? I would love to see him at least conquer cursive, but at this point it’s surely a lost cause..

  6. I am 53 and yet I was today years old when I learned who Chief Joseph was. I admit that history was never my best subject but I think Suzette knows me well enough to know (well, maybe believe) that I am reasonably well read and have a graduate degree. I grew up in the Northeast, so I learned a bit about the tribes and a number of significant historical figures from the region. I’ve certainly seen and heard of Pendleton blankets but was not aware of the design’s connection to a particular individual. I guess my point, if I have one, is that this is not necessarily a generational issue, or not entirely so. It may be regional, in part, and it also is only getting worse with standardized testing that leaves teachers little or no time to cover topics that won’t be covered on the state exams.

    1. A reference to Chief Joseph may not have signified when you first read this today, but I would point out that you displayed curiosity and follow-through to investigate. This is what separates you from the unconcerned ignorami.

      Agree about focus on standardized testing success over mind expansion. Can that ever be reversed? Sorry to say that this general trend of delivering facts applies to specialized education as well. Next time you meet up with a newly minted registered nurse, say this to them :

      “On old Olympus towering tops a Finn and German viewed some hops.”

      and see what, it anything, happens.

  7. Sadly, this is just another brush stroke on the painting of the Handbasket we’re all in on our long slouch into Hell.

    I include the word “curmudgeon” on my about-me slide. They don’t look that up either, but they soon find out anyway.

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