About two weeks ago I stole a cup of coffee. I was in line at the Starbucks in the Old University Union waiting to pay before my class began at 11:40. When my watch struck 11:35, I left. My class was in the Old Union and I was next in line. I certainly would have made it, but I was impatient and the line was dawdling. I threw a dollar down on the counter and left, thinking that was sufficient.
Days later, the depravity of my action resonated with me. It wasn’t the actual taking of the coffee without paying that got to me, but the fact that I had such a difficult time waiting.
The older woman behind the counter was slow-moving, kind, courteous and never tired of the long line of students anxious for caffeine. So why was I, a young, energetic girl, so unable to wait for five minutes?
Thinking back, this wasn’t the first time my impulsiveness had directed my thoughts. While getting off of a bus on campus, an older man let others exit before him. All I could think was how he was just causing more traffic and more time waiting. My anxious mind was impervious to the genuine benevolence of his gesture.
Where did this unattractive quality come from? Am I uniquely that impatient, or is it a characteristic that stems from growing up in this era? As a New York Times article from May 2011 stated, Generation Y’s “feel entitled and are coddled, disrespectful, narcissistic and impatient.”
As a generation, we’ve become accustomed to the idea that everything needs to be expedited to our partiality.
Waiting longer than 15 minutes for an email or text message response gives me anxiety. Every time I have to wait in line in the dining hall, I get jittery, and every time I hit traffic, I fear I’m about to have a heart attack. These traits inhabit us all, but they are not healthy and they are not necessary.
After the heartbreaking destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, New York and New Jersey were — and in many places still are — at a standstill. The city that never sleeps slept, and the luminous city lights went black. No one was rushing down 5th Avenue, and no cars were incessantly honking. The city streets were desolate, broken and bare.
Generation Y stood still. For once, it was not a necessity to get to work, to make it to that sale at Bloomingdale’s, to play FIFA late into the night.
It was a time to be with family, to help our neighbors and to feel grateful for the things we do have.
It is a tragedy in and of itself that it takes a tragedy to make us pause and to help us understand that the world doesn’t have to run at high speed.
During the city’s short-lived absence of electricity, we were able to bask in the calm after the storm. We took time to pray and to help our hurting cities and towns because we had nowhere to run. But when the lights returned, we regressed to the normality of our days and to the generational habits that define us.