During the course in Grenoble I had one free day. Grenoble is only a few hours from Geneva, which is in far western Switzerland. While no one raved about Geneva, I did hear that there were some nice sites to see, so a small group of us decided to take a day trip to Geneva.
Knowing the astronomical prices of food in Switzerland I vowed to not spend any money on food while there. Instead, I cobbled together a picnic lunch in Grenoble and packed that away into my bag. It included a bottle of red, bread cheese, and all the accoutrements. To make the most of our day we decided to set out early, on the 8:00 AM train. I slept for most of the train ride, and we arrived in Geneva in time to walk to the town center and join a free walking tour of the city.
Geneva, like Switzerland it seems, has a sleepy history in the annals of Europe. It developed alongside Italy and Lyon in the Renaissance, but given its seclusion a bit further tucked away in the Alps it never really developed into a first-tier city of commerce like Lyon, Frankfurt, or some of the Italian cities.
One of the spectacles of Geneva is the Water Jet. It’s a high powered water fountain that shoots a jet of water 40 feet into the air, like a Yellowstone geyser. It’s in Lake Geneva, nestled right up against the city. The shore of the lake, with the Water Jet periodically erupting beyond us in the lake, was the setting for our Swiss picnic, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed, despite the cold and the wind.
Later in the afternoon we took the advice of a friend and went into the Patek Phillipe Watch Museum. Unlike the watches themselves, the museum has a very reasonable cost, and it was very cool to see how Swiss watchmaking developed and all of the intricate technologies, engineering, and really craftsmanship and design that goes into Swiss watches.
After the Patek Phillipe Museum it was later in the afternoon and time for us to once again time the 2+ hour train back to Grenoble. Again, on the way back, I slept most of the way. My traveling companions assure me that the Alps were a beautiful backdrop for the ride.
EXCEPT NONE OF THAT HAPPENED
I got to the train station, as planned, at 7:45 AM, and waited in vain for my travel companions to arrive until the train departed. Downtrodden, I walked back to my AirBnB, and on the way the profuse apology text messages started to arrive. Overslept. Alarm didn’t go off. I thought my roommate would walk me up. Etcetera.
THIS IS MY CRITICIZE MILLENNIALS BLOG POST
Typically I’m a cheerleader for “Millennials” and I love to poo poo poorly written news articles about how we are killing some old and venerated institution (among my favorites are napkins and friendship – down with the napkin!). However, on this trip, more than ever before, I’ve become aware of a number of faults in how we operate.
If there is one thing that Millennials have killed, it’s commitment. Firm commitment that you are going to do something with someone. Want to go to the beach this weekend? Good luck getting a firm answer from your friend until the night before, if then. We just seem to like keeping our options open, and it makes planning anything exceedingly difficult.
I also don’t like how being really drunk or being hungover has become a great excuse for blowing people off. Surely you are aware that alcohol causes intoxication and hangovers, and these have repercussions. If you need or want to do something the following day then refrain from drinking so much. My traveling companions to Geneva were out until about 4:00 AM the night before our trip. They probably should have committed to a night out or to Geneva, but certainly not to both.
Even more so, when they went to bed at 4:00 AM they knew very well that they weren’t going to make it to Geneva. How many times have you heard, “Sorry, my alarm didn’t go off.” Alarms don’t have free will! They don’t gain consciousness the minute before they are set to go off and decide whether they want to chime that morning or not. Us humans either miss-set them (occasionally forgivable) or choose to forgo setting them altogether (disrespectful). My traveling companions knew very well at 4:00 AM that Geneva was not going to happen. They certainly did not make an effort to set alarms and be up in time to join me at the train station. The worst part is that in the back of my head I knew that Geneva was not going to happen. I knew that some people had a big night planned and I doubted their resolve to truly follow through on their commitment to me. We used to expect the trains to be late and people to be on time, but now the opposite is true. The trains are usually on time, but we no longer trust each other to meet a commitment.
I suppose that text messaging has made it much easier for us to blow each other off. Rather than make a firm commitment and follow through, or else face the consequences, we can just send a sowwwrrry xoxo text message after the fact. We no longer have to empathize with the person we are letting down.
So, what’s my message? I guess that in our digital lives us Millennials (yes, it does pain me a little bit to use that term without quotation marks and to generalize so much) have lost some empathy. It’s hard to consider what another person is feeling when you can’t see them, let alone hear their voice. I think I’ll leave things here. I’m probably not the first person to make this assertion, and there are probably a lot of other people thinking about how to rectify the problem. However, the next time you are invited to an event on Facebook or Evite and you click ‘Maybe’ think about why you declined to make a firm commitment, and also think about how your invitee interprets your maybe.