Operation Carrot Cake

Like many generations before me, I have officially become an outsider to the ways of the world. I feel like my grandmother who complained about hippies, or my mother who, after 10 years, is still learning how to use her iPhone.

This is the cycle of life: the older generations become somewhat lost navigating the roads that have been paved over by younger people — the newer generations that have changed things to their liking, encompassing new technology, new ideas and social mores.

Getting a job now in a big city or with a big company, for example, is months in the making. There are several interviews with various people, and then those principals have a meeting amongst themselves in a big boardroom, discussing each candidate and ranking their choices.

If you make the short list, there is a mandatory background check, and then maybe a final interview.

If you get the job, you’re handed off to the human resources department for another round of talks and a days worth of electronic paperwork.

By the time you start your job, you’ve either aged 10 years or you’ve been eating Ramen noodles for a month.

Two of my daughters have just been through this process, and I tried to explain to one of them last week that in the good old days, we drove to the place that had placed an ad in the paper, filled out an application with a pen, and sometimes we’d even be taken into an office right then and there with someone who reminded you of your next door neighbor.Sometimes you’d get the job and start the next day.

Not so today. One daughter has been in interviews with one company for more than two months.

“Well,” I wondered to her, “how badly do they need someone? I mean, how have they gotten along for two months without an employee in that position?”

Someone recently told my husband that it can take six months to start a new job when you go through a headhunter. And so all over the country, I imagine hamburgers flipping themselves, or rooms of schoolchildren teaching themselves algebra.

My family got its first computer in the early 90s, so kids and parents were learning alongside one another. I don’t know when or how it happened, but my kids raced so far ahead of me that we are no longer in the same league.

Case in point: my husband got a new computer yesterday and he’s spent six hours today trying to figure out why he can send emails but can’t receive them. He’s in a foreign country when it comes to the newest technology and I’m only slightly better versed than he is.

“What about that ‘cloud’ thing?” he asks. “Does it have something to do with that, you think?”

“No,” I told him, “the cloud is just storage.”

I might have sounded kind of savvy in that moment, but that’s about as good as I get.

But I’ll tell you this: my husband — the guy who can’t sort out his email troubles — recently figured out to the minute when a store near his office puts its baked goods on the discount table. He’d been hiding in the frozen food section watching them.

He was like a stealth spy, visiting that place for months at all different times of the day, observing the habits of the bakers, and eyeing the carrot cake like it was gold in a bank vault.

He’d occasionally come home with updates: “I just figured out that the final markdown is early on Thursdays. But the trick is getting there before 10 a.m. because there are other shoppers who are on to this.”

He came home a week after this last update with great news.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “I just nabbed three carrot cakes for $4 a piece.”

He put them in a cooler in the back hall.

“I’ve figured out,” he said, with that smug look on his face, “there are actually three days that they purge the old baked goods, but there’s just one day for the big markdown and only a one-hour window before the other shoppers come looking for them.”

Which is why we now have three carrot cakes in a cooler in the hallway, but he has no email.

I’m comfortable with this — being with a guy who has cracked the code on the discount bakery table. I don’t want someone who thinks the new world is better than the one we grew up in.

The truth is we come from the same tribe: we know cursive writing and American history, we like real books and cars we can actually operate, and taking walks and eating at home.

We’re firmly in the camp where we’re comfortable handing off the new world to the new people.

Try asking a millennial how to get a cheap carrot cake without email.

I promise you they won’t know.