Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You guys

We got close to the door of the Mexican restaurant when a young woman with a handful of paper came up to us. "Are you guys going into Rubio's?"

"We are," said Sally.

"Would you guys mind giving the guy at the counter one of these?" It appeared to be some sort of flyer for a sorority. "If you give them this then they give some money to us for a fundraiser."

"Sure, we can do that," said Sally.

"Great, thanks, you guys!"

We went into the restaurant and to the counter. The counterman, a young Latino, said, "What can I get you guys tonight?" We both put in our orders. He handed us one of those electronic pagers to let us know when our order was ready for pickup. "Here you go, guys."

We sat down and there was another young Latino with a broom, sweeping under the tables. "Hello, you guys," he said. We nodded and returned his hello. "If you need anything just ask." Great, we said we'd do that.

Since we were at the time the only customers in the restaurant we got our food delivered to our table rather than having the vibrator go off (much to my disappointment). "Here you go, you guys," said our server.

We ate and noticed some other customers come into the place, including a young Latina with a baby. The young man with the broom knew her, and he was talking to her when we got up to leave. "Thanks, you guys," he said to us with a friendly smile. "Come again!"

We stepped outside and the young woman with the flyers hailed us, "Thanks, you guys!" she said. We got in my car.

"When did this 'you guys' thing become the thing that young people call older people?" I asked rhetorically. Sally and I have had this conversation before.

When I thought about it there just doesn't seem to be anything that I can accept being called from young people. When they say "sir" to me I feel patronized. "Folks" seems, well, folksy, but "you guys" just sounds too familiar. I don't think the kids are thinking that, though. It's just how our language works; different greetings evolve in different places and at different times. I guess considering the age difference--I was old enough to be any of those youngsters' grandfather, and most kids think older people are retarded or at worst, fenceposts to be ignored--I guess I was lucky that their term for us, "you guys," was said with a friendly tone. As much as it chafes me, I guess there are worse things than young people calling older people "you guys."

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