We Are Not a Cod Fish

In July I posted on facebook something similar to this simple little vignette.

Went into Culvers today. One of the under 16-year-old employees, a polite boy, took my order. He made full eye contact and spoke clearly.

I said, “I will have the fish sandwich.”

He replied, “I did not know we had a fish sandwich.”

I answered, reading from the board, “The Atlantic Cod Sandwich Meal.”

“Oh,” he answered. “Is that what cod is?”

Then he took my order.

Now, first ask yourself what conclusions or interpretations of that little vignette you want to make. Don’t make them, but think of what you might say. Silly me. I thought I was describing a fun little moment.

I have only 48 friends on facebook, about a third of whom do not ever communicate with me. Another third made a comment, which fell into four groups.

Most common was to say how impolite teenagers are today. Did you notice I said he was polite, made eye contact, and spoke clearly?

Another set of comments was about how stupid teenagers are today.

A third group commented on how teenagers are bad at learning. It seems to me his comment “Is that what cod is?” makes it clear he was willing to learn. But I could be wrong.

The third group lectured me on unhealthful eating habits, although they said unhealthy and not unhealthful.

The last group said that schools and teachers today are terrible.

So because one 14- or 15-year-old boy does not know what cod is forms grounds for attacking teenagers, teachers, and schools. Everything about the boy suggested an intelligent and inquisitive person, a subject on which I feel I can make a swift judgment. But I could be wrong. Two of the commenters were favorite students of mine in the early 1970s. I wondered to them that with the loss of the cod fisheries how common the word cod is in teenagers private lives, or how often teenagers in Mankato eat fish. They thought about that and agreed that perhaps the word cod has fallen from the daily or school lexicon. I have often wondered how people decide schools are a place to fill kids heads with tidbits of information.

I suppose I should have stated that I was noticing cultural change, enjoying the moment.

I am tempted to draw a few sweeping generalities about their responses. I leave that to you.

29 thoughts on “We Are Not a Cod Fish”

  1. It’s true. Today’s teenagers are shockingly unprepared to live in the world of fifty or sixty years ago.

    I would have liked to ask the server, in a friendly way, what he imagined Atlantic Cod to be.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Well, one of this generation who stayed with me over the weekend, attended theState Fair with me and assisted with the State Fair People Watching list. She is very polite and insightful about life. She loves it when I cook or bake for her which is gratifying to me. While she was at my house her BF broke up with her via text (most impolite!), then she discovered that his cousins gave her head lice. That meant that I spent a lot of time and energy over the last two days washing linens and vacuuming everything.

    Personally I like most of these kids at about the same rate I like my generation. If they don’t know what a cod fish is, why would that be their responsibility? Their parents have been feeding them most of their lives. Perhaps the guy that took your order was not oriented to the menu by his/her supervisors.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I often have to educate grocery clerks of all ages as to the identities of fresh vegetables so they can look up the cost codes. Celeriac stumps them every time.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Good post, Northshorer. As you suggest, this story is like a Rorsach blot that triggers different responses from different people.

    I found your story interesting in several different ways. Because I live in a geezer warehouse I rarely see a person under 80. That is my loss. I love young people. It was fun to hear about your encounter.

    What strikes me in your story is how many opinions people have, opinions that I fear are based on unexplored assumptions rather than direct experience. Teenagers are stupid and rude? Says who? Teachers are incompetent? Says who? And then the inevitable editorializing about food. Once it was considered rude to talk about sex or religion. Now the most politicized topic is food.

    It bothers me that people seem so full of opinions and so weak on evidence, but that is me . . . committing the very sin I’m criticizing!

    Of course, you must know that if you have 48 followers maybe one tenth of them are named Boris and work for the GRU spreading social dissension. I know that because I heard it somewhere. Don’t remember where.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Sorry, NS. I was away from the computer. Those are not a “gamefish” sought by anglers, which is how I would know them. But I think they might be herring. Was the photo taken near Lake Superior? Herring is a major fish sought by commercial fishermen. That’s my guess.


  5. In the server’s defense, the cod served in the fish sandwich does not look much like an actual fish. I could see how he never made the connection in his mind from “cod” to “fish.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Tilapia. How is that fish? How would I ever know that was fish? Cod? Same thing. Being Norwegian I’ve heard about lutefisk and dried cod so it’s a term that I would have been exposed too early. But Tilapia??

    It is interesting working with the kids at the college and at other theaters. A common thought from myself, and so many others, is ‘They are so young’. I’m sure I acted and thought the same things at their age. The DRAMA they have and their way of going at things or reactions; yep, just the way it is at that point.
    And then you get a little more life experience and understanding (hopefully) and perspective on things and just more knowledge from watching and learning from others.
    NS, like you said, he seemed willing to learn. That’s huge! I’ll take that over some punk who thinks he knows the way and won’t listen to anyone else. I know a bunch of them too; they’re no fun.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I took those FB comments in two ways. First, many people only skim social media looking for keywords or sentences that catch their eye. I do that as much as anyone. Which means they tend to read fast to “get it over with” and not to read for comprehension.

    Second, as an indication that so many people latch onto one tidbit of information from a post, interpret that tidbit to fit their worldview (ex: school systems are failing our kids if this one 15-yr-old doesn’t know what “cod” is), and respond in a simplistic way that reinforces what THEY want to believe the world is like.

    I’ll wager very few, if any, responders thought about NS’s post for more than five seconds before replying.

    Whenever I have a conversation with anyone I don’t know well or at all, I TRY not to have preconceived notions about where they are coming from, what their past was like, their personality, worldview, outlook on life, past failures and successes, etc. Everyone has a different story and we only see the tips of their icebergs when we interact with them.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I imagine, Northshorer, that most of your Facebook friends are in your (our) age cohort.

    It’s common, not to say natural, to consider the things one personally knows to be essential knowledge, the things one doesn’t know to be less important and the things one doesn’t even know you don’t know to be beneath consideration. Is it essential to know that cod is a fish? Probably not. I’d like to think that if I were the employee and didn’t know what an item on the menu was, I’d be curious enough to find out.

    Our “essential knowledge,” belongs to a world that is losing relevance. We are long accustomed to being the arbiters of what is essential to know and what is proper comportment. It’s disturbing to find ourselves increasingly irrelevant, but that’s a fact.

    The future is not ours to shape and ranting won’t change that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. \In fact most of them are my former students, in the age 45 to 65 range. So about our age. I know most comments came from that group, a couple from the 70 year olds.


        1. I am seeing in therapy the grandchildren of people I worked with when they were teenagers. It makes me feel old. It also makes me feel I didn’t do a very good job 30 years ago when I saw the first generation in the family.


        2. Another way of looking at that might be to realize that the therapy you provided, however valuable, is just a fraction of what shapes people’s lives.

          Liked by 2 people

  9. I remember feeling embarrassed in a restaurant when I didn’t know what grouper was. I was probably in my late twenties at the time.

    There are lots of things that a teenager or a twenty-something would be familiar with that would stump me. As Bill said, it’s a different knowledge set than ours.


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