“Do you have a postage stamp?”

Molly, my 23-year-old colleague who sits next to me in the newsroom, asked the question.

“Sure.”

I reached into my bag, plucked a stamp out of my pocket calendar, and handed it to her.

A few seconds later, she posed another question.

“Um, where do you put it on the envelope?”

“The stamp?” I said. “Upper right-hand corner.”

Before I had a chance to ask if she was serious, Molly said: “Do I fold this?”

She was holding up a copy of the W-2 form she planned to mail to her father.

I took the paper, folded the bottom up to the center of the page, folded the top down over it and handed it back to her.

“Thanks,” she said.

I asked Molly if they taught her in school how to address, stamp and mail a letter.

“This is the first letter I’ve ever mailed,” she said.

“Really? What if you want to send a birthday card to someone?”

“I hand it to them,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Molly is a bright young woman, with a degree from Temple University, who also has interned at the Philadelphia Inquirer as well as a radio station, NBC Sports Philadelphia. She is no slouch.

I opened my mouth to respond, but instead, asked my editor, who is older than I, if he was hearing this conversation.

“Yes,” he said, without turning from his computer.

I pressed Molly. Did they teach her cursive writing in school? Oh, yes, she effused. Did she learn how to fill out a check? No.

“I wrote a check for the first time this year — to pay my rent,” she said.

Two things crossed my mind. I’m old, at 63. And I might be in the twilight zone.

I turned to another colleague, Taylor, who is 22.

“Taylor, do you know how to send a letter?”

“Of course,” she said. “My parents taught me how to do that a long time ago. I know how to write a check, too.”

Taylor said she also has sent packages, but only through Amazon. In other words, she has ordered gifts online, paid an extra $5 to have them wrapped, and never actually touched the gift or package itself.

“But I would have trouble sending packages at the post office,” she said. “I would need some help.”

I thought at this point about all the letters, cards and packages I’ve mailed over my lifetime. I couldn’t imagine not knowing how to do that.

There are so many things I’ve experienced over the last few years that make me realize time is moving on and so am I, but this dialogue with my younger colleagues tops them all.

Don’t get me wrong. I love working with them. They are constantly teaching me things about technology that are foreign to me but second nature to them.

They grew up with it, after all. Kind of like my knack for mailing letters.

After some deliberation, I’ve decided this symbiotic relationship really is fortuitous: I’ve got institutional memory and experience that Molly and Taylor draw on, and they bring a whole new perspective, and skills, to the newsroom.

In that vein, I am reminded of a sign I saw years ago outside a small gas station and store in western Maine: “If you don’t stop, we’re both gonna starve.”

Yep. We both reap the benefits.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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