When People Go to War... Over a Latte

When People Go to War... Over a Latte

It is always interesting to take a step back from the world you live in and view it through someone else's eyes.

Earlier today I had a presentation, and two meetings, and this evening I am looking forward to a Q&A with Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor. So naturally I find myself with three hours to kill and have made a nest at a coffee shop.

Latte in hand, and wifi in place, I sat at the only available table and got, happily, down to working.

I no longer find it weird to work in coffee shops. In fact an entire generation of start up founders and entrepreneurs bounce from coffee place to co-working space with no real thought of how historically unusual that is, when compared to traditional working. For us this is traditional working.

Until someone reminds us our world is still a new one.

An old lady plopped herself down at "my" table and humphed every time my phones beep. Which admittedly is not an infrequent occurrence. So I turned the phone to vibrate and put it in my pocket.

I'm considerate. I sit at the big (share) table, unless impossible, and I order something every hour to make sure the cafe isn't taken advantage of.

I'm considerate. But apparently not enough.

The lady's husband joins her and snarled "well we just might be able to sit here if this girl bloody moved" to which I politely said that I would be happy to if only he asked.

Well boy oh boy was THAT the wrong thing to say.

Launching into an expletive laden rant "you young people and your %$£& wifi - get a bloody office and stop £$%"ing taking up &%$£ing tables in £$%*ing cafes".

Well, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the reaction he was going for but I exploded into a fit of laughter. My beloved grandfather, well into his 80's would never swear like that, and the mere thought of such absurdity spun me into hysterics.

The old man started waving his finger right in my face "go get a proper job" he tells me.

It's not a cautionary tale, I will continue to work out of coffee shops, as will all my fellow founders I am sure, but it does paint an interesting picture of demographic misunderstanding.

In fact I have a proper job - I am building an education technology company on a trajectory to help tens of thousands of people if not more.

I help blind people cross roads, stand up for pregnant women, mentor young entrepreneurs, pay my bills, pay my taxes and am in the process of hiring a team.

I am exactly the kind of "young person" older people should be encouraging.

We are doing the best we can in an unfair, fast moving, world. On the upside technology has made it possible to create an empire from your bedroom and an increasing number of people are trying their hand at enterprise which is fantastic.

But we are also in a world broken by generations before us and a little humility on that front might be called for.

We face environmental challenges and geopolitical tensions, a world in debt and uncertain employment prospects.

The financial crisis wasn't caused by young people but it will have repercussions on us for many years to come. The housing crisis wasn't caused by young people but it means many millennials will never be able to afford a home. The pensions crisis and the problems with the NHS were also not caused by us.

So respect really can and should go in both directions.

Young people (and those of us straddling the millennial fault line) are not perfect - we have our challenges as has every generation. Nor do I think many are seeking special treatment, just an equal opportunity to prove ourselves and determine our own future and do so without the humphing.

It is true that you should "be kind to your children, they'll choose your nursing home" but more importantly it is to the detriment of all when generations go to battle, even if just over some elbow room.

Next time, Sir, maybe you could just ask?


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