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Column: Failure to launch?

Posted: May 25, 2018 12:38 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Until a few days ago, my familiarity with the phrase “Failure to Launch” extended to a vague memory of watching an utterly forgettable movie starring a couple of equally forgettable actors.

Alas, while I am enjoying my burgeoning curmudgeonhood, the price I pay for the joy and prestige of wearing nothing but boxers, white socks and orange mukluks in the front yard during daylight hours is the occasional missed memo of pop culture.

To wit: I missed that moment when “Failure to Launch” metamorphosed from bad movie to bad legal defense.

I’m talking, of course, about the 30-year-old guy whose parents had to go to court to evict him from their home. On the surface, it’s pretty amusing -- basement dwelling wastrel refuses to leave home or get a job for something like eight years. He apparently even went so far as to insist that he has the right to be given a six month notice of eviction, among other things. I believe the article I read said the parents actually left him five eviction notices and at least one offer of money to help him find a place to live and repair his broken down car, also squatting on their property.

The article also noted that Basement Boy had informed the court that for the past eight years, he had never been expected to contribute to household expenses or assist with chores or the maintenance of the premises.

Such a statement these days is probably true -- a lot of parents don’t make their kids do anything, which goes a long way in explaining  why at least one of them is  suing for squatters’ rights in the basement at age 30. Still, I have to wonder how one could sleep at night knowing you are contributing absolutely nothing.

Could it be another form of affluenza?

What is less amusing, at least to me, is that the parents actually did have to go to a court of law to remove their resident parasite. The fact that the judge agreed with them on every count is nice -- and in my mind, expected -- but the time and money wasted, on top of years of time and money already wasted, seems pretty insulting.

I think my folks would have approached such a situation, had I been attempting to machinate one, with the same attitude inherent in the classic bartender’s closing call: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Granted, they would never have allowed such a thing to go on for so long, and Dad especially wouldn’t have been nearly as diplomatic as most bartenders are at the end of the night, but you get the idea.

Indeed, I think that was the prevailing norm back in the day, anyway. Never mind student loan debt or a harsh job market.

An example was the classic story my uncle, who achieved a very successful and storied  career as a journalist, told about how he got into the business in the first place.

He had graduated with gold stars from The Citadel, then served in the U.S. Army for two years -- overseas, no less. Upon his discharge, he returned home to see the family and spend a little time with my grandparents.

One morning, about five days into his return, as my uncle sat down to a hearty, home-cooked breakfast, my grandfather asked him the following pointed question:

“So, have you found a job yet?” Then he passed my uncle the grits, along with a copy of the Charleston paper’s want ads.

Shortly after that, my uncle went to work as the night beat city reporter for the Charleston Evening Post.

Occasionally, when I really want to get down on my already worthless self, I’ll make comparisons between my career and his.

He would rise to great heights, going from city hall reporter in a smaller city to national and international correspondent, heading UPI’s Saigon bureau when he was barely in his 30s, covering three White Houses and finishing out his career as a syndicated columnist.

I went from city reporter in a small town to city reporter in a slightly larger town. From there I would -- but at this point in my reminiscing, I tend to reach for a beer. Then another, and then another.

And, yet, while our trajectories starkly contrasted, we really did have similar beginnings and motivations. That is to say, we were both primarily motivated by the need for a job and a place to live. Everything else was pure gravy.

I suppose there are worse ways to make a career decision.


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