Bath, Maine – For those of us fortunate enough to share our days with parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents, we’ll inevitably encounter the concept of a generational divide. In the most casual sense, it could take the form of outdated slang or unreliable pop culture references. These are easily laughed off. But in more extreme cases, it can expose a greater social disconnect, often related to problematic perceptions of race, religion or disability. And it’s the latter that came into play when a grandfather and his grandson went car-shopping, comparing the 2019 Buick Encore vs 2019 Kia Soul.
From the 25th of June 1950 to the 27th of July 1953 the physical landscape of Korea found itself crippled by the divisiveness of conflict, littered with military forces from twenty-one nations, aiming to help settle the dispute between North and South Korean powers.
As a young man, Jack Fitzgerald Rice Sr., now 87, had counted himself among the 6500 members of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade which arrived at the shores of Pusan on the 2nd of August, 1950. Fortunately, he would return safely home to the United States just shy of three years later. The young Marine would go on to complete his enlistment, get married, raise four children, and retire after a long career as a public school teacher and disciplinarian administrator. He would also welcome several grandchildren into the world. One of those would be his namesake.
And while Jack Fitzgerald Rice III (nicknamed “Tres” by his Venezuelan-born mother) had always been the apple of his grandfather’s eye, the two would soon become unwitting victims of a generational divide.
“Almost ninety years, and I still drive,” says Rice Sr. with a clear sense of pride. “Near perfect eyesight, and I still have my wits about me. Not everyone my age can say that you know. It’s why I try to help out as much as I can.”
According to his family, Rice offers transportation services to other independent seniors, who might simply need assistance getting to appointments, medical or otherwise. So when Mr. Rice found himself in need of a new vehicle, he was thinking of more than just himself.
Ironically, Tres also happened to be in the market for a new vehicle; and since he spent most Sundays with his grandfather, he suggested that they go out car-shopping together.
“Usually, we just go to church in the morning. Then, we go to the bar and have a few neat scotches while we watch golf or a ball game. I love to spend time with him, and I know that he won’t be here forever. So, why wouldn’t we go car-shopping together?”
A lifetime GM-supporter, Rice Sr. wasn’t interested in mixing things up too much. “I’ve had a Buick Encore since they came out in 2013, and they’re comfortable for all my friends to ride in,” he explained. “I just want to get another one.”
“I like the Kia Soul,” explained Tres. “Unfortunately, my grandfather had his own thoughts about that. He called it a ‘stupid rice burner’ and, when we got to the Kia Dealership, kept calling the salesman names. I love my grandfather, but it was honestly humiliating…”
Jeff Ocampo was the KIA salesman in question, and recounts his encounter with Jack Rice, Sr. as follows, “First of all, he kept calling me ‘Kimchi’. I didn’t know what that meant, so I looked it up on my phone, and it’s some kind of Korean food. I guess, it was a racial thing, which was weird for two reasons. First, because that’s just lazy racism. Secondly, I’m not Korean. I’m half-Filipino.”
And while both Jack and Tres would end up behind the wheel of their respective dream cars – with a whole set of new memories made – the experience certainly exposed some major cultural differences. The kind of differences that, according to Jeff Ocampo, he sees all the time.
“I’ve worked in automotive sales for almost a decade now. I’ve seen and heard a lot of weird things over the years, and it’s hardly the first time a retiree had misinterpreted my heritage. I’m just glad that people don’t sing ‘Gangnam Style’ at me anymore like they did back in 2012. That was definitely the worst.”
But in case you’re in the mood to listen to it, here you go…