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In Search Of Cool

I just learned about a profession that I didn't know existed -- there are people who get paid for predicting trends and guessing what will soon be considered "cool." Then they sell this information to various businesses and advertisers. And here's the kicker -- sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're wrong. Where do I sign up for this job?

One method they use is to send people to malls to observe kids. The assumption is that whatever kids are doing today, all of us will be doing next Thursday. There is some logic in this. We live in a youth-oriented culture, and adults often imitate kids. Grown-up men have their ears pierced and wear baseball caps backwards, women old enough to be grandmothers wear shirts that expose their bellies, and older men and women drive little sports cars that they can barely get in and out of.

But I don't know if I'm ready to say that our entire society will be driven by young people. I don't think that we'll all necessarily adopt the language of some kids. Otherwise, soon the Pledge of Allegiance will begin with the words, "I, like, pledge allegiance to the, you know, United States of America..."

Another method the trend spotters use is to take existing trends, and assume they will continue to grow. For example, it's not exactly a long shot to say that the Internet will become more and more important in people's lives. I think I can make some pretty good predictions based on current trends:

  • Soon, popcorn and a Coke at your neighborhood movie theater will cost slightly more than a new car.
  • So many more foods will be found to be unhealthy, that the American diet will consist of kumquats and bottled water. Despite this, Americans will continue to be overweight.
  • CEOs of corporations will no longer be paid huge salaries or receive stock options. They will simply be allowed to print money.

    The trend spotters really earn their money when they make bold predictions -- the ones that not everyone else can make. But sometimes, they make some big mistakes. If they didn't, nobody would have bought Beta VCRS, companies wouldn't have spent fortunes developing video telephones, and Hollywood wouldn't have made "Gigli."

    Weren't we all supposed to be able to call up our homes, talk to our computers, and tell them to start cooking dinner? Electronic books -- books that you could read right on your computer -- were going to replace traditional books that require you to turn pages. We were all going to be driving electric cars. "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" was going to continue to be a success no matter how often they shoved it down our throats.

    So I have a suggestion for the professional coolness predictors that should help them raise their batting averages. They may be correct in assuming that teenagers know what's cool and what's not. But hiring kids or studying them to get their opinions is not the way to go. Being around my kids has given me a special key to predicting coolness trends. All these people have to do is study me.

    I'm not saying I'm cool. Just the opposite. My kids have taught me that if I like a style of jeans, a kind of haircut, or a song, it's not cool. So the trend spotters and taste makers don't need to observe kids in malls. They can just look at themselves and their friends. Adults just have to remember one simple fact: if we think it's cool, it's not.

    Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

    By Lloyd Garver

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