I used to think that the reason older folks are crankier and display less verbal restraint when dealing with other people is because they have more aches and pains, usually have some health issues, and basically don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of them any longer.
That may be a part of it, along with most of your friends being dead or dying. However, I’ve learned over the past few weeks that there is another aspect I have never considered: They’re just sick of everyone else’s bullshit.
I should back track a bit.
This week I’ve dealt with the following people:
- Cute, 20 something blonde who got on the train a stop after me, chatted on the cell phone the entire time in an overly loud voice (I could hear her side of the conversation even with my iPod playing) and hugged one of the poles taking up more space than was needed because she needed both hands. One to continue her irrelevant chat and the other to hold her coffee which kept sloshing onto other people’s shoes. That she received dirty looks from several other passengers shouldn’t be a surprise.
- Dude at the gym that decided the elliptical machine right next to me was where he wanted to work out even though the entire row of machines were available.
- Older woman on the subway that stood right next to me. When I say that I really mean right up next to me. I was standing in my usual out of the way spot, she gets on a few stops later and cozies up to me with her back to me. As the ride progresses she inches closer and closer to the point my paperback book was bumping against her back. And the train wasn’t even crowded.
- Dude in some sort of hurry in a self important, arrogant kind of way that came barging out of a building, onto the narrow Boston sidewalk, cut me off, slammed right into a girl coming in the opposite direction and kept going without even apologizing or acknowledging her. It was so blatant that the girl stood there watching after him in disbelief, finally muttering ‘You’re excused’ and walking away.
Now consider this. The elderly in our society have been dealing with these jackasses for 20 – 30 years longer than we have. At some point they're going to say enough and start telling these people to fuck off in no uncertain terms. Maybe we all reach a point where we snap, tell someone off, and realize ‘Wow! That felt good and actually stopped that person’s annoying behavior. I should have done that years ago!’
I am quickly approaching this point in my life. I’m 41 now and have had enough of the inconsiderate, self absorbed pricks in this world. The only difference I’m experimenting with is being pleasant about it. For example, I politely asked the woman on the train that was crowding me if she ‘wouldn’t mind taking a half step forward’ rather than beating her to death with her over sized bag. She feigned surprise that she was crowding me even though she must have felt my breath on the top of her head, gave a half hearted apology and actually moved down the seats away from me altogether.
The dude at the gym I just ignored.
The blonde babbling chick on the train got enough dirty looks from everyone else that I didn’t need to say anything. Not that I would have had an opportunity as she barely paused for a breath.
Maybe we can map out attitudes towards other people by age groups.
Ages 1-10: Learning society’s pitfalls and acceptable behaviors
Ages 10 – 20: Learning who you are.
Ages 20 – 30: Partying, having fun, probably annoying others more than others annoy you.
Ages 30 – 40: Passive aggressive stage. You don’t openly complain about other people but will do little things like roll your eyes, give dirty looks, intentionally bump someone that is in the way.
Ages 40 – 50: The politely speaking up stage.
Ages 50 – 60: Not so politely telling others they’re being inconsiderate and rude.
Ages 60 – death: Fuck it, I’m going to be dead soon and don’t have time to deal with these piss ant punks.
Perfect example of this was displayed on the train a few months back. The train was crowded and tight. On Boston trains there are a few seats marked as ‘Specialty Seating’ where anyone using them is supposed to relinquish the seat if an elderly or handicapped person gets on. On this day there were two perfectly healthy women sitting there chatting away to each other.
A younger man wearing one of those removable leg casts gets on with me, sees the women sitting in the seat, says nothing and stands. Down the aisle a guy motions to ask the dude in the brace if he wants to sit. He yells down ‘No, thanks for offering, though. I’m only going a few stops.’
I’m sure the ‘Thanks for offering’ was a subtle jab at the woman in the reserved seat.
As the dude with the leg brace gets off, an older gentleman with a cane gets on in his place. He hobbles directly to the seat and stares at the woman. She is busy chatting away and doesn’t notice him (or pretends to, at least). He bumps her foot with his cane, but she still doesn’t look up. She just moves her foot and continues her conversation. When he realizes she’s not moving, he shuffles to the side, but right next to her (by the door). Two stops go by and he is still staring at her and letting his dangling cane bump into her now and then.
Finally, his stop is approaching and he says, loud enough for everyone to hear ‘Well, ladies, I’m glad you two got to ride in comfort while a 70 year old man with a cane had to stand for 15 minutes! The sign behind your seat,’ he points to the reserved sign behind the one woman’s head, ‘should be enlarged since you seemed to have missed it’s meaning!’
The two woman stop talking and look around at everyone on the train who are now staring at them. As the gent with the cane moves to get off the train, he catches my eye, gives me a quick wink, then glares at the woman in the seat again leaving me to stifle my laughter as he hobbles away on the platform.
Two guys from different generations. One says nothing, the other says it all.
Progress through aging.
Today’s distraction: 6 annoying old people habits and their scientific explanations. If you ever see me with nipple high pants feel free to push me in front of the next bus. Or just run me down with your car.