Do you ever feel guilt for having irritation—acrimony even—at someone who is unworthy of your derision by virtue of their innocent intention? Perhaps you find yourself caught by a young child who is telling a story of cloying pointlessness? Maybe you are cutoff in line by an ‘off’ person, and you are unable to discern whether they are mentally challenged, or whether they are just an asshole? What about that guy in your office who stutters; sure he is likable, but it takes him ten minutes to tell you hello when you are late for a meeting? When in these circumstances we tend to get agitated, but we also—most of us at least—know that socially acceptable behavior is to mask our irritation. No one appreciates the sociopath who tells a child to shut-up, or who smacks the retard, or who tells Stuttering Steve to f-ff-fu-uu-ck off. For me, it is our senior citizens who most often trip the agitation switch buried in my brain.
The elderly, of course, deserve our respect. Many of them have seen tribulation we could never imagine. Younger generations have it easy; we are coddled even. Computers, Hi-Def TV’s, smart phones, cars that start, Facebook, Target, penicillin? Yes; we have them. I try hard to not take these modern conveniences for granted, and interacting with the elderly only emboldens my cognizance of this plight. Still, however, I find it difficult to stay free of irritation at our seniors in many situations. Let me expound upon just a few:
- The Supermarket Checkout Line: I go to the store often in search of fresh produce or meat, so I see my fair share of checkout lines. It is modern-day courtesy, and for that matter a good common-sense practice, to pay for groceries with cash or a bank card. This idea, however, is foreign to our seniors. To them, writing checks is the only way business is transacted. Needless to say, it is often that I find myself stuck in a line—irritation ascending—behind some senior who has ninety-seven items, ninety-six coupons, a check, and a shaky hand.
- The Car: I am a passive person. For some reason, however, the act of driving can occasionally kick me off my keel. How often do you find yourself driving behind a senior—you know you are behind one if you see “Buick” on the back of their car—when all you are trying to accomplish is forward movement? Seniors do not believe in forward movement, at least not rapid movement. Seniors believe in contemplation. For example, when amid a left-hand turn, seniors often ‘contemplate’ how to actually turn—trying hard to decide over the course of eighteen minutes whether or not is safe to hit the air in front of them. Suffice it to say, I tend to get stuck behind a lot of Buicks.
- Behind a Computer: I love my late grandfather with every ounce of my being. He was by all accounts the consummate man, afraid of little—including the purchase of a computer. And, I must give him due credit for his foray into the digital world, especially considering he lived the first few years of his life in a house devoid of electricity. He was, however, a ‘comp-catechumen’ poster child if ever there was one. Have you ever had an hour-long phone call with an elderly person (stop right there you say) in which you attempt to explain how to plug in a printer cable, only to fail in your attempt and then have to make a forty-minute drive so you can carry out the four-second task yourself? Let us imagine that I have.
So, what do we do about the elderly? We love them. We cherish them. We hug them while taking in the smell of dust and the color blue. And, we continue to mask our irritation. We remind ourselves how wonderful life really is, how lucky we are to have such a divergent human populace—the elderly included. We recognize that our world needs patient, socially conscious people. We will, after all, be old one day ourselves; and, I for one know that I do not want my coup de grâce to be some sociopath taking me out after I unknowingly cut him off in line.