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Troy N. Diggs

January 2001

December 23, 2000

As a child, I was always taught to respect my elders. After all, they’ve been around a lot longer, and they presumably know more. I’m fine with that concept, and I try to do it as much as possible. But unfortunately, the elders sometimes don’t respect us back.

There are some elderly people out there who I’m sure are lovable grandparents to some kids out in Memphis. But they’re also pushy. They’re under the apprehension that being elderly automatically means not having to put up with the annoyances of everyday life. This isn’t right.

For example, last week, I was at the post office, buying stamps to mail out Christmas cards, and sending off a package to my new employer. At best, I think there were about 15 people in line at a given time, and I was in line for, oh, maybe about 15 minutes, 20 at the max. During that time, at least 10 older people walked into the post office, totally bypassed the line, and strutted up to the counter (even when someone else was already at the counter). I’m still not quite sure just what they intended to accomplish by ignoring the line. If they had a quick question (“Excuse me, where’s the stamp machine,” for example), then sure, I could maybe forgive the breach of etiquette. But if you have to mail off 5 Christmas packages, then you have to get in line like everyone else to mail them off. The people at the counter apparently agreed with me, and when they said this to the violators, the older people acted as if someone had shot them in the stomach. If they were unwilling to wait in line at the post office, then what on Earth were they doing there in the first place?

Another great example is on the highways of the Mid-South. I believe your “personal” speed limit is pro-rated to your age. Between 16-21 (or so), you’ll fly down the road however fast you can. Between 21-30, you’ll go slightly over the speed limit; fast enough so that you’ll get to your destination faster, but not fast enough to trigger the radar gun of Mr. State Trooper. Between 30-55, you’ll go exactly the speed limit… not because you’re afraid of getting a ticket, but because it’s what the sign says to do. After 55, you end up driving 15 miles BELOW the posted speed limit. In the fast lane (sometimes; there are some folks that simply can’t make up their mind and choose to take their half of the road out of the middle). When pass these people, they look at you like “where the hell are you in such a hurry to get to”… even though you’re doing the speed limit. They also believe in what Jerry Seinfeld calls the “eventual left” (blinker on from the second they leave the house), and the “last minute exit” (cutting across 4 lanes of traffic to get on the offramp). I firmly believe they should retest drivers at the age of 55, and every 5 years thereafter. It would help us all.

There are tons of other examples of the elderly abusing the younger generations; in the last week, I’ve had elderly people push me out of the way when I tried to open the door for them… attempting to use the UScan at Kroger, when they’ve never done it before… paying for $3 worth of groceries with a check, or with change… and I’m sure we’ve all been there. And I know it’s not all older people who do that, because there’s a whole bunch of really, genuinely, truly kind older people out there, who have a lot to teach us.

I just wish they’d also teach some of their fellow elderly… because after all, there’s a huge difference between having carte blanche to do whatever you want… and being nice.

Troy


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