Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Old Age Pensive

Dear Solitary Reader:

Every morning I drive to work and park my car in the parking lot near the building. I gather my goods and make the long, depressing walk to the building and in the back of my mind I notice a smell. It’s not a bad smell, its just a smell which for some reasons seem out of place.

All that separates me from the parking lot and the building I work in are about a thousand miles of desire to be somewhere else and an Independent Seniors Living facility. This morning I realized two things, both connected to each other. The smell I was smelling subconsciously was saltine crackers and the other realization? Old people smell like crackers. There’s no other explanation for it – well I guess it could be the cracker factory a couple of blocks over, but how likely is that?
Now before you go all “You’re a horrible person!” on me there’s scientific proof out there that old people like crackers. I haven’t looked it up yet, but I’m sure someone’s been paid to do a study on it. And really, if you’re going to smell like something, saltine crackers aren’t a horrible choice – it certainly smells better than a teenage boy, a stinky cheese or state of the union address. It’s directly tied to the amount of soup old people eat.
My mother was always trying to beat into my head the concept of respecting my elders and frankly, I never got that. Why should I respect someone just because they managed to get old? You can get old by just sitting there. Hell, I’ve managed to age and I’m about the stupidest person I know.
But when I go for coffee I see a lot of seniors around doing their shopping and I can’t help but think of all the things they’ve seen and all the stuff they know that I don’t. Now granted, a lot of stuff they know isn’t necessarily useful in terms of dealing with our every day life because we have more people, more cars, and generally more of everything than they do. 
I believe old people are able to endow the younger folk with one thing which we do not have “more” of than they did: common sense. If they’re willing to share their knowledge with you, learning from someone else’s experience has no drawbacks: you get to learn from their mistakes without any of the consequences (okay they may force you to sit among doilies and eat crackers, but its really a small price to pay).
I’ve come to the realization that being a senior should mean more than getting a discount on Tuesdays. Being a senior should, in fact, come with respect. That, of course, leads me to the horrid realization my mother was right, and if she was right about that she might have been right about other things…. Nawww.
Maybe its where I fall in the generation gap, but these days young people seem old, and older people seem young. Teenagers are doing stuff that I never would have thought of and every time I talk with people who are older than I am I feel like I’m talking with people my own age (but smarter).
But here’s the other thing I’ve noticed on my dead man walking shuffle from the car to the cubicle: there are a disturbing number of crows hanging in the branches of the trees about that independent living facility.
I’m not even old (though I’m getting there, because I like crackers, especially with salted tops) and that creeps me out.

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