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Friday 02 April 2004

Old People’s Foibles, Courtesy, and the Boomers

Soon, we are told, we’ll be up to our ears in old people. Even copious drug use and motorcycle-riding haven’t thinned the Baby Boomers’ ranks enough to make up for the Boom itself, and for advances in medical technology.

There’s no shortage of commentary on the effect this is going to have on economics, but I’ve seen very little on what social changes this is going to bring.

Old people have traditionally been accorded a certain amount of respect simply because of their age. To begin with, truly old people were, until recently, pretty rare; and it’s generally assumed that old people are wiser as a result of their longer experience. In my experience, old people are idiots at about the same rate as the rest of the population, but you might be able to say that the ones who aren’t idiots are the least idiotic of all. They’ve managed to beat the actuarial tables, at least.

But as a larger and larger portion of the population has gray hair, and as Buick’s sales figures rise into the stratosphere, this is going to have to end.

Today while I was at the post office, I happened to notice this car, this Mercury Topaz, in the parking lot:

The Front Royal Post Office parking lot

This isn’t an action shot; the car is parked like this. It was in this position when we went in to the post office, and it was in this position when we came out. The little old lady who was driving it finally managed to get out of the car and walk inside just as we were leaving — or trying to leave. The parking lot at the Front Royal post office is pretty bad at the best of times; this morning they were doing a lot of business, and this woman was complicating matters, to put it mildly. The way she was parked, several parking spaces were usable only with difficulty, and the entire time I was there, there was a line of cars out onto the street because of the resulting backup in the parking lot.

Now, this isn’t that big of a deal. For less than a half-hour, there was a parking-lot traffic-jam at the post office in a small town. One woman and her obliviousness to her surroundings — if not her contempt for other people — was the cause of it, but because she was old, nobody said anything to her, and nobody honked their horns. Perhaps everyone was thinking that they would want everyone to be nice to their own grandmothers, should they dodder around and make life difficult.

All of this is very fine and noble, but this courtesy is a luxury we will not be able to afford much longer. When one old person is unwittingly throwing a monkey wrench into the works, we can be courteous and accommodating. When half the population is old enough to not be aware of the problems they’re causing for everyone else, we will not be able to extend them the courtesy of allowing them to be such a pain in the ass, no matter how much we’d like people to be kind to grandmothers.

Or, possibly, old people could themselves start to be more courteous. Old people can be a pain in the ass no matter how well-intentioned they are; when they’re in line in front of you at the grocery store, they can’t see as well, and are not as flexible as the average person. It’s going to take them longer to get their wallets out and pay. Fine; I’m willing to cut them that much slack. But I see no reason why they should be permitted, without social sanction, to pay for purchases with exact change involving more than fifteen pennies while others are waiting. There’s no reason they should be able to ‘park’ their cars wherever they happen to stop them. There’s no reason why they should drive down the road at a (low) speed of their own choosing, wandering back and forth from lane to lane.

We have tolerated and we continue to tolerate the eccentricities of age until now; but no matter how we feel about it, this will have to change before long if society is going to survive the aging of the Boomers.

Posted by tino at 13:20 2.04.04
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“When half the population is old enough to not be aware of the problems they’re causing for everyone else, we will not be able to extend them the courtesy of allowing them to be such a pain in the ass, no matter how much we’d like people to be kind to grandmothers.”

Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth when the Social Security age is pushed up to 75…

Pretty soon there will be only two voting blocs in this country: those that are suckling off the government teat, and those that are providing the milk. Wanna guess who’s going to get screwed in that scenario?

Posted by: Twonk at April 2, 2004 01:54 PM

What I really fear is the boomer generation reaching the point where they really should not be driving…but still are. Yikes.

It’s difficult to live in this country without a car, no doubt, but if you’ve ever driven much in Florida, you know what I mean.


Posted by: Nicole at April 3, 2004 10:30 PM

This is “Priceless.” You could do a spoof Mastercard Ad Campaign off of this stuff.

I had a rather good laugh from this example.

I bet the thoughts going on in her head as she sort-of-parked that Topaz were some real doozeys too, “If I pull in all the way:

  • “I might not get back out because people aren’t courteous enough to let ME pull out.”

  • “Those curbs can tear the radiator off my car if I get too close.”

  • “I don’t want to slip in any oil and break my hip.”

  • “Someone’s going to park too close and I won’t be able to get my door open. Then, I will not be able to get home and turn off the appliances which I forgot to unplug before leaving home (yesterday) to come to the Post Office and buy those annoying .03 cent stamps.”

Posted by: chris at April 5, 2004 10:43 AM

Oh, give me a break! The oldest boomer alive is, like, 58. The parking lot oldster you describe would be in her 70s, perhaps 80s, possibly even her 90s.

You want to bitch about old people and boomers in the same breath, you need to wait another 15 to 20 years, okay?

Almost all of us boomers are still working and paying taxes, and for most of us, we’ll continue to do so for at least another 10 years.

So don’t put us on the ice floe and set us adrift quite yet. Please.

Warm Regards, Paul

Posted by: Paul Woodford at May 8, 2004 02:53 AM