An Old Bastard

Every so often, you run across people who are so monumentally rude that you are left totally inarticulate.  It helps if they are punks, or drunks.  You can almost forgive them, the one for their obvious lack of intelligence, and the other for the paralysis of their discretion.  The ones I cannot stand are the old folks.  In Starbucks, today, for instance, Jane and I are passing the time,  she marking assignments, and me reading, as we sat at a big, round table.  Next to us, the two comfy chairs, big armchairs in a mock (or real???) leather, with a young guy, maybe early twenties in each chair, working their laptops.  An old crock in a grey suit walks up to them, and says “you people sit drinking coffee and occupying chairs  all day.  You are a disgrace to the race.”  Totally unprovoked.  The two guys just were thunderstruck.  I think actually it was directed at one of them in particular, he looked arabic or something similar, and that probably triggered the whole sorry thing.  Anyway. What do you say to something like that?  Especially if you retain some remnant of respect for age.   (Which I, personally, do not, believing that tenure on the planet in itself does not warrant my respect, and, certainly,  is no guarantee of wisdom.)  As he started to leave, I felt like saying something totally witty,  like “I think you have exceeded the three score and ten the Bible allows, so why don’t you go away and die?”  or, even wittier…”Fuck off, you dried up old turd.”   Saying either of those  might indeed have reduced me to his level, but it still would have felt good!  Alas. I remained silent until he had gone.  Then, Jane and I chatted with the two still-shaken young men, who, by their attitude to it all, indicated that they indeed still held a residual respect for the aged.  Wonder why that respect is a waning thing in our society?  It isn’t always the result of the self-absorption of youth.  Respect is earned.  It is not there by nature.  No one is owed respect simply by virtue of their birth, their money, their physical strength, their position in the family, or their age.  Respect is earned.  It is earned daily.  It is hard won, and very easily lost.  Do not mistake fear of power for respect.  They are alien to each other.  And, by the way, the fact that  someone is your parent should not earn him or her your respect… affection, maybe.  (Parenthood is a function of nature.  Any animal can do it.)  I believe genuine respect– the gracious acknowledgement of another’s virtue– like genuine cruelty,  is quintessentially human.   Now, the proper approach with a stranger is to suspend judgment and offer a dignified greeting.  That old bastard, by his total DISrespect, invited an aggressive response, which only his age and vulnerability made unlikely.  The gods willing, he will try it next with a Hell’s Angel.

Published in: on March 8, 2012 at 3:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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