I passed a significant milestone the other day, while riding a city bus into work.
As I grow older and the clock ticks louder despite my diminished hearing, I’m noticing indicators of this on a more frequent basis than ever before. A few years ago I was in an IHOP with Dorian and I ordered from the senior menu for the very first time. It was my 55th birthday and we decided it’d be a fun thing to do, as a celebration of that particular milestone.
In that case we’d done it on purpose, and yes, I was a little taken aback that the server didn’t ask for an ID to prove I qualified. But I figured I stopped getting carded for alcohol years ago, so why would I mind that? Still… harumph!
The other day was a little tougher. It really got me to thinking, because I know I only have so many years left to get things done and leave some kind of legacy. It was a simple little moment – just a question, followed by a reply – and it came from an attractive young college girl.
“Sir, would you like this seat?”
My reply was simple and polite.
“Um, no thanks, I’m good.”
Truth is, I was secretly mortified.
Now, don’t read this the wrong way. I have a wife who is fifty and a god-daughter in her twenties, both of whom walk with assisted mobility devices, which is fancy wording for canes, due to chronic illness and pain.
We’re forever frustrated when able-bodied sitters on buses don’t relinquish a seat upon seeing them, because they obviously have mobility issues. Neither of them can stand on a city bus or momentum will topple them right over.
I carry no such device, nor do I wheeze and groan while holding a strap as the bus bounces down the road. So it must be the new salt-and-pepper facial hair, I guess? I say new, because I’ve been getting a little more gray just this year and I’ve noticed a bit of a difference in how people talk to me.
Not only that, but I’ve noticed a difference in how I address younger people. I’ve been calling millennials “Kiddo,” and young ladies “Honey,” and older ladies “Dear.” I really don’t mean to, but I think it’s in the programing.
My friend Peter is seventy, with a shock of bright white hair on top and a ruddy complexion. When I told him of the college girl offering me a seat, he laughed. “Get used to it,” he said, “They offer me a seat all the time!”
Geez, college girls used to offer me other things, but now it’s just bus seats.
What’s really confusing though, is that I seem to be in some sort of transitional phase, and my senior status seems to be a matter of perspective, or comparison.
For example, while riding the bus into work a few weeks ago I managed to grab an open seat right by the door, and another young woman was standing next to me, holding onto the strap. The bus stopped a few blocks later and an elderly Chinese woman boarded, who was easily North of eighty.
As soon as the door whooshed open, the young’un (I’ll call her “Kiddo”) saw the Chinese lady and immediately looked at me with an expression that said, “Really BUB? You’re just going to sit there and not give up your seat to this dear, sweet grandmother?”
Well, of course I wasn’t, but the lady hadn’t even stepped up yet. Kiddo gestured at the lady and than back to me, her look quickly becoming a big “WELLLLLLL???”
She was very expressive.
I stood and offered my seat, which the Chinese grandma readily accepted and thanked me for, and I almost said to Kiddo, “What are you, the seat police?” but I realized it would make it seem as if I wasn’t going to offer it in the first place, and that would be bad.
So, I just said, “I was getting up, Kiddo, you just have to give me a chance. Getting old myself now! HAHA!”
Yes, I really did call her “Kiddo.”
She gave me a glance of disbelief, which I suppose I should be thankful for, but…
I’M SO CONFUSED!
It was a mere two weeks later that a woman about the same age offered me her seat for no apparent reason whatsoever. She didn’t even get off at the next stop!
So here I go, slipping into a transitional phase where I’ll either be offered bus seats or scolded for not getting out of one, and I’ll sometimes remember the name of a new acquaintance but not always, and other frustrating things that will serve as shiny golden milestones as the golden years approach.
I guess I should embrace it and fling myself head-on into those golden years, grabbing them with gusto and making the most of this corporeal existence because there’s not much one can accomplish once one is occupying an urn on the mantle.
Another friend, who just celebrated his 63rd year on Earth recently, summed it up best when I remarked that I feel like a “Senior In Training.” “Actually,” he said, “You’re more of a ‘Junior Geezer.’”
I’ll take it.
The guy who called me a “Junior Geezer” is author Mark J Mitchell, who is a really terrific writer and poet. You can find him here.