Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hoppity hop

Now, I've worked with young people all my life and I'd like to make it clear that on the whole I like them. I liked them when I was one of them and now that I am a Fairly Old Person I feel privileged to be among them: their glowing skin and their glossy hair and their laughter and good humour. So I'm not really going to turn into a Grumpy Old Woman quite yet.

Today I got a bus home. I had decided this week that I could do without my crutches but when I got on the bus, I immediately regretted that I no longer carried these badges of disability because it was crowded and I had to stand - at the door end of the bus, facing the seated multitude - balancing on my good leg with my moon booted limb at an awkward angle out in front of me. Now, I know that most people don't sit on buses examining the legs of ladies of a certain age, but I can't help feeling that the odd young person, sitting comfortably on his or her seat, might have noticed my appliance. But apparently not.

Then this old chap suddenly leapt up - well, heaved himself up - and, saying in ringing tones, "My goodness, I've just noticed that you've got a bad foot," offered me his seat. I hesitated (he was clearly a lot older than I) and he said, again loudly, "I'm nearly 90 but I can still stand." So I sat down, thanking him profusely, beside the young man in the other half of the seat, who took out his mobile and began texting. After a while, the old chap bent down and proclaimed, "I'm so sorry it took me such a while to cotton on." Young man gazed firmly out of the window.

Eventually the lad got off and the old chap sat down again, gazing after him. He shook his head. "The mores of the young," he sighed.

"You don't look 90," I said. (Actually he did look quite old but hey, he gave me his seat.) We had a nice little chat. He showed me his shopping bags.

"I've been taking advantage of the sales," he said, "to buy some advance birthday presents for some of my 11 grandchildren."

I like that: think ahead even when you're 90. Assume you'll be still be around for the birthdays.

"I still play golf," he said. I murmured admiringly. "I'm not very good, of course," he added, and then after a pause said, "but then, I never was."

Two discouraging thoughts, then: 1) I look more in need of a seat than a 90-year-old; and 2) I may never get any better at (for example) tennis than I am at this age. And that's pretty rubbish, let me tell you.


  1. You're always so funny Isabelle! That "Assume you'll still be around" line made me laugh. I've often wondered about the thinking of a 90 year old. Do they talk much about the future. You know, when everyone is sitting around and they talk about when the 8 year old will be going off to college in 10 years -- does the 90 year old realistically think...gee, I won't be around to see that??? Wouldn't that be depressing!

    Shame on the young man. Very sad statement -- I'm betting that all youth aren't like that, although, apparently on your bus they were!

  2. I'm convinced that's the attitude that keeps you going. My uncle's father was 96 and his wife was 95 when said wife went into hospital for some tests to do with a bit of pain she was having in her hip. The consultant told Uncle's dad that it was her age, the hip was just wearing out a bit and there was nothing they could really do (the risks of general anaesthetic at 95 outweighing any possible benefit of full on surgery). "What!" exclaimed U'sD, "You mean she'll have to put up with this FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE?!!!" I loved his outrage and his unwillingness to accept that, even at 95, you might have to settle for less than great. He lived to over 100 and right up to about a fortnight before he died, was still regularly going into Edinburgh on the train from West Calder, with his rucksack on his back, to get his messages. (He'd moved out to WC from Wester Hailes years earlier but still preferred to go to the shop he was used to in Edinburgh!)

  3. It is so frustrating when you realize (and not for the first time) that some of the youth around you haven't any manners at all. And then you are pleasantly surprised when you actually witness a young person helping someone older than they are. Just this past Friday, an apparently confused silver-haired woman was trying to purchase a ticket to ride the light rail (train). She asked if I knew if there was a discount for seniors, and I was apologetic, as I did not. A young man stepped forward and not only answered her question, he helped her purchase her ticket. Once we got down to the platform, I stepped up beside him and thanked him for so nicely helping her. I do think there are more of those types than we notice. :-)
    And good news about your "foot-healing" progress!
    Also - I agree with Thimbleanna - you are so funny!

  4. I've just caught up with your foot-dramas. Sorry to read about it!

    I certainly hope the young people I'm raising would have offered you their seat.

    I love the 'think ahead' attitude of your 90 year old!

  5. At the University of the Third Age class I go to, the lovely 86 year-old lady I sit with is currently planning her 90th birthday party. It certainly hasn't crossed her mind that she might not be around for it! But then, my mother's doctor told me they 'don't consider them to be old until they reach 90' - do you think it suddenly all falls apart the day after the landmark birthday? Glad your foot is improving but don't ask too much of it too soon - besides, the crutches are good for clouting thoughtless young men :)

  6. I feel you should whip up a sign which you wear both on the front and back proclaiming that you have a broken ankle, and need a seat. Obviously that young man was a bad egg, and I hope he felt at least a modicum of shame. Someone should tell his parents on him!

    People on the buses I catch generally offer me a seat, which I mostly accept. When it first started happening, I realised that I must look much older than I felt!

    I love the way such exchanges lead to pleasant and friendly conversations.

  7. I think we all ought to give the young man just a wee bit of leeway. Perhaps his girl had just dumped him, or his mom was in the hospital, or any number of things, and he was texting and preoccupied and didn't notice your foot!

    Now, if you'd have said, "Excuse me, but my foot is killing me, would you give me your seat?" and he flipped you the bird, well then we could all agree he was a rotter.

    Often times on public transportation, people make an effort not to notice other riders, or intrude on their thoughts, or indeed they are wrapped up in their own dramas.

    Look at it this way - if the young guy had given up his seat, then you'd never have met that lovely older man who was probably tickled pink to be a gallant and do the honors himself!

  8. Husband goes to a U3A class whose tutor, N, is 93! She is currently incensed that someone well-meaning has given them a TV - they've never had one before. Her equally aged husband is enthusiastic but N is concerned that it'll waste time. She certainly intends to still be around for sometime yet - she's just booked next year's holiday to Turkey.

  9. Haven't played tennis in years and I haven't taken up golf yet but . . . I have my first grandson this week. Boo-yeah! He is beautiful too, just as you predicted. I will make sure he respects his elders, a trait I sadly agree is lacking among our generation here, and apparently there too.

  10. Well count yourself lucky that you work with NICE young people with glowing skin etc. Right now it is 10 pm Saturday night, and my next door neighbours are getting stuck into their usual Sat night booze/drug ritual. Swearing, yelling, car doors slamming as more arrive. I am definitely a Grumpy Old Woman when it comes to these kids (girls aged between 18 and 25,).