Saturday, June 24, 2006

Things I Miss About Being Young

Part 1

I realize now how much I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. Today was a quarterly sale at the Friends of the Library Book Bay, all books $1.00. In short, an event not to be missed for a book addict like me. The City of San Francisco, in its incandescent wisdom, just installed a toll booth at the entrance to the parking lot which houses the Book Bay and several other attractions. The first hour is free, then you pay $1.00 for each additional hour.

There wasn't that much at the sale and I got out in exactly one hour. As I stopped at the checkpoint, their exterior clock advanced a minute before the guy could open the gate, so he charged me. I pointed out that the clock had moved after I got there, so I had gotten in under the wire.

He snarled, "It's your responsibility to check the time."

Excuse me. Are you talking to ME? I don't need Parking Nazis chiding me about Responsibility. " Look at my watch," I said. He demanded his dollar again.

I grasped the pointlessness of arguing with a person with no soul so I fished in my wallet for the most crumpled, grimy bill I had and gave it to him. I wish I'd peed on it first. I hope my exhaust fumes choked him. The troglodyte pig.

Things like this did not happen when I was young. I know, it's only a dollar, but the Principle! I absolutely know that if I were young, he would have opened the gate. He would not have asked me for money. I would have rewarded him with a smile, and we would have connected as fellow humans for a millisecond. Where is the harm in that?

It isn't that I ever earned such preferential treatment. In fact, I think I'm generally nicer now than I was when I was young. But having grown accustomed to a greater measure of kindness from strangers, it is particularly hard to accept less with any kind of grace. It isn't fair that I should have been treated better then for doing less, and that even such insignificant aspects of life are not based on any kind of merit. I didn't realize this when I was young and really believed that people were kind to me because I deserved it.

Where do we go from here? I can only get older. Can I then expect things to only get rattier? All I ask is the same measure of decent treatment I once took for granted. And for people to keep in mind that every older woman is a young one traveling incognito.


Anonymous said...

Since we're invisible, why not use it to our advantage instead of being angry at the unconscious?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I've always wanted to be invisible, but at my own will, not by default.

I'm listening, Anonymous. How do you suggest we use it to our advantage?

d~ said...

My elderly mother was sitting in a waiting room. The door to the office of the man she wanted to see was partially ajar. There was a group of men talking inside the office and she could overhear some of the words. The man she wanted to see said, "Would you check the waiting room and see if anyone's out there?" A young man poked his head out, looked at my mother and then all around, then turned back with the reply, "No, nobody".

I was waiting in line at the library to pick up a book from interlibrary loan. While the male librarian was with the person ahead of me, he and I made eye contact. When it was my turn, he never looked up or acknowledged me. He looked at the cover of a magazine, then at the clock, then wiggled in his chair. After about a minute of standing directly in front of him, I caught the attention of a female librarian who offered her assistance.

My younger sister, a Christina Applegate look-alike, has never experienced this sort of thing.

Yes, older women are invisible to men.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What baldfaced rudeness. I think such an attitude is distinctly American, as many other cultures revere their elders instead of resenting them for still presuming to occupy space on the planet.

Even Christina Applegate will get older someday. and your little sister, too.