Old People Just Don’t Give a Damn!!!
We have all had that moment. You are driving down the left lane of the two lane road near your house, heading to the store in a hurry to pick up some appetizer you told your partner you would get before your party, but you somehow forgot the asian spring rolls, and now guests are starting to trickle in. Then it happens. You become stuck behind a car going painstakingly slow, so deliberate and cautious that you can envision the infamous tortoise flipping you off as he goes racing on by. You try every maneuver possible to get around them but realize there is no escaping them. Finally, speeding up and coming alongside them as soon as the remotest hint of a left hand turning lane for the grocery store opens up, you see them. The pleasant elderly man, with his blue cotton sweater pressed neatly to his sagging frame and his endearingly nostalgic, old man hat tilted adorably to one side, stares fixedly ahead. Concentrating on all the buzz around him, he is completely oblivious to you and your blind rage. You flip him off, but he never notices as he somehow only now decides to switch into the right land lane without the faintest use of a turn signal. Yes, you all know far too well what I mean.
Let’s face it- aging sucks. Our bodies slow, the mind weakens, and our values crystalize into an unflinching staredown with the grave. We become who we are, and after awhile, we don’t really care whether anyone else likes it or not. Time is too short to worry about such nonsense.
At what point do old folks just throw their hands up in the air, laugh at their own imperfections, and proclaim with utter disregard that they simply no longer give a damn? Is there a certain age we all reach when we finally say, “Fuck it- not my problem anymore”? I know it sounds so entirely defeatist, so eternally nihilistic, but it also must be remarkably liberating- you know, to no longer have to care about the ramifications for your behavior.
Take my father, for example. Gosh, I love that man, but ask any of the friends I am often amazed he still has, and they will all tell you that he is “charming and unique” precisely because he no longer minds what others think of him. A lifelong Democrat, my dad has, out of nowhere, started telling racially and sexually inappropriate jokes on a regular basis. Though harmless because he wouldn’t know what to do with it if he were to receive a positive reaction, he is flirtatious with every young waitress who has the uncomfortable displeasure of waiting on him. When scolded by his wife (who will be applying for sainthood any day now) for such affronting behavior, he merely laughs it off and goes right back to what he was doing, counting on his boyish charm to get him out of the doghouse he seems impervious to. Yeah, my dad just doesn’t give a damn.
Now, given his developed disposition, I won’t let him drive my kids anywhere. In a world where breaking the rules with reckless abandon has consequences for others in a very practical sense, perhaps it is best to rein in the folks who seem to have plainly dismissed their own need to abide by any sense of regulatory process. No, the rules of the road don’t apply to them, not anymore they don’t. “Alright- time to back out into traffic. Sure hope there’s nobody there!” Sorry, but in this arena of life, that laissez faire attitude just doesn’t play.
So, ok, maybe we should test old folks just a bit more scrutinously when they come in for their driver’s license renewal. Perhaps in addition to the vision test, someone should jump in the car with these folks and take a spin with them- not just to see how they currently function in the capacity of operating a 2000 pound motor vehicle, but even more to try to determine if they still actually care how they drive. In some cases, attitude really is almost everything.
But perhaps too, we can learn a thing or two from the older folks who have lived long enough to realize that what other people think of them doesn’t really matter in the long run. Think about what it must be like to be oblivious to societal judgment, to be free from the chains of custom and propriety. What would you do if you knew that it didn’t matter whatsoever how your actions would be perceived by others, if you were absolutely certain that you could do whatever the hell you want without the remotest negative ramification on your social standing? WHAT WOULD YOU DO? And better question still- Why aren’t you doing it right this very moment?
Because in the end, it doesn’t really matter what others think. That’s the lesson most of us unfortunately don’t learn until it’s too late, when our bodies have failed the will of our wild and passionate imaginations for the capacity to do unbelievable things. But trust me, nobody really cares what you do with your free time. And if they do, screw them. Ask old people- life is too short for that nonsense. So listen to your old man when he starts telling you how to live the life you imagined. Just don’t let him drive your kids.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every Thursday at www.waitingfortoday.com