Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lessons from the "Baby, Ride Easy" School of Social Intercourse

Welcome back to the real part of the calendar. Summer's not only done, it's over. If you have children, they're off to school. At work, there's no 'real' holiday until we get to November and Veterans Day-don't hand me Halloween, please. Grown-ups have usurped it as another excuse to get our drunk on, but it was a children's holiday and in my heart, shriveled and cold as it is, so it remains. 

On my walk in honor of Labor Day yesterday, which bore a striking resemblance to all the other walks I take and make throughout the year, I encountered a young person (in my case anyone younger than 50 though in this specific instance more like 16 based on the clothes) who was kind enough to allow me first passage on a wide-enough-for-only-one-person path way. 

I've lost a reasonable amount of weight in recent months as part of my escape plan (yet to come to fruition) and no longer need a flagman with a placard reading 'wide load' to walk ten paces in advance of me, so it wasn't courtesy motivated by size and mass. Rather, the young man, demonstrating (I thought) he wasn't raised in a barn allowed his elder to proceed first. 

I was (and still am) grateful for the kindness and then, within seconds, assured everyone on earth he'll probably never do it again. I had headphones on since I prefer listening to what I perceive as 'my music' over anything happening in the real world. If I could afford prescription mirror shades, I'd wear them as well while walking but I can't so I wear very dark sunglasses so as to better be an island in the stream of humanity.

As I passed the youngster, I said aloud 'thank you' and looked at his face as he mouthed, 'no problem.' I stopped, turned and removed my ear buds and somewhat shrilly asked him 'what did you say?' He repeated 'no problem' and discovered to his dismay and chagrin just how wrong he was about that.

If, like me, you're a codger and a curmudgeon, the good news is, I suppose, that we had a good day yesterday as I schooled a youngun' on the acceptable verbal cues of successful social intercourse. I really hate the use of  'no problem' instead of 'you're welcome.' Truth to tell, I'm not especially fond of the contraction but accept it with a sigh of resignation and a five minute tirade. 

The sigh was the same sound I made when, as I continued on with my walk in sanctimonious smugness (and red New Balance sneakers, to match my eyes (you were thinking of another body part, weren't you?) I realized with a shock, short of calling him a whippersnapper and demanding he stay off my lawn I had become 'that cranky old guy' that every neighborhood has. 

The difference between steadfast and stuck gets more difficult to distinguish, much less explain, as the years go by. And often, it's impossible.
-bill kenny

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