Friday, April 4, 2008

Random Acts of Inconsiderate Kindness

While I was out the other day, my next door neighbor stopped by and asked Kathie if he could come into our yard to clear some of the ivy that is climbing over the fence that separates our properties.

“That’s odd,” I said, “Why didn’t he just ask me to cut the ivy?” Kathie gave me one of those patient looks she once reserved for the children and responded: “Perhaps he thinks we are getting on in years and he is just being kind.”

Well, screw him. I am perfectly capable of cutting my own damn ivy. Of course, this part of my yard has looked like Sleeping Beauty’s castle since I was in my early middle years. Perhaps he thought that if it didn’t get done when I was a robust specimen, it isn’t likely to get done now that I have other things on my agenda like changing the batteries in my hearing aid and oiling up my walker. Harrumph!!

As you can see, my reaction to this sort of inconsiderate kindness, is irritation. Although I am 63, I don’t identify with the older set. I am still capable of flipping the bird to some codger toodling along in the left lane at 50 miles per hour, or grumbling when some granny takes 10 minutes to run her credit card at the check out line. I am not like them.

I tend to view myself as one of the young up-and-coming dudes, not one of over-the-hill gang. I know, I know. It is a delusion. That’s why this sort of episode brings me up short like a slap in the face.

When we were in Boston recently, some little twerp actually offered me his seat on the T.
I just shot him a glare that I hope said: “Back off, punk. I can still take you.” That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me and joins the Patriots and Red Sox on the list of things I don’t like about Boston: people are often polite. Thankfully, that would never happen in New York where seniors are trampled and run over along with everyone else in a spirit of heartless equality.

The real shocker came last summer when my son actually volunteered to come down and paint our house. This was very surprising because when he lived here he was a hard person to find when there was work to be done.

I have always painted our house. In the first place, I am cheap. In the second place, it is a point of honor and pride with me. “Look at him. He’s in his sixties and he’s up there on the ladder painting his own house. That’s impressive.” Nobody actually said that, but I know that’s what they would have said if I had gotten around to painting it.

I accepted his offer, but I insisted on paying him so he didn’t get the idea he was doing the old man any favors.

Kathie’s view on this is almost zen-like in its simplicity: if people want to be kind to you, let them. That for me is a bitter pill to swallow.

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