The Elderly Problem
All sorts of issues for the argumentative portions of our cerebrums are roaming about the old fish town these days. Take your pick: bicycle activists, full-plumage society weddings, an art foot that will cost half a million bucks. But there is another vital subject that is getting zero play among those who think they've got the city figured out: our elderly. What exactly should be done about them?
I'm not talking about the sweet old white-haired lady who feeds the birds in the park, or your older relatives who spoil their grandchildren in restaurants at the Wharf, or the Summer of Love folks, or even the near-dead geriatrics wheezing through a tube in the high-rise rest homes.
I'm talking about the others. The ones who think they own the joint.
Now I know it's sacrilege to say this, but there are members of the elderly population who are lowering the grading curve for acceptable oldster behavior. And I think we don't hear much about this alarming new trend because a boomer generation obsessed with age now controls the media and doesn't want to publicize the negative aspects of the aging process.
For instance, it seems you can't ride a Muni bus without getting gut-punched by a 75-year-old elbow clearing a path through the crowd like a machete hacking through a banana plantation. What's the rush, pops? Even if there were a bus headed for heaven, it wouldn't be the 30 Stockton.
I understand that living on the planet for many decades can instill a certain sense of confidence, satisfaction at having enjoyed a full and rich existence. If I get old, I can't wait to put my feet up and reflect on the pantheon of life experience. But living a long time is not an excuse to crouch behind the wheel of an automobile and incite terror.
It's not a license to start a squabble out in front of a bar, which is what occurred a few weeks ago in front of Lefty O'Doul's, when a blue-haired regular was eighty-sixed and made such a squawk that two uniformed policemen had to physically restrain her from re-entering the place. (To his credit, one of the cops advised, "Why don't you go on down to the Gold Dust?")
And being old is definitely not a reason to slow down the line at a coffee shop, because coffee is a drug and nobody should ever get in the way of other people's drugs. Last week in the Marina, for example, an elderly gentleman delayed the all-important daily cup of black methadone for several restless customers.
You could look at this situation in two ways:
On the one hand, it's an old man with slumped shoulders, who can't remember which oatmeal cookie he wants to buy, and has to put his face four inches from the pastry case, scanning up and down and sideways in his hunt for that elusive baked good. You could look at this old guy, with his thick eyeglasses and his hearing aids and that slight shake to his hands as he pulls out his wallet of well-folded bills, and say to yourself: "OK, that's great; he's getting out of the house. At least he's not watching Pat Sajak."
Or, on the other hand, you could be standing in that same line with headphones, listening to Rhino Records' new History of Rap collection, specifically, "The Message" by Grand Master Flash & the Furious 5: "Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge/ I'm tryin' not to lose my head!" In that case, you would look at this man, and become seized by a moment of clarity. "Look at him," you would think. "He's enjoying the delay. He knows exactly which cookie he wants. Those aren't real hearing aids, they're props. His friend sitting at the coffee shop table isn't coming to help him find the cookie because he's too busy giggling at your expense."
You lose either way, because he got the cookie and you had to wait. It's an unwritten law of nature that, like young children, old people are allowed to act cute and get away with just about everything, including being re-elected president. The only solace gained is that someday we may be old, and when it's time for our cookie, we'll get to rear back and elbow some little son of a bitch out of the way.
Admission for Abuse
For a full-on heat blast of derisive New York humor, this space recommends checking out comedian Dave Attell at the Punch Line this week. He smokes, he talks a zillion miles an hour, and he's very funny.
Univac Dos and Don'ts
Last week's clash of gadgetry at Fort Mason -- called the Robot Wars -- featured some outstanding robots, in particular the centrifugal whirlwind known as Blendo, sort of an evil, upside-down Weber grill with sharp shearing blades. As the annual competition attracts more participants, new rules must be added. Among this year's restrictions: no flying robots; no radio jamming; no wet-cell lead-acid batteries; no electronic, liquid, or fiber weaponry; no untethered projectiles; and no explosives, corrosives, flames, or pyrotechnics.
Obviously there's been a problem or two in the past.
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