I stopped for a beer on a bar terrace the other day, and a young couple sat down at the table next to mine just a few seconds later. The waitress came, took our orders, and came back out with our drinks on a tray. She served the couple first and said “that’ll be five euros and eighty cents please”, whereupon the couple paid her with a ten euro note and were given their change.
Her next stop was my table, and she served me. Then she went back into the bar, without asking me to pay. I was most intrigued. So once I had finished my beer I went inside to pay for it and said “excuse me for asking, but why did you ask the couple to pay at the moment you served them but not me?”
“Oh” she replied, “Younger people who aren’t regular clients sometimes run off without paying, but it’s very rare that someone of your age would do so.”
That episode was yet another reminder of the fact that I am indeed, at 59 years of age, not as young as I used to be. I’m used to that now, but I thought I’d share a few more examples of me being reminded that I am getting older.
The first time was in a fairly crowded Metro train about three years ago. I was standing because there were no empty seats but then a young man tapped me lightly and politely on the arm and said “would you like to sit down?” If thoughts could have killed at that moment he would have been dead in a nanosecond. Me?! Old??!! I somehow managed to conceal my anger at this perceived affront however and uttered a reasonably gracious something like “it’s very kind of you to offer, but I’m fine standing up. Thanks anyway.”
That really shook me up. I mean, me, a man who rides his bicycle as if he were a kamikaze pilot, me, who wears cargo pants and ‘Go Away’ T-shirts, me, who goes to rock concerts by local bands and drinks Jack Daniels? Getting older? NO WAY buddy.
But I was, and as if to add salt to the wound a few more reminders swiftly and inexorably followed, including;
Beginning to feel uncomfortably out of place in bars with a young clientèle, sitting down during long rehearsals (I write and play R&B music), worrying more than I did before about my health, being beaten at badminton, not because my opponent was technically better than me but because he was quite simply younger and more agile, receiving old-age insurance proposal and viagra email spam (how did that happen?) and strongly suspecting that I didn’t get a job on one occasion because of my age.
Depressing? You bet.
But all was not lost thank heavens, because at the same time I slowly began to notice that;
Younger people were starting to look to me for advice about their problems and I was only too glad (and not a little proud) to help and be useful, I began to drive more slowly (and about time too), I began not to care so much about petty and irrelevant things that would annoy me before (phew. What a relief), I was feeling much more self-assured as a person than I ever had before, a pointed look would suffice to make my displeasure clear in situations where I would previously have been rather more aggressive, and last but by no means least, I was becoming much more tolerant of the opinions of others.
Otherwise put, having got over the surprise of realising that I was getting older, I began to see the upside of it. I had finally realised that getting older opens at least as many doors as it closes.
And so it is that the existential anguish I used to feel in my twenties has disappeared, the thirties ‘will I succeed in my professional life’ syndrome no longer exists, I have no qualms about losing my hair (besides, I still have most of it) and I am at peace with the person I have turned out to be.
In other words, I’d even go so far as to recommend getting old to anyone. Not only because of what I wrote above, but because – and it’s true when you think about it – the only alternative is an early death.
Get old. It’s good for your health.
(Right. Time for a beer…)