Go on you old bloke

Every workday I wake without alarm about 4.45 am. Something goes off in my head and the little battle trumpet issues its call to action. My long suffering beloved stays blissfully unaware and so without further ado I head for the shower, the dressing room, don the suit, crank the diesel and am in the office a little after 5.30am for another exciting day at the factory.

By the time I’ve done a small meditation and then check the email at around 6.30am I’m ready for the morning papers and a cup of the caffeine filled brew from Ming’s Takeaway. The office is an old two story building in a still ungentrified part of inner Sydney. So, as my arthritis infested legs take me slowly across the road to the newsagent and the wafting aroma of fresh-cooked takeaway anything, I’m beginning to sense what is ahead for the day.

The day continues with a mix of copywriting, telephone hookups and ad creation advice until my inner voice informs me that it is midday and time for something to calm the rumbling which is in my ample girth.

Yeah! Right! No breakfast. Wrong move. Breaks all the rules. Yaddy yaddy yaddah etc. But it’s the way it happens for me. And the day of this story is no exception.

Ming’s Takeaway is across the road. There’s a new Turkish Takeout just next door. So this day I got lazy and only walked next door to order. Having got lunch I’m walking back past the tables on the footpath. Just ahead of me there’s a young boy aged 14 or so who has a cardboard takeout of fish and chips from which he has been eating at the footpath tables. He picks up the box and starts to walk ahead of me taking hot chips from the pack as he goes.

Right in front of my office building he throws the box, chips and wrapping on the footpath and walks on. Himself walking behind is incensed. I tell him in no uncertain terms to come back and pick up what he has just dropped. The young man is a member of the local aboriginal community.

“Why should I do that you old white mother f……er?” is his opening gambit. So muggins launches into the tidy, ecology, global warming, save-the-planet, tidy town script. I might well be talking Green Martian. There is a tense standoff. He then reluctantly comes back, picks it up off the footpath, walks to the other side of the street and drops the whole package on the other footpath, and repeats the expletives loudly before vanishing round the corner.

Boy did I feel old, from another planet and just a little helpless. Here is this kid going into adulthood doing as he likes, no one to stop him, scattering his litter both actual and relational on the footpath of society leaving whatever mess in his wake believing that someone will pick up after him.

I wished somehow I had been as able as the old hairless Jewish prophet who was laughed at by a group of boys who called him and old baldhead. He cursed them and bears came out of the woods and did some damage on them.

Mine was only a minor act of verbal elder abuse. But it is a sign of things to come. The grey hair on my head is a sign of vulnerability not veneration. My age is a thing to be rubbished not respected. My hope for a tidy, responsible society brings lampooning not lawfulness.

In the future, like the story of the old prophet we will see the bears come out of the forest. They will be creatures of violence spawned by the same disregard for anything. It will not be nice to watch as these creatures of lawlessness actually turn on the aged, the vulnerable and then having dealt with them, on each other to society’s hurt and disintegration. Or is such pessimism just another function of my advancing years?

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