December 20, 2010
An Insignificant Series of Stories for the Season
One balmy evening in this decade's youth, I sat al fresco at a South Floridian restaurant with another couple. They were advancing to the further reaches of middle age; they had done well; they had prospered. As two men at our table cornered one another in conversation, the wife leaned toward me. Something flashed in the dusk. "Look," she whispered, "Do you like my new diamond ring? I bought it as a present to myself. With my first Social Security check."
"It's very beautiful," I replied, thinking but saying nothing about those reports I'd recently heard – that Social Security would be bankrupt by the time I'd be eligible to collect. After all, she was entitled. Entitled to the money she'd earned, that was set aside for her; entitled to spend her money as she wished. "It's very beautiful," I replied. "Good for you," I said, thinking it was indeed rather lovely, that diamond we'd all just bought for her.
One chilly, rainy evening this November, I was talking turkey on Manhattan's Upper East Side. I was introduced to a lady who was advancing to the further reaches of middle age. She asked me what I did. I said I was a writer, on politics among other things.
"Oh yes?" she asked, with a certain delight in her smile. "Where do you stand?" And my mind flitted back (as it does) to all the events of our now decrepit decade. I stammered, with an inward, rueful smirk. And then surprising myself, I jovially blurted, "Well, I'm kinda of the opinion George W. Bush is the antichrist, and we can go from there," scandalizing five people within earshot.
"Well, we're certainly not going to change one another's opinions at this point," she said laughing. With a knowing chortle, I agreed, which somehow relaxed her and allowed her a conversational license. So we talked some more.
She said, "And you know, everything they're saying about global warming, 'the world our children and grandchildren will live in'? Well, I don't have any children, so what's it to me?"
Yes, I gave thanks – especially to those members of an older generation who are teaching me to accept that which I cannot change. And I am serene, now, thinking of what life may be like when I am the age of those women, thirty years from now, when the seas rise, and a previous generation's diamond is my lump of coal. I accept the foolishness of my youthful ideals that people can perceive, and act, beyond their own self-interest.
But what? ––What's this? A mere click of a mouse and my serenity is consternated. Just when I have begun to accept this world, with its hypocrisy and obliviousness, I am forced to re-evaluate my stance. Blast that internet! I have found my way to an online backwater, a forum wherein an antique question is asked: "Do you pick up hitchhikers?"
A commenter named "rhoner" answers. He writes, "Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years... Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually." And then he begins his story.
I won't ruin it by summarizing. I'll just encourage you to read the original post.
And have a merry Christmas.
Posted by David Schneider at 12:10 AM | Permalink