After returning from a meander in the noonday sun, which was too cool for mad dogs and Englishmen, I was surprised to find the hallway full of women. Sara, who lived across the hall, died Thursday, and I thought they might me planning to do something for Lloyd, her husband. Perhaps they were, but the issue before the house at that moment was Inez’s television.
“My TV won’t turn off,” she said.
I followed Inez through the throng and into her apartment. She pointed to the offending Sanyo, and the phone rang.
“Hello,” she said, waited for the caller to reply and then added, “I’ve got a man in here.”
The caller was her son-in-law, who offered to come over should the man she had not be up to the task.
“They left this,” Inez told me, pointing to a piece of paper taped to the TV stand. “It says, ‘Push Red Button,’ but I don’t see a red button.”
With a lightning quickness it has seldom exhibited, my mind analyzed the problem.
“Where’s the remote?” I asked.
“Uh? Oh, there it is; on the recliner,” she said as she scooped it up and handed it to me.
“Here’s the red button,” I said. Then, expertly pressing it, I silenced the yakking and turned the screen black.
“Men understand these things so much better than women,” Inez said.
And that’s how a man stuck in the 20th Century explained the secrets of a 21st Century television to a woman mired in the attitudes of the 19th.
I am at that age now when I occasionally look at those younger than I and shake my head. Whatever happened, I wonder, to decency, courtesy and respect. “Why can’t they be like we were, /Perfect in every way?” the parents in Bye Bye Birdie asked. And often, so do I. Well, I used to. Now I’m a fogey living among fogeys, and my generational pride has to face reality. And reality is neither pretty nor reassuring.
Corrine is in her early seventies, diabetic and in a wheelchair. She appears to be in possession of all her marbles, is alert, has a wry sense of humor and is very much aware of the world around here. She is also loath to utter phrases such as “I’m sorry” or “excuse me.”
Friday at dinner, while attempting a pirouette in her wheelchair, she knocked a tray of cups off a table. Saturday, she gave a repeat performance at the salad bar, and all the packets of salad dressing ended up on the floor. Her reaction both nights was to put on her why-are-you-looking-at-me-like-that face. She didn’t even bother to say, “Oops,” and she never apologized to the staff that had to clean up her mess, and she never thanked them for their help.
Generation X and Generation Y – no one seems to know where one begins and the other ends – did much better in my eyes this week. Arissa was over Friday for another interview. The topic this time was family and friends. And given the opportunity, I bragged mightily. I showed her Russ’ cartoon in the Readers’ Digest Humor Collection, and I showed her A Ledge, a Pie and Hazel the Fly, the book Russ and Debbie collaborated on.
And then we moved on to Beth, Ken and Hayden. I told her about Hayden being born three months premature. I told her about the little guy being in the hospital for several months before he could go home, and how he has blossomed into a very, very bright and active little boy. And I bragged about Ken and Bethany going into business for themselves.
Then we switched roles, and I asked her a few questions. I found out she’s twenty-nine and a single mother of two, and that she works and will graduate this spring. She must be doing well in school; she said they had a test earlier in the week, and she was terribly disappointed that she only got a B. I was always elated when I got a B.
“I’m crazy busy,” Arissa said. “It’s overwhelming at times, but for some reason I haven’t quit. I’ve surprised myself.”And after bragging about Beth and Russ and listening to Arissa, I decided it’s time I set about surprising myself. God knows, unlike them, I’ve got time on my hands