I was sitting in a generic cafe during the heatwave, trying to reboot my evaporating brain, when an old man sat down at the next table. His parchment skin was oily with sweat, and he wore a tank top and shorts nearly as old as he was. He immediately got to work researching a pile of books, scribbling away with a pencil, without a thought in the world about his hunched, archaic appearance. It got me thinking about getting old in NYC -- just like getting old anywhere else except that you do it in public, surrounded by the bustling multitudes.
The Bad Things
- You can't get a job, because businesses would rather hire youths still gullible enough to work like cult members for the glory of the corporation.
- You realize you may never fulfill your dreams, like inventing that attractive bullet-proof refrigerated vest suitable for everyday use.
- You will likely have to live on a limited budget, which means you'll be dependent on the kindness of strangers -- never a good lifestyle -- and even kind people will suspect you're being friendly just to get them to carry your groceries upstairs.
- The aging process is basically one humiliation after another, with hair and stiffness everywhere but where you want it, until you pray a bus runs over you as you crawl across the avenue to buy a lottery ticket, hoping to win enough for a body transplant in Bulgaria.
The Good Things
- You can't get a job so you don't have to go to work.
- When you overhear youths make cracks about old people, you can say "Yeah, I hope that never happens to you," meaning you hope they drop dead long before they get old.
- When it's hot you can walk around outside in a tank top and shorts, with a hand towel draped around your neck to mop off sweat. You can wet the towel in a park drinking fountain and drape it over your head, then wring it out and gum it for a while to rehydrate your parched flesh. And you can walk around your sweltering apartment with the windows open wearing nothing but flip-flops. If your neighbors injure their eyeballs looking at you -- at what lies ahead for them -- that's their tough luck.
- You don't have to plan for the future anymore, because odds are you don't have one. Eat like a pig from a menu of exotic combinations of forbidden food -- a pound of bacon smothered in hot pepper cheese, chased with peanut brittle and a big bowl of spumoni swimming in schnapps -- while you watch sexy aerobics instructors work out on TV.
- You realize that, thank God, you won't live forever, and that soon you'll shuffle off this boiling planet and leave it to the festering multitudes, so completely used up and unhinged that you'll be absolutely sure you're headed for paradise!