Old Ladies

By reading this, it would be easy to conclude that I have something against old ladies, but I really don’t, or at least I didn’t, until I moved to New York. As I am writing this, I can hear the constant banging of the closet door through the walls that I share with my 75 year-old neighbor. I hate it when it rains because it means that she will be shaking the rain off her umbrella right outside my door to make the tiled floor all wet. Trust me, I always look before I enter and leave my apartment. I would like to attribute her wild mood swings to a mental imbalance- it seems like a bipolar-type going from “Throw Momma From The Train” crazy to Blanche DuBois crazy, but it’s just plain crazy every time, all the time, and that’s all you need to know.

I was waiting by the bus stop the other night and it was raining and I had my umbrella open when someone slapped my umbrella from behind me to the ground. I turned around and there was an elderly woman hunched over in her raincoat giving me a mean, nasty stare. She may as well live in my building where they will try to get the elevator door to close by pressing that button when they see me approaching, then give me a cold hard look-over when their attempt failed and I have the pleasure of riding up with them- talk about awkward elevator ride. Then there are the bulldozers that plow through a crowded sidewalk and will just shove everyone aside to get by. I wouldn’t mind so much if I was given a heads-up beforehand, but again, it comes from behind, without warning, like a jolt. No “Pardon me,” or “Excuse me, please,” just a stiff hard shove right in the back when I’m walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business.

I don’t think I can blame them, I mean, they’ve lived through the rough times of the 70’s and 80’s when no one wanted to live here. That’s when crime was rampant, and if you didn’t fight back, you got trampled on. Old and nasty habits die hard.

I guess they’re just like everybody else who lives in this town. Why should we put them in a separate category? Because I grew up at a time and place where the stereotype of nice little old ladies actually existed. I never had to keep my guard up, but now, whenever I see a senior approach me, I get a little anxious, thinking to myself, Is this a good one, or a bad one?

If you act this way on the Upper East Side, don’t think that you will get away with it. The cashiers, housekeepers and delivery men will talk back with just as much rudeness to them. You’ve never seen anything like it. You would be shocked to see how they treat old people. It’s some sort of verbal nuclear war, but the strangers around them act like it was nothing. My biggest fear is that I will eventually view this as normal. There are still some who feel that they should treat these little monsters with unconditional respect, but they are obligated to by law- like cops, and building employees. When I am outside of the city I know that old ladies are what you would expect: nice, pleasant, helpful and wouldn’t do anything like play mind tricks on you. Little old ladies here would kick you from behind, then you would turn around to see them flash a smile.