Mike the Painter sat down next to me on the Wellness Level. He asked if I was getting used to the place. I replied: sort of.
Sort of is one of the phrases that is the tip of a verbal iceberg. The hardest thing to get used to is – all the old people.
He laughed. He told me he had arrived here from a nursing home. So he was used to it.
I said I had arrived from my apartment, where I was the exception. Just about everyone in the apartment building had a reasonable job in Manhattan, and many of them had arrived in the big city after listening to the song, New York, New York from the terrible musical by Scorsese too many times.
They lived in the apartments an average of 1 year. The streets were filled with lost ear buds, and kids talking into their wrists.
Everything was about the future. Making a good living. Dating. And drinking beer.
Life was in front of them.
Here, life is behind you. Mostly.
And the simplest things are a chore.
If you are 95 years old, have a bad tremor, are mostly blind and deaf, and they give you Croque Monsieur, and the wait staff tells you that it’s grilled cheese. And you try to lift it with shake hands and it is way too heavy, and you drop it and it knocks over your orange juice which falls in the lap of your out-of-it neighbor who complains that she thinks it’s raining inside and someone says it’s orange juice, and the other lady is still complaining that if it’s some French food they shouldn’t call it grilled cheese and if the third gentleman is trying to explain the difference between Croque Monsieur and grilled cheese and if the wait staff is trying to clear everything up and I’m thinking that I should at least cut up her French Sandwich for her, and ask if she’d like me to cut it up, and if she says yes, and I cut it into small cubes and she picks one up with a fork, but it is too soggy and falls off – as I say, the simplest things become a chore.
Also, anything can and does cause a squabble.
There are certain instigators. They always want to give advice. They see this as an adult day camp. One woman always tells me, without prompting, that I should socialize more.
I told her I didn’t like to socialize. And it was at that point that Michael the Painter got up, crossed through a maze of walkers, sat down next to me and asked (with a twinkle) how I was adjusting, and I replied. I can’t get used to all the old sick people.
It’s a little like an inverse Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You recognize the ones who are still alert and with it – strictly by their eyes. You find out that the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, and most of the poor souls here are like old rusted cars from an abandoned car lot left to rot in Fordlandia.
[Ed. Note – If you’ve never hear of Fordlandia, look it up. It is a fascinating side note in the history of the Ford Empire. Henry Ford was going to build (and did) build a small civilization in Amazon rain forrest to supply rubber for his cars. It’s one of those places that the author has an interest in visiting someday.]