Well, I'm sure you know by now that the car was not driving itself. Instead, it was being driven by an elderly gentleman. I don't know exactly how old he was, but let's just say his head was barely clearing the steering wheel, his derby was from 1940, and his hearing aid was visible from space. He was old, folks.
My husband and I were immediately annoyed. This man was endangering the lives of EVERYONE ELSE ON THE FREEWAY! It's true. No one should fuck up the flow of traffic like that. It's not good for anyone.
After our initial outburst, I became sad. "That's sad", I said. "No it isn't", says Russ, "Sometimes you just have to accept that you can't drive anymore and hang it up." "I know", says I, "but that's precisely why it's sad." Then I had an epiphany.
There are cultures all over this globe that REVERE the elderly. A quick look online turns up many examples. Here's one from India:
Elders are the driving force for any family and hence the love and respect for elders comes from within and is not artificial. An individual takes blessings from his elders by touching their feet. Elders drill and pass on the Indian culture within us as we grow.
And from Africa:
For the Igbo of Nigeria, the eldest male is the group’s leader and accorded the responsibility to control the group politically, legally, and morally.
In these areas Seniors are looked to for advice, blessings, and the sharing of knowledge. These may be simpler places, where technology is not as prevalent. And this was my thought: We live in a culture where Technology is King. Without our computers, cell phones, faxes, Blackberries, or even our cars... we are lost. We revere the Almighty Machine. Therefore, when your reflexes slow down, your hearing lessens, your eyes weaken... You become less valuable in this country.
In a society where your only means of travel are your feet, or perhaps a buggy, you're never slowing down others by slowing down yourself. In a place where no one has to set their VCR or TiVo because conversation is the only entertainment, the elderly are the best story tellers, because they have the most stories. In a culture where music comes from the heart instead of an ipod, people, both young and old, are forced to look at each other and relate.
I'm not saying I want to live in a village somewhere in Kenya. I'm not saying I want to start walking to my auditions with a basket on my head. I'm not even saying that I think elderly people should be allowed to drive. I mean, if you're endangering people's lives, you should "hang it up" and let someone else drive you, or take a bus.
What I am saying is this: just because you can't drive as fast as you used to, doesn't mean you're useless. If I have to speak louder for you to hear me, I shouldn't stop talking to you. If you're having problems seeing me, I should get closer to you. If you are old, you are not invisible. But we treat you like you are. The elderly are important to us. They hold our past, our history, our lessons. We shouldn't disregard them because they've slowed down. We should care for them. We should be patient.
So, that's my thought for the day. I wish we could turn things around in this country and learn to respect those who have been here longer than us. Everything is geared toward the young. One day, God willing, we'll be old. And we'll want people to care.