Oh, God. I’m not sure if this is a sign of age or clarity about what is truly important or a sign that my blood sugar was way too low (or all three), but I got into it today with a canvasser for Greenpeace. She couldn’t have been more than 21, and the old me would not have bothered, but the new me, which is to say, the Formerly me, just couldn’t let it go.
So I’m rushing down 14th Street this evening to go pick up my daughters and this young woman with a clipboard angles over to me. I shook my head no as I passed her, to indicate I didn’t have time to stop.
“Oh, so you don’t care about saving the planet. OK,” she said.
I wanted to smack her–ok, yes, I am prone to violent fantasies when my blood sugar is too low–but instead just rolled my eyes and kept walking. About 30 feet past where she was standing, however, I realized I couldn’t contain my ire. I circled back.
“Excuse me, but you should know that what you said is really obnoxious. You don’t know me, you don’t know where I’m going, you don’t know what groups I belong to or what my priorities are,” I said (not for nothing, shifting my nylon shopping bag over to my other shoulder). “You’re going to turn people off to your cause by saying things like that.”
She protested that she asked me if I cared about saving the environment and I shook my head no, so she said, “OK, you don’t care about saving the environment.” She was simply innocently reflecting my own sentiments back at me.
I said that I was saying no to stopping to chat with her, and that she knew that full well. “I used to canvass for an environmental group”–I managed not to add “when I was your age,” thank you very much–“and I know how discouraging it can be, but you shouldn’t assume you know why. I’m going to pick up my children. I care about them, too.”
She tried to argue but I brushed her off and continued down the street, fuming.
I felt angry. I felt righteous. And then I felt like a crazy lady.
Why did I even bother? She was a twit and I’d likely never see her again, and there I was explaining myself to her. I didn’t like that she was a poor ambassador for Greenpeace, which does terrific work, but that wasn’t really it.
There was simply something about her smug, 21-year-old face that made me want to give her what for, which I am aware is an old person’s expression.
They say you really start to feel that you’re getting older when your parents become creaky or infirm. I think it’s when you feel that you have something to teach snot-nosed NYU students with too much eyeliner who are exactly as likely to give a shit what you say as for there to be a free public option in the health care reform bill that actually passes.
I had a snack and felt better. But no less old.
Photo by Wesley Fryer CC