We’re all Ageists
Tonight on the way home from work, I took a cab that was being driven by a very old-looking man. He appeared to be at least 70 years old. I wanted to ask his age but I didn’t want to be rude. He drove very well, by the way. He followed the same route that I had been following–the fastest, I deduced–without any question or attempt to take the longer way. I also noticed that he didn’t wear any spectacles. Quite remarkable, I thought, to have a keen eyesight for his age. Unlike me, who’d been wearing them since I was eleven.
Finally I got the nerve to ask him and he said that he was, in fact, 65 years old. He said that he’d been driving a cab for 25 years and that he’d been a driver since 1971. I asked him if he hasn’t thought of retiring and he said that he stopped driving for a year upon the request of his children. But he fell ill, probably from doing nothing so he went back to taxi driving. He said it’s the only job he knew. I thought to myself, it’s only right that he kept at it because he did it so well.
When I got off I added an extra 50 pesos to the fare and told him to be careful. I couldn’t help it. It was late and taxi drivers are especially vulnerable to robbers. And he looked so frail. I regretted uttering the quip I jokingly said to my colleague just before taking this particular cab. I said, ‘dito na ako sasakay kay lolo!‘ [I’ll take grandpa’s cab].
That was mean and I shouldn’t be. After all, who is trying to start a new career in middle age but me? Who is being addressed as ‘kuya‘ [older brother] by my younger colleagues like it’s the most natural thing in the world? Who hears jokes about older people all the time, in an industry that makes young people grow old so quickly then discards them for new younger people?
When I was young I couldn’t wait to grow up. And when I did I wished growing up didn’t mean growing old. Sh*t, we’re all ageists!
This will take some getting used to.