Going in to work the other day, I held the door open for a woman entering the building behind me. “Thank you, sir,” she said.
As I was climbing the stairs, a young man came around the corner and almost bumped into me. “Excuse me, sir,” he said.
Leaving work, I held the door open for another woman. “Thank you, sir,” she said.
Those people ruined my day.
I was pleased, of course, to be reassured that manners and courtesy still are observed by some people. But the “sir” part ticked me off. I think “sir” is a word that only should be used when addressing guys who have been knighted by the queen or who are really, really old.
Maybe I’m just getting more sensitive about things like that because tomorrow I’m reaching one of those birthdays with a zero at the end that comes along every 10 years.
Besides, I don’t care what my AARP card implies, I don’t think of myself as old. As far as I’m concerned, the word “elderly” describes any person who is at least two decades older than I am.
I still can play three sets of tennis on the same day. I’m not claiming it’s good tennis, but at least I don’t have to sit down and rest between games. A young woman passing me on the street still results in the reflex action of sucking in my stomach, although my definition of “young” seems to be getting a lot more flexible lately.
Sometimes, I’ll admit, I find myself saying things I swore I never would say. Such as wondering aloud about what passes for music these days and why so many people dress like slobs. Whenever I say things like that my wife accuses me of sounding like a grumpy old man. But that’s because she didn’t know me when I was a grumpy young man.
And I do spend a lot more time in the company of working doctors than I ever did before. Aches and pains that I once would have dismissed as mere annoyances now are being taken more seriously.
In her reflections on growing older, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” the late Nora Ephron wrote:
“Every so often I read a book about aging and whoever’s writing it says it’s great to be old. It’s great to be wise and sage and mellow: it’s great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can’t stand people who say things like this.”
But at least nobody ever called her “sir.”
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