An Ageist's Diatribe
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An Ageist’s Diatribe
An Ageist’s Diatribe
All this Occupy movement. It would seem that the 99% of “us” is pretty cheesed at the 1% of “them.” Let me say right up front that I am not an Occupy sympathizer, especially in light of recent reports of vandalism, sexual assaults, and scuffling with the homeless over free sandwiches. Shiftless hipsters puffed up with anger by proxy in response to being “poor” are clogging parks and major thoroughfares wearing disturbing facemasks and holding up misspelled signs to let everyone know that life isn’t fair.
Let me also say that I sympathize with the Occupiers’ anger and disillusionment and bowel-loosening fear of the future. While I’m not terribly fond of my rapidly reproducing varicose veins and the beginnings of a chicken neck, I wouldn’t want to be 25 right now for all the tea in the country which now owns us. The status quo is pretty jacked up. I guess you could say my problem is their lack of experience being inversely proportional to their public wrath at The Man. Given the media coverage of which I’ve bothered to pay attention to, it would seem the majority of the Occupiers are college students or recent graduates in their 20s with the time and opportunity to march and sit and stay in protest over their lack of fiscal opportunities and viable future. Artfully coiffed pinheads stomping their soft little feet because they took out $60K in loans for an art history degree and spent 5 years washing down illegal pharmaceuticals with PBR and buying their term papers online only to graduate with a 2.4 GPA are shocked because they fully expected to teeter out of college in Jimmy Choos right into the position of Head Curator of the Impressionists at the Met. Half of these indignant protesters incapable of stringing two words together without embarrassing themselves and their grandparents somehow have the time to set up an REI tent for themselves and their Blackberries for days and weeks on end because they’re just so fed up.
Now please allow this disgruntled old fart to vent about why, if I were in possession of the time or energy, that 1% lording over the stratosphere should be taken down. It comes down to the fact that I and the other graying, arthritic, and height/weight disproportionate older generations have paid our dues and are equally, if not more, hopelessly screwed.
I come from a long line of hardworking yet economically disadvantaged Midwestern stock. I witnessed my relatives struggle through pride-smashing jobs and anemic checkbooks raise idealists like me with the notion that through enough time and ambition, I could someday grasp the middle class stainless steel ring. I paid attention in high school, and worked 20 to 30 hours a week in college making sandwiches and cleaning toilets in order to avoid owing $50K in student loans that would take me roughly 24 years to pay back on the teacher’s salary to which I then aspired. I thankfully decided to take a path different to that of an educator (which is another story for another time), and took my sweaty diploma and answered phones for a hair-plugged narcissist that had a ventriloquist mannequin in his likeness with its own desk and leather swivel chair next in his office. I got up at the crack of dawn for a broker who would regularly phone from Mexico or Israel or Antigua on a cocaine bender to demand that I hunt down six-year old documents in a rat infested storage room because he was convinced there would be something useful lurking in said paperwork in his latest divorce battle. I said “please” and “thank you” with a shy grin to dozens of privileged corporate climbers in hopes that I’d one day claw to a position of some dignity and hope of a less-than-embarrassing paycheck. And eventually I did.
I finally got a gig commensurate with my degree and skills and things were decent for awhile. I had a house and a 401K and the belief that I could retire before I died. And then came 2007. No more raises. No more three-figure bonuses. While I was losing my house and developing permanent facial tics, I would listen to the 1% guy in the company cafeteria braying to one of his underlings about how he only spent $127K on his new car while the brilliant graphics illustrator who hadn’t had a raise in 3 years, was carefully calculating the weight of the wilted salad he was building so that it wouldn’t go over six bucks. I saw the CFO not bother to observe a simple rule of public etiquette stride bulbous nose-up onto the 8th floor elevator before letting out the mailroom guy with a pronounced limp. I witnessed more 1% club members wave secretaries needing a signature out of their offices because they were otherwise engaged planning a two-week skiing vacation. In Switzerland. With the wife, three private school kids, and barely discreet girlfriend squirreled away in the chalet just down the hill. I’ve seen friends and colleagues agonize over making mortgage payments on an aesthetic eyesore with a mold infestation in the crawlspace and a meth lab next door while their bosses get ulcers over deciding whether to buy a cabin in Aspen or a diamond upgrade to appease their wife who’s never worked a day in her manicured life. I’ve read dozens of high priority company newsletters announcing yet another corporate restructuring of the same top 10 talking heads, the cost of which each time equaled the yearly salaries of 10 administrative assistants. I’ve been to the grocery store and watched senior citizens with oversized calculators stare in disbelief at the at the price tag of a can of generic brand green beans.
I’ve swilled the company Kool-aid while spending weekends and holidays meeting obnoxious deadlines to stay in the good graces of the 1% and haven’t had anything resembling a raise in nearly 5 years. I’ve submitted to the corporate Kama Sutra and bent over and signed another lease on a dumpy apartment that just raised the rent 10% because I can’t afford to move. I don’t flush every time and I eat cereal for dinner a lot and keep the thermostat at a level just above that which would freeze the snot inside my nose just to keep my bank account $20 in the black before the next payday. I remember being in college and so desperately broke and trying to decide whether to buy toothpaste or deodorant, because I certainly couldn’t afford both, even though I’d already dug through the stained upholstery in my rusted car in search of sticky lost coins, and praying within an inch of my life that after college I’d be able to afford to buy the random shirt at Walmart just because I felt like it.
Now, 20 years later, I find myself perilously close to the socio-economic strata of those borderline-suicidal years while the 1% holding all the cards sleeps soundly on Egyptian cotton sheets washed by someone else.
And so to you Occupiers, my years-challenged comrades of the 99%, put in your time and earn the anger, and then you can sit in the park tying up the local police departments because life isn’t fair.