A few weeks ago, I stopped by my local Walgreens to pick up some cough drops and Vick’s VapoRub. No, I wasn’t shopping for my great aunt. I was getting over a cold and wanted nothing more than to go home and lay in bed. I practically ran to the check-out counter, but there was a woman in front of me and I could tell it was going to take a while. She was just one of those people. Then an old man walked up behind me. He knew the woman and the cashier, so he spoke to both of them with familiarity. While he did so, he slyly ambled his way in front of me. I monitored the situation with a watchful eye and a (probably) snarled expression until it became clear that the old man had, in fact, cut me in line.
I adjusted my attitude by reminding myself that when I’m old, if I’m so lucky, I will undoubtedly behave like a true maniac. Because when you live on this wretched earth long enough, you deserve certain cultural exceptions that include but are not limited to: farting in public, cutting in line, walking slowly, talking slowly, and always eating dessert. Truthfully, I already do most of those things and I’m just shy of 23 years old. If I can accidentally fart on an aisle of birthday cards, this old guy can cut me in line.
He was a jokester and a WWII veteran. He looked through the pictures he had developed one-by-one at the counter before paying for them. He picked through his change and pocket lint before handing over his payment. He was a classic man of his generation, charming and smooth. Kind of like a Gene Kelly movie character, except a little less nimble and light on his feet because he’s at least, what? 85?
When he finally paid the cashier his change was one cent. She handed it to him and he turned to me. Stretching his arm out in front of him, he said, “Did you see that?! I gave her a hundred and all she gave me back was one little penny. You’re a witness to a crime!” And with that, I decided to adopt the old man.
But let’s admit it. Our interaction had a rough start. Him, with his line cutting. Me, with my natural response of inner-hate and a snarled face. But by the end, I was fond of him. I thought about how so many old people I meet are outgoing, honest, charming, and humorous.
I wish more people my age were that way, but I guess we’re all products of our generations. He probably used to hang men’s hats at a pool hall for tips like my grandpa, which could be why he’s great at conversation and joking around. Baby Boomers right on down to Millennials get their world and political news from a repeatedly-shared Facebook post with hundreds of typos, which says something about us too depressing for me to think about for any fraction of time. So instead, I’m going to slather my chest in Vick’s VapoRub just for old time’s sake and decide whether or not that old man’s name was Frank.
I’ve experienced few moments in my twenty-two years of life when I felt like I was growing up.
I did not feel it when I graduated high school or college. I mostly felt nervous. And also like I needed to poop or something.
I did not feel it when I turned twenty-one and could have a legal drink.
I did not feel it when I turned eighteen and became a legal adult. I didn’t even feel it when I voted in my first election.
I’ve been a college graduate for five months and I’ve had zero moments of feeling like an adult.
Until now. Tonight. A few minutes after midnight, I applied super glue to an item without getting it all over myself and turning the skin on one (or all) of my fingers into sticky sandpaper. I’ve grown up. I’ve turned a corner. I can use super glue like an adult.
I’m taking a bow. The spotlight is on me. I can see you all throwing virtual roses at my feet. “Bravo!” you squeal, “Bravo!”