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Here and Now

An issue for the ages

October 16, 2003|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

And now, a word about the elderly:

First, let me say that I love the elderly. Some of my best friends are elderly. I come from a family of elderly people. I have been accused, with some cause, of being elderly myself. If it weren't for the elderly, I dare say, none of us would be here.

The fact that we, as a nation, tend to have an attitude of benign neglect when it comes to the elderly is atrocious -- as if those creatures shuffling among us were an alien race, and not our own flesh and blood whom we must speak to at the top of our lungs sometimes, and even then we can't really be sure if we've been heard, and God forbid they could say "Thanks for coming" instead of "Well, it wasn't a very long visit, but I guess it will do."

Usually, I've found, the elderly will offer you a piece of fruit. I find this classy. They also take cabs.

However, I feel the elderly take certain liberties with their elderly-ness.

I speak of you, elderly woman cutting in front of me at the supermarket checkout line. You are pretending to be oblivious as you nudge your cart in front of mine (you are elderly, what do you know?), but I am on to your subterfuge. Bravo, elderly woman. You have proven yourself a worthy adversary. Your cab awaits you.

Let the gamesmanship begin.

Look, I'm all for the discounts at movie theaters, and I believe in handicapped-parking permits. By the way, I just checked, and you can purchase a handicapped-parking sticker on the Web for three bucks. Tooling around L.A. with handicapped-parking privileges: This is probably as close as I will get to knowing what it means to be Snoop Dogg.

Last Saturday, I saw an old man thrown to the ground by an able-bodied young person. It happened on TV, so you know it must be true.

I am talking about the fight between New York Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer, who is 72, and Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who is 31. To recap: The Red Sox and Yankees, mortal enemies, were playing Game 3 of their American League Championship Series at Boston's Fenway Park. In Los Angeles, thousands upon thousands of transplanted Red Sox and Yankee fans had ordered lox and bagel platters for the game and were ignoring their children.

In the fourth inning, a Martinez pitch hit a Yankee batter in the back. There was yelling back and forth. Then a high fastball by the Yankees' Roger Clemens angered a Red Sox batter. The benches emptied. Zimmer, his arms flailing, went after Martinez, who clasped Zimmer's head in his hands and sort of tossed him aside, sending Zimmer to the ground.

As soon as it happened, I called a friend who's a Yankee fan, but since he also gambles on college football on Saturdays, he was TiVo-ing the baseball game. Without explaining what TiVo is, it meant that the following conversation ensued:

"Did you see that?"

"No, no!! Don't tell me! I'm half an hour behind you."

"No, you gotta see this."

"Call you back."

After the game, Yankee President Randy Levine, decrying the atmosphere at Fenway Park, said: "There is an attitude of lawlessness permeating everything that's going on here."

Did that include young men striking the elderly? Evidently. And yet, was this not a ray of equality peeking through our otherwise dark relations with the aged? Did the heat of the moment not transform two otherwise distinct human beings into ageless animals? Would the incident have been just as pure and true had Zimmer run at Martinez to offer him a piece of fruit, and Martinez had responded by using his cellphone to call Zimmer a cab?

Seventy-two, Zimmer's age, is not even elderly, by the way. I know lots of people in their 70s, and they'd all look better in a Yankee uniform than Zimmer, and if you sat next to them on the bench, they could talk to you about a wide range of subjects. They would bristle at the elderly sobriquet. Whether or not that would lead to violence remains to be seen.

Paul Brownfield can be contacted at paul.brownfield@latimes.com.

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