Hey! Old folks! Deirdre Flannery wants a word, you old codgers…

Several weeks ago, I was accompanying my father to the local supermarket when we happened upon a doddery old chap unloading his groceries into the boot of a car. Mumbling incomprehensibly, he rolled his trolley across our path. Appearing slightly irritated by the obstruction, Dad inquired as to what the fellow wanted. “Could you put the trolley back for me?” the man mumbled, only slightly more coherently.

“I don’t work here,” my father curtly replied, moving swiftly away and leaving the old man to wheel the cart by himself back to the bay, a mere five metres away. I was taken aback by the apparent rudeness of my normally polite parent, because I was quite sure than the elderly gentleman was in fact perfectly aware that my father did not work there. Rather, I believe he was relying on his status as an elder to relegate the bothersome task of returning his shopping trolley to the younger, subservient minions that roamed the parking lot, possibly because they were more able bodied than he, and possibly because he felt that us young folks owe him some sort of duty at his stage in life.

I hardly think of my dad as someone who would begrudge the elderly a favour – he spends at least three evenings a week running errands for his own ailing mother, as well as visiting my other grandmother in her retirement home. So why refuse to come to the rescue of this old man? Perhaps in the absence of any filial duty, he had deemed it quite unnecessary to roll a trolley a few feet for a fellow who could most likely manage the task by himself, despite a few wrinkles and a bus pass.

My own contemplation was that reaching retirement age does come with certain entitlements – respect and compassion among them – but some seem to think it comes with the corollary entitlement to lose all respect for those not yet greying at the temples. Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan’ is an extreme example, but having worked behind the counter in a certain clothes shop aimed at the more senior ladies among us, I am well used to manners being completely abandoned by dears of a certain age, skipping the queue (thinking that the order they get to the till is based on who was born first, and not just who was first in line). And don’t even get me started on the Dublin Bus queues, the amount of times I’ve nearly lost an eye to some dear waving her pass in my face.

I’m sure that a percentage of them are senile, and can perhaps be excused for their behaviour, but to the rest of those battleaxes who jump the line without as much as an excuse me, and to that chap in the car park that demanded we return his trolley for him, do try to watch your OA P’s and Q’s! Then us young ‘uns might reciprocate the respect!